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New York Yankees vs. Tampa Bay Rays: Series Preview

After getting back on track, can the Yankees continue the winning run against their main antagonist?

MLB: Washington Nationals at New York Yankees Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The Rays were the one team the Yankees truly had trouble with in 2020, and so far that’s continued into 2021. Through six meetings this season, the Yankees are 1-5 against Tampa Bay. The second of those series was the low point of the season so far, and one of those games included the Yankee Stadium crowd throwing objects on the field in frustration.

Since then, the Yankees have steadied the ship. Following the sweep-clinching loss to the Rays on April 18, the Yankees have gone 13-6. Corey Kluber has stepped up to bolster the pitching behind Gerrit Cole. Giancarlo Stanton caught fire and carried the offense as Gleyber Torres and others have worked to get back on track.

However, now it’s time to face their tormentors again. Luke Voit is expected to return after his successful rehab stint. Gio Urshela’s been day-to-day recently, but the Yankees are hopeful that he’ll soon take the field as well. With several key pieces in the fold again, can the Yankees exorcise some demons and pick up a series win on the road?

Tuesday: Jordan Montgomery vs. Luis Patiño

Neither of Montgomery’s two starts against the Rays went particularly great, as he’s allowed a combined eight runs in 11 innings. The second of the two was a bit unfortunate as he only allowed two hits; it’s just that both went over the fence. None of his recent starts have been disastrous, but none have been excellent either. He’s due for really good one, and hopefully he can pull it off in the Trop.

This will be the Yankees’ first look at Patiño, a consensus top-25 prospect and part of the return the Rays got in the Blake Snell trade. He’s only thrown 7.2 innings this season as a spot starter/long reliever, so don’t expect him to go very long. That being said, in his time on the mound, he’s been quite successful so far. He’s striking out 11.7 hitters per nine and has only given up one run.

Wednesday: Gerrit Cole vs. TBD

Cole’s last outing was one of his worst of the season so far. The fact that in it he allowed two runs in seven innings shows just how good he’s been this year. He’s only faced Tampa Bay once so far this year, and was good, but maybe just left in a batter too long and eventually took the loss. However, that was during a low point for the team, and that defeat was definitely more the offense’s fault.

Beyond Patiño, the Rays haven’t announced any expected starters. As the team that normalized the use of the opener, there’s always potential for them to do some bullpen game shenanigans, but that’s especially high right now. Chris Archer’s been out since getting injured against the Yankees back in April, Michael Wacha recently hit the IL himself, and Tyler Glasnow just pitched against the A’s on Saturday. Based on when they last went, it’s seems somewhat likely that the Yankees will see Ryan Yarbrough and Rich Hill at some point, but Tampa Bay’s full rotation for the series hasn’t been announced at time of writing.

Thursday: Jameson Taillon vs. TBD

Both of Taillon’s two most recent starts have been better, but he still has yet to have a true great start as a Yankee. This will be just his second career game against the Rays. The only other one came back in 2017 when he shut them out over 6.1 innings. However, the only Tampa Bay hitter in the lineup who Taillon faced back then on the team is Chris Archer. Of course, Archer is a pitcher and this is an AL game, so he won’t be repeating those matchups.

As for the Rays, well, see Wednesday’s section.