The Yankees limp back to the Bronx a beaten and bedraggled bunch. After a disastrous road trip, they are now losers of 10 of their last 13. The offense is bordering on nonexistent while the bullpen (read: Clay Holmes) has blown their fair share of games. New York requires a reversal of these trends if they’re to have success in the three-game set against the Rays starting tonight. The two-time defending AL East champs have been derailed by injuries and have only been able to truly hang around in the Wild Card mix for most of 2022, but if they can find a way to sweep the scuffling Yankees, they would move to within eight games of first place for the first time since June 10th.
Gerrit Cole is just the man to set the right tone for the Yankees in this series. Even though he has struggled with the big inning more than any other ace around the league, he’s still the man you want on the mound in a must-win contest, particularly against the Rays. He’s been nails against Tampa Bay this year, allowing just two runs across three starts totaling 19.1 innings while striking out 29, and sports a 31.7 percent K-BB% in ten starts against the Rays as a Yankee. In 23 starts, Cole is 9-4 with a 3.38 ERA (114 ERA+), 3.25 FIP, and AL-leading 178 strikeouts in 138.1 innings.
It looks like Jalen Beeks will open this game, followed by Ryan Yarbrough covering the bulk of the innings. The Rays have liked to deploy this tandem due to the varied looks between the two pitchers. Beeks is a hard-throwing lefty with a mid-90s fastball and low-90s changeup that both fly pretty straight while Yarbrough is a soft-tossing lefty who won’t touch 90 and relies on the movement of his four pitch mix — cutter, curveball, changeup, and sinker — to induce weak contact. Beeks has opened six games with a 3.38 ERA and 12:5 strikeout to walk ratio in 10.2 innings while Yarbrough has made 13 appearances (eight starts), going 0-7 with a 5.08 ERA (73 ERA+), 4.81 FIP, and 40 strikeouts in 56.2 innings.
The Yankees’ lineup has scored three or fewer runs in eight of their last ten, and tonight they’ll be without one of their few steady contributors. DJ LeMahieu has been dealing with a foot/toe issue and is scheduled to have imaging done. A slumping Gleyber Torres inexplicably replaces him at the top of the lineup, and I’m still waiting for someone to explain how it makes sense to bat someone who’s hitless in his last 22 ABs with a 35-percent strikeout rate in his last 15 games at leadoff. Now that teams have decided to just walk Aaron Judge, it’s hard to figure out where the hits are going to come from out of this starting nine.
Seven of the nine hitters in the Rays lineup grade out above league average offensively. Trade deadline adds David Peralta and Jose Siri have already made their marks on their new team with Peralta contributing several lead-changing or game-winning hits while Siri has made a handful of five-star catches in the outfield. Cole will be happy not to see Austin Meadows after the outfielder’s offseason trade to the Tigers, though as always, he’d do well to avoid Ji-Man Choi, who is 9-for-21 with three home runs, eight RBI, and a 1.556 OPS in nine games against the Yankees’ ace.
How to watch
Location: Yankee Stadium — Bronx, NY
First pitch: 7:05 pm ET
TV broadcast: YES, Bally Sports Sun, MLB Network (out-of-market only)
Radio broadcast: WFAN 660/101.9, WADO 1380
Online stream: MLB.tv