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New York Yankees vs. Tampa Bay Rays: Gerrit Cole vs. Trevor Kelley

The Yankees have to get up off the mat if they’re going to win this crucial series.

MLB: Cleveland Guardians at New York Yankees Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Yankees fans hoped the dominant sweep of the Athletics might provide some momentum to get the Yankees’ bats banging again. Last night, though, the Yankees went right back to being mired in a slump at the plate. Aaron Judge wore a hat trick last night, but everyone not named Jake Bauers looked equally hapless until the ninth. A garbage time two-run single by Gleyber Torres broke up the shutout.

The Rays’ bats didn’t cut it in 2022, but it was clear the bones of a division winner were in there. The reality now is that all the light-hitting prospects who the Rays brought up are now hitting at a torrid pace. Wander Franco has a 158 wRC+, Taylor Walls has a 153 wRC+ and Josh Lowe has a 173 wRC+. To be fair, Franco was always expected to be a transcendent talent. Those numbers obviously aren’t sustainable, and neither is Yandy Díaz’s absurd mark of 185. However, those three players accounted for 5 of the Rays’ 11 hits last night in the 8-2 trouncing. However, the Yankees have to do better than counting on regression.

Anthony Volpe’s grand slam was a great moment on Wednesday, but it accounts for one of the two hits in his last 27 at bats. His average has dipped below the Mendoza line. Today, the team makes a change as Aaron Boone slides Gleyber Torres into the leadoff spot and sends Volpe down to the seven hole. The way Torres is seeing the ball lately, it’s a no-brainer. It’d be fair to quibble With Isiah Kiner-Falefa getting the start in left field and batting sixth ahead of him though, as he has a meager 31 wRC+ on the season.

For a while, the Yankees will have to weather the storm just as their divisional foes did in the first half last year. We all saw how dramatically a team’s play can ascend or fall off over the course of 162 games.

The Yankees send Gerrit Cole to the mound looking for a bounce-back from his last outing. Up until May 7 at the Trop, Cole had been nearly flawless. The biggest thorn in his side, the home run ball, seemed to be rectified, and he looked like the ace the Yankees so heavily invested in. Christian Bethancourt’s three-run bomb to tie the game at six during Cole’s last start stung. Cole got burned by his usually trustworthy four seamer-slider combination. His two most frequently used pitches failed him by allowing a pair of extra base hits on each pitch, all four stung at 102 mph or more off the bat. He didn’t mince words about the start and, as always, showed exceptional accountability.

The Rays announced Trevor Kelley as today’s starter. Per beat writer Marc Topkin, he’ll be in an opener role with Josh Fleming expected to serve as the “bulk guy.” Originally drafted by the Red Sox in 2015, he signed with the Rays as a minor league free agent before this season and has been up-and-down between Tampa Bay and Triple-A Durham. He has a career ERA of 7.23 in 37.1 innings and allowed two earned runs in two innings pitched in his lone appearance this year. You wonder what the Rays see in him, but it’s the Rays, so it has to be something.

How to watch:

Location: Yankee Stadium — Bronx, NY

First pitch: 7:05 pm EDT

TV Broadcast: YES Network, Bally Sports Sun

Radio Broadcast: WFAN 660/101.9 FM, WADO 1280

Online Stream:

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