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New York Yankees @ Tampa Bay Rays: Jhony Brito vs. Yonny Chirinos

The Yankees open a key series at the Trop against the red-hot Rays.

New York Yankees v Texas Rangers Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

I hope the Yankees enjoyed the day off yesterday, because it’s time to get back to work. It feels weird to say that the Yankees need to win a series that’s taking place in early May, but when you’re nine games back of the Rays already, even early May games become vital. With the number of divisional games reduced in the balanced schedule, the Yankees have precious few chances to gain ground on Tampa Bay. Winning this series is huge.

Jhony Brito is tasked with the opener of the three-game tilt at Tropicana Field. The 25-year-old righty is making his seventh start of the season. His disastrous outing against the Twins, when he failed to make it out of the first, has wreaked havoc on his stat line, and he enters tonight with a 5.56 ERA—though admittedly his other start against them didn’t help much either. Brito has relied heavily on a fastball-changeup repertoire (80 percent of his pitches), occasionally mixing in a curve (19 percent).

Brito’s changeup has been his best pitch so far. Opponents are hitting .189 against it, with a .214 wOBA. Moreover, it’s been the pitch that Brito can best rely on when he needs a swing and a miss. Opposing hitters whiff at it 30.1 percent of the time, contributing to Brito’s chase rate that ranks in the 83rd percentile among MLB hurlers.

Meanwhile, Yonny Chirinos gets the start for Tampa, his first of the season. Chirinos has appeared in four games thus far, pitching a total of 14 innings. So far, he’s been both unhittable – opponents have a paltry .171 wOBA against him – and stingy with the free pass, walking only four percent of the batters he faces. Chirinos throws his mid-90s fastball half the time, mixing in a slider and a changeup.

Not many Yankees have experience against Chirinos, and among those who’ve faced him, success is sparing. Cleanup hitter DJ LeMahieu has managed a pair of home runs in 15 career at-bats versus Chirinos. Isiah Kiner-Falefa, not in the starting lineup, is batting 1.000 against the righty, with three hits — all unfortunately in 2018.

At the top of the lineup, Anthony Volpe continues to impress. Over his last 15 games, the rookie has a .740 OPS with a pair of home runs. Anecdotally, it seems like he’s making more hard contact recently, and the data seems to back that up. Volpe’s average exit velocity and hard-hit percentage are in the top half of major league hitters, in the 62nd and 56th percentiles, respectively. Also of note is that Harrison Bader is back in the starting nine after leaving in the ninth on Wednesday, but the similarly banged-up Oswald Peraza is still out.

The Rays have done exactly what every team hopes to, by stacking wins. As a result, they’ve built a huge cushion over New York. Again, with fewer head-to-head matchups, every win matters.

How to watch

Location: Tropicana Field — St. Petersburg, FL

First pitch: 6:40 pm ET

TV broadcast: YES – NYY / Bally Sports Sun - TBR

Radio broadcast: WFAN 660/101.9, WADO 1280 / WDAE 620/95.3, WQBN/1300

Online stream:

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