Last night, a tense first battle of the season with divisional rival Tampa Bay ended in a 5-4 defeat for the Yankees. New York hit Rays star Randy Arozarena twice after his home run and ensuing celebration, setting off some tensions. For what it’s worth, while Rays’ skipper Kevin Cash was thrown out after the umpires issued warnings, both managers downplayed the kerfuffle postgame, insisting there was no intention behind the plunkings (which is entirely plausible given Jhony Brito and Albert Abreu’s control issues). Either way, if the Bombers — 10 games back of the Rays as they sit in last place in the AL East — want to gain ground in their division, they’ll have to bear down in Game 2 of this series.
The Bombers’ bats will face a tall task in this one, as they’ll square up against Drew Rasmussen. The right-hander, who came over to Tampa Bay in the Willy Adames deal a couple of years ago, has pitched to a 2.84 ERA in his career down south. On the season, his 3.66 ERA — while solid — masks just how dominant he’s been; his 2.98 FIP, 13th among pitchers with at least 30 innings this year, indicates he’s been as sharp as ever in a Rays’ uniform. He’ll feature a cutter that, by run value, saved him 13 runs last season.
Domingo Germán, coming off the best outing of his career by Game Score, will go toe-to-toe with Rasmussen. The righty’s kryptonite this season has been the long ball: in three starts when he hasn’t allowed a dinger, Germán has pitched to a 1.53 ERA in 17.2 innings, but when the opposing team has gone yard, he’s yielded a 7.71 ERA across 16.2 frames. After going yard twice last night, the Rays lead the majors in homers by 14, the same distance between the second-ranked Braves and the ninth-ranked Cubs. On the other hand, when it has rained for Germán, it has poured: the righty has yet to allow just one homer in a start this season — it’s either been zero or two or more. This game could quickly turn ugly if Domingo can’t recapture Monday’s magic.
Right off the bat, the Rays will put forth a home run threat in Yandy Díaz. He supplied one of the Rays’ two homers last night, his ninth of the season. Wander Franco, the young phenom and proprietor of the ball flip, will hit second. Arozarena, whose homer last night was also his ninth, will get a half day off as the DH batting third. Those three each have a spot in the top-15 wRC+ rankings for qualified hitters. Josh Lowe, batting sixth and playing right field, and Taylor Walls, hitting seventh and manning the hot corner, would also rank inside the top 15 if they qualified.
The Yankees will counter with a lineup that features Anthony Volpe in the leadoff spot. After a tough start to his major league career, the rookie has posted a .366 on-base percentage over his past 20 games. Last night, he stole his 11th base on the young season; he has yet to be caught. Elsewhere in the starting nine, aside from the usual suspects, Jake Bauers will shift over from left field — where Aaron Hicks will sub in and bat eighth — to right. After a sterling catch in his first game as a Yankee, Bauers committed a costly miscue last night that resulted in the Rays’ winning run. He’ll look to right the ship batting sixth.
Isiah Kiner-Falefa will round out the outfield, manning center and batting seventh, as Harrison Bader takes a seat today; the team had alluded to resting him for one of the three games on the Tropicana Field turf since he’s just returning from injury. None of the Yankees' bottom three in IKF, Hicks, and Kyle Higashioka, have a wRC+ over 60 (league average is 100). The Bombers will need them to reverse their fortunes for any chance of winning this one.
How to watch:
Location: Tropicana Field — St. Petersburg, FL
First pitch: 4:10 pm EDT
TV broadcast: YES
Radio broadcast: WFAN 660/101.9 FM, WADO 1280
Online Stream: MLB.tv
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We’ve got another packed house today— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) May 6, 2023
Get here and get here early#RaysUp pic.twitter.com/Iih4YQqXVe
Saturday baseball on deck. #RepBX pic.twitter.com/JU14z1kZ7q— New York Yankees (@Yankees) May 6, 2023