With all his inconsistency in New York, Kyle Farnsworth has been a consistent closer for the Rays so far this year. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

Yanks at Rays Series Preview

 

After all the turmoil of the Posada situation and the 1-5 home stand, maybe it is best for the Bombers to go on the road and get away from the New York media.  Well, they do have to go to their home away from home in Tampa to take on the first place Rays. Despite Tampa losing two of three to the Baltimore Orioles over the weekend, they are the last team the Yankees want to see right now.

Everybody thought that the Rays would be due for a regression when they lost key players to their great run to the World Series in 2009 and their AL East title a year ago. They lost the likes of Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena, Rafael Soriano, and most of their bullpen. When they started the year 0-6, this team looked done. One of their offseason acquisitions, Manny Ramirez, quit the game of baseball. Now, Tampa is red hot again through some old faces in new places (Johnny Damon and Kyle Farnsworth) producing in key roles. Do not forget that they still have Evan Longoria, Ben Zobrist, and B.J Upton as regular contributors to Joe Maddon’s offense. New York will see Tampa’s two best starters in David Price and James Shields during this abbreviated series.

Here are the Pitching Matchups for this Series:

Monday, 6:40, YES: A.J Burnett (4-2, 3.38 ERA) vs. David Price (5-3, 3.12 ERA)

Tuesday, 6:40, My9: Ivan Nova (3-3, 4.70 ERA) vs. James Shields (4-1, 2.08 ERA)

Now, Here are some key elements the Rays have that will add to the Yankees’ frustration in this series:

1. Kyle Farnsworth?: While the new Yankee setup man will miss this series due to an injured elbow, an old Yankee setup man will be facing his former team as a surprisingly good closer. Yes, the man who never had an ERA under four in his Yankee career now has rejuvenated his career down in Florida. Kyle Farnsworth, so far, has been the closer to hold this battered bullpen together over the first two months of the seasons. He has saved seven games in eight chances along with an ERA of 1.35. However, the most surprising thing that Farnsworth has fixed in his control. In 13.1 innings this year, he has only surrendered one walk. If the Yankees can’t get their clutch hits in the first eight innings, it may be tough to get them in the ninth.

2. Johnny Comes Back Often: One of the heroes of the 2009 World Series team will play against the Bombers, but wearing the uniform of another divisional rival. Johnny Damon signed a one year, $5.25 million dollar contract in the winter and has surprisingly played well in the top of the order. Damon is hitting .248 with six home runs and 25 RBI’s this season, but he can haunt the Yankees in the clutch like he did with the Boston Red Sox in 2004. This year, with men in scoring position, the Rays’ designated hitter is hitting .268 with 16 RBI’s. This is where the Yankees need A.J Burnett to have a good start on Monday. If they can prevent Damon from reaching base, it takes away run opportunities for star third baseman Evan Longoria. Plus, Damon is 4 for 22 against Burnett in his career.

3. The Price is Wrong for the Yankees: With New York on a five game losing streak, the last thing they want to run into is a red-hot pitcher, yet alone two hot pitchers. First, on Monday, they run into ace David Price. Price is 3-1 with a 3.38 ERA in seven starts against the Bombers. New York will have to take advantage of scoring opportunities since Price has only allowed nineteen earned runs in nearly 51 innings over his career vs. the Yankees and has 21 strikeouts over his last three starts this year to raise his record to 5-3. On Tuesday, the Yankees get James Shields, who has finally found consistency with his command of his fastball. Shields is 4-1 with a 2.08 ERA and has six straight starts where he has gone seven innings and has given up two or fewer runs.

Prediction: I can’t see New York losing seven straight games, but I couldn’t see them losing five straight either until Sunday night. This offense will figure out how to hit again, but they are more than likely to do it against Shields more so than Price. Even though Shields has improved in 2011, New York has a history of roughing him up a little bit (3-8, 4.91 ERA). Tuesday’s game will be a slugfest unless Ivan Nova is able to bounce back after giving up eight runs in 3+ innings against the Royals. Price will get the better of Burnett on Monday because although A.J has been consistent for the Yankees this season, the offense gives him minimal run support in close games. For example, in his last start, Burnett only gave up one run on one hit in seven innings, but still lost the game. If they can come away with one win in this series, it should bring this team’s confidence level back up heading into the Orioles’ and Mets’ series later this week.

Yankees Split the Series

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