Should the Yankees be concerned about the Rays?
The trend lately is that the Tampa Bay Rays (63-52) have always found their way into the playoffs or have been at least threatening to get in. Will the same be true for this season? The New York Yankees (68-47) had a comfortable lead over the Rays and Baltimore Orioles, but now that lead has slipped by a few games. The Rays are currently on a seven-game winning streak and they certainly seem to be making the most of it with the Yankees’ inconsistent play since mid-July. The Rays are a team that primarily focuses on their pitching and with David Price (15-4, 2.50 ERA) leading the way, it may be a rough road ahead for the Yankees who play the Rays six more times before the regular season ends.
For the Rays, pitching has been the name of the game, and with a staff ranked third overall in ERA and second overall in both WHIP and opponent’s batting average among MLB teams, the Yankees should not take them lightly. Price has pitched well against the Yankees this season, going 2-1 with a 3.20 ERA inside of 25.1 innings pitched. Rookie sensation Matt Moore has also done pretty well against the Bombers as he’s 1-0 with an ERA of 3.86 in seven innings pitched. The one pitcher that the Yankees have never really been able to figure out is Jeremy Hellickson. He may pose the biggest threat going forward because not only does he pitched well against the Yanks, he also handles other teams in the AL East. Not to mention, Fernando Rodney who wasn’t even the closer going into this season, has acquired 37 saves replacing the injured Kyle Farnsworth. The Rays are serious when it comes to pitching.
To complement the Rays’ pitching, the Yankees, except for Raul Ibanez, Robinson Cano and the injured Alex Rodriguez, have simply struggled against the Rays this season. The rest of the line-up is hitting .222 or worse against the Rays and this consists of guys who we depend on such as Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson, Nick Swisher and Mark Teixeira. This may be a bit concerning for Joe Girardi heading into September.
On the flip side, the Rays rank 28th overall in batting average (.235), 22nd in runs scored (475), 26th in slugging percentage (.375) and 20th in on base percentage (.316) which gives the Yankees some hope. The return of Carlos Pena was a happy reunion until they remembered what Pena does best, strike out. Pena does provide a power bat in the lineup, which is something the Rays lack overall unless you count Evan Longoria who is just returning from a lengthy DL-stint. However with Pena’s power comes his .194 batting average. Ben Zobrist also has had a productive bat as he leads the Rays in batting average, runs scored and OPS. Despite the Yankees recent inconsistencies on the mound, the way Rays have been hitting, it may not be too hard to shut down their bats.
The biggest concern for the Yankees may be how the Rays rally back into games. As we saw in September last year, the Rays do not and will not quit. They are a good, persistent team. In previous seasons, the Yankees have always had a thorn in their side and recently it’s proven to be the Rays. Even looking at years past when the Rays were nowhere near contention, they still played the Yankees hard. Perhaps this rivalry may not be one of the biggest, but it certainly is strong.
This year, the Yankees are 5-7 against the Rays and have been pretty much annihilated anytime they play at Tropicana Field, only winning one game out of six there this season. Out of their seven losses to the Rays, four of them were late-game rallies by Tampa Bay. Our starting pitching, Ivan Nova in particular, has performed decently overall against Tampa this season, but the bullpen has let the Rays back into many games, and for the most part, let them win some games too. The Yankees do not face the Rays until September 3rd in Tampa, and until then, the Bombers must hold their ever so slimming lead in the East as the Rays look to take over.