Yankees set to face toughest task yet in weekend series against Rays


Get ready for a crucial weekend series against the top AL East contender

The New York Yankees are about to head into a pivotal weekend. Although the Tampa Bay Rays have struggled to start the season, they remain the biggest threat to the Yankees in the American League East.

Tampa Bay heads into this series after being shut out for the first time since August 2019. Earlier that week, they were swept by the lowly Baltimore Orioles. It’s safe to say they are due for some good baseball.

Offensively, some key Rays have struggled, including newly acquired outfielders Yoshi Tsutsugo and Hunter Renfroe hitting under the Mendoza line. However, All-Star Austin Meadows returned to the lineup this week, and he could bring needed pop to the lineup.

On the mound, only a handful of teams can match up with the Rays.

Tough matchups on the bump

Here’s a look at the Rays probable starters for this weekend, per the Tampa Bay Times:

  • Friday: LHP Blake Snell  (0-0, 5.40 ERA) vs. RHP Masahiro Tanaka (0-0, 3.38 ERA)
  • Saturday (doubleheader):  RHP Tyler Glasnow (0-0, 3.12)  vs. Gerrit Cole (3-0, 2.55); RHP Yonny Chirinos (0-0, 1.04) vs. TBD
  • Sunday: RHP Charlie Morton (1-1. 5.52) vs. LHP James Paxton (0-1, 13.50)

The starpower the Rays boast in their rotation and bullpen is well documented. Although New York features one of the best pitchers in all of baseball in Gerrit Cole, the rest of the rotation is a question mark. Masahiro Tanaka faced a 50-pitch limit in his first start and will likely be capped again for his Friday start.

The starter for the second game of the Saturday doubleheader is still up in the air, and James Paxton has lost nearly five miles per hour off his fastball this season and teams have taken advantage.

New York’s offense has been able to overcome the shortcomings of the pitching staff, but against the arms that Tampa can run out, it may be too tall a task.

Four games, three days

Schedule-wise, the Yankees will be set to play their second doubleheader of the week on Saturday. The bullpen will be tested, and unheralded middle relievers like Michael King and David Hale could play critical roles as the Yanks look to extend their division lead on the pesky Rays.

So far this season, no Yankees starter has been able to pitch deep into ballgames aside from Cole. Although the bullpen has been stellar so far, if the starters cannot get their jobs done, the pen will quickly become taxed.

Since the start of the season, Jordan Montgomery is the only pitcher not named Cole who has been able to pitch five-plus innings. With Aroldis Chapman working his way back and Tommy Kahnle out for the year, New York’s bullpen is at its most vulnerable.

With a packed schedule this weekend, the time is now for the starters to step up.

All hope certainly won’t be lost if the Yankees have a tough weekend at Tropicana Field. However, it may expose some of the team’s flaws, particularly in the pitching department.

Yankees: JA Happ has to give rotation spot up now. dark. Next

It’s never fun to travel to that ugly dome of a stadium, but the Yankees need to enter the weekend ready to make a statement.