Series Preview: Tampa Bay Rays vs. New York Yankees


Apr 14, 2014; Baltimore, MD, USA; Tampa Bay Rays second baseman Ben Zobrist (18) is congratulated by teammates after scoring in the sixth inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The Orioles defeated the Rays 7-1. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Rays return home for a weekend series with their AL East rivals, the New York Yankees, beginning tonight at Tropicana Field. Coming off a 3-5 road trip, which saw the offense produce a measly 11 runs, David Price takes the mound with the hopes of stopping the current three game losing streak. The Rays are owners of the worst run differential in the division and it would seem that in order to remain a viable contender in the American League, they will need their bats to wake up quickly. The pitching staff has been ravished by injuries, including the most recent news that Matt Moore will undergo Tommy John surgery and miss at least the next year. Tampa Bay has called upon the services of Erik Bedard and a variety of relievers to help bridge the gap until some depth returns to the rotation.

As would be expected, the poor performance on the road trip has led to a free fall in the standings, as the Rays now sit in 4th place, 2 games back of the AL East leading Yankees:

[table id=2 /]

It is worth noting that the season is only 15 games old, a small sample size in a 162 game season, so everyone should ease up a bit on the apocalyptic thoughts. Is it the ideal start to a season in which many talking heads projected the Rays as a World Series contender? No. However, a number of projection systems available on Fangraphs indicate that the actual impact of the offense’s slow start is almost non-existent. The bigger issue is recovering the expected 3 WAR of Matt Moore, who is now lost for the season. Those three wins will play a big factor in the AL East race, assuming the Rays don’t catch lightning in a bottle with Moore’s replacements. The four game set with the Yankees will be a great way to get back on track, especially if the Rays can find a way to take 3 of 4 against the division leaders.

Series Preview:

Game 1: New York Yankees @ Tampa Bay Rays 

Thursday, April 17th @ 7:10 p.m. EST

TV: Sun Sports

Radio: WDAE 620 AM /95.3 FM, WGES 680 (Sp.)

David Taylor Price (2-0, 2.91 ERA/2.63 FIP) vs. Carsten Charles Sabathia Jr. (1-2, 6.63 ERA/4.73 FIP )

David Price was on fire in his last start against the Cincinnati Reds, scattering 4 hits and 1 walk over 8.1 innings, striking out 10. He allowed one earned run, coming on a ninth inning solo HR by Joey Votto that ended his outing. He generated 19 swinging strikes and threw first pitch strikes to 23 of the 30 batters he faced. Through his three starts this season, he’s been relying on his changeup more than in years past (again SSS), throwing it 21.6% of the time. As is always the case with Price, he’ll be around the strike zone all night, and his success will be determined on whether or not he can miss some bats. Sabathia enters the game hoping to lead the Yankees to their fifth straight victory. The Rays have had Carsten Charles’ number recently, and in his last eight starts against Tampa Bay, he is 1-6 with a 6.11 ERA. He has allowed 5 HRs through 19 innings this season (2.37 HR/9) but he is still finding ways to miss bats (9.95 K/9).

Prediction: Here’s to hoping Evan Longoria & Wil Myers find the outfield seats. The Tampa Bay Rays continue their success against Sabathia to take the opener.

Game 2: New York Yankees @ Tampa Bay Rays 

Mar 21, 2014; Port Charlotte, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Erik Bedard (40) prepares to throw a pitch in the fifth inning of the spring training exhibition game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Charlotte Sports Park. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

Friday, April 18th @ 7:10 p.m. EST

TV: Sun Sports, MLBN

Radio: WDAE 620 AM /95.3 FM, WGES 680 (Sp.)

Erik Bedard (0-0, 0.00 ERA/4.54 FIP) vs. Hiroki Kuroda (2-1, 3.86 ERA/3.58 FIP )

The Tampa Bay Rays signed Erik Bedard during the offseason to a 1-year $1.15M contract with the promise of competing for the fifth spot in the rotation. When Bedard lost out to Jake Odorizzi, he held strong to his word that he’d rather opt out of the contract than take a minor league assignment. As it turns out, Bedard returned to the Rays three days later, and given the recent injuries that have ravaged the rotation, Bedard finds himself in a spot to contribute as a starter. He went 4-12 last year in 26 starts with the Houston Astros, striking out 8.23 batters per nine, but walking 4.47 per nine. He’s seen two innings of work so far this season in relief, allowing 2 hits, an unearned run, and a walk. Kuroda enters the series having won his last two starts, though he has been very hittable. He has benefited from having some quality run support from his offense, and given the Rays current offensive struggles, he may not need much to earn the win.

Prediction: Bedard struggles, but gets through 6 innings to save the bullpen. The Rays lose to even the series.

Game 3: New York Yankees @ Tampa Bay Rays 

Saturday, April 19th @ 7:10 p.m. EST

TV: Sun Sports

Radio: WDAE 620 AM /95.3 FM, WGES 680 (Sp.)

Chris Archer (1-1, 4.50 ERA/1.99 FIP) vs. Ivan Nova (2-1, 5.94 ERA/4.90 FIP )

Archer got torched by the Orioles for seven runs in his last outing, by far his worst of the season. While his ERA suffered, his Fielding Independent Pitching indicates that he has been pitching well thus far. He only surrendered one free pass against the Orioles, which is definitely a positive that can be taken from a negative. Control issues were an issue throughout the minor leagues, but he was all around the strike zone, fanning 6 batters through 5 innings. For the season, he has a .386 batting average on balls in play (BABIP), and the laws of regression would indicate that this should come back down to normal, resulting in less damage moving forward. Ivan Nova recovered from a horrible outing against the Orioles in which he allowed 7 ER in only 3.2 innings, with a quality performance against the Boston Red Sox to earn the win. Nova allowed 2 earned runs on 8 hits in 7.1 innings, while striking out 4. Nova is a quality back-end starter, though the Yankees are hoping he can break through this season. He sports a 1.6 K/BB ratio and a plus curveball, but he shouldn’t cause too many issues for the Rays’ hitters.

Prediction: The Rays get to Nova early, but he settles in until late in the game. The Rays hold on for the victory.

Game 4: New York Yankees @ Tampa Bay Rays 

Sunday, April 20th @ 1:40 p.m. EST

TV: Sun Sports, MLBN

Radio: WDAE 620 AM /95.3 FM, WAMA 1550 (Sp.)

Cesar Ramos (0-1, 7.50 ERA/5.88 FIP) vs. TBD

In his only start of the year against the Cincinnati Reds, Ramos labored through 2 innings and 47 pitches, allowing 4 earned runs. Control was an issue, as only 24 of his 47 pitches went for strikes, and he walked 3 batters. The best case scenario for the Rays is that Ramos is able to pitch 3-4 innings of quality baseball, allowing Joe Maddon to piece together the remainder of the game with the bullpen. It is a band-aid on a much deeper wound, but this is the best the Rays can hope to do for the time being. Success in this game will be dependent upon bullpen use up until this point in the series, but be prepared if this gets ugly.

Prediction: If the bullpen is fresh thanks to great performances from the Rays’ staff, Tampa Bay will sneak out a victory to take the series 3-1.

Players to Watch:

Apr 16, 2014; Baltimore, MD, USA; Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria prior to a game against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

Derek Jeter, SS: Love him or hate him, he is one of the best competitors of all time. You have to appreciate the way he plays the game and what he has accomplished throughout his career. Enjoy it while it lasts.

Evan Longoria, 3B: Longoria is hitting just .143 over the past week, but hopefully he’ll get jump-started against C.C. Sabathia, against whom he owns a .396 batting average in 53 at-bats (6 HR, 6 2B). The Rays need a spark in their offense, and their fearless leader needs to snap out of the early season slump to get the team going (only 1 HR so far this year).

For more information on the upcoming series, visit the Fansided team pages for the Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees.

For more coverage of the Rays & other Tampa Bay area sports, follow us o