It's a crazy week in the American League East. After hosting a three game series against the Orioles, the Rays have two more to play against the Yankees before traveling to Toronto for another two game series. This will be the first time the Rays have faced the Yankees this season, and both teams will have their baggage.
The Rays started the series against Baltimore on a high with Jeremy Hellickson's first complete game shut out, but ended on a low. Game two suffered a loss at the hands of Wade Davis, who has been sacrificing velocity to work on his command, and game three was started by a reliever for the second time after the struggling Jeff Niemann's back injury. Tampa may need to call another rookie in for support in the fifth starter slot, but that will not be an issue in the these four division games. Today the Rays return to the top of the order with David Price (3.12 ERA), followed by the workhorse James Shields (2.08 ERA).
The Yankees are not without their drama. After being swept by Boston, the Yanks have lost five in a row and nine of their last twelve. The bullpen is coming apart at the seams and the starting rotation consists of CC Sabathia, Freddy Garcia, A.J. Burnett, rookie Ivan Nova, and the 37 year old Bartolo Colon. The Rays will see pitchers three and four against their one and two. On the field has not been easier, the pinstripes have committed thirteen errors in their last ten games. Adding salt to the wounds, veteran catcher-turned-DH Jorge Posada was dropped to ninth in the order and on the same day pulled himself from the lineup for "back stiffness". He apologized to management and the Yankees have not cried foul, but the media has continued to have a field day.
Game 1: David Price (5-3) vs A.J. Burnett (4-2)
Game 2: James Shields (4-1) vs. Ivan Nova (3-3)
What To Watch For
- David Price to strike batters out. Price has 30 K's in 28 innings at home this season and has allowed no earned runs in his two victories at home. Price is 3-1 with a 3.38 career ERA in eight games against the Yankees at home. In his last three starts against NY at home, Price is 2-0 with a 1.59 ERA. Today is set to be quite a pitching duel, as Burnett has a 1.64 ERA in nine games at the Trop. (h/t ESPN)
- Sam Fuld to be super again. The Legend seems to perform well in big games against division rivals, much like Dan Johnson in the month of October, and Fuld needs to step up his speed and improve his on base percentage - lest he lose his leadoff spot and/or surrender his glove to Desmond Jennings.
- Matt Joyce to hit the ball really far. Joyce had his first career homerun against a lefty yesterday, possibly giving him the everyday role in right field. He has suffered some tightness in his quad, but it's hard to believe Maddon would hold him back. Joyce currently leads the league in batting average at .368 and has hit .462 in the month of May.
- The Rays to score more than five runs at home. They have only tallied five runs once this season, against the Minnesota Twins. Hopefully they can score six before they join the 1908 Brooklyn Superbas as the only two teams in history to score a mere five runs or less in 26 home games. Tomorrow will be home game 23.
- Jorge Posada to warm the bench. The switch hitter has not garnered a hit against a lefty this season and is batting .165. Joe Girardi will not be matching him against David Price.
- The Yankees trying to get through the sixth, seventh and eighth inning without the richest set-up man in baseball Rafael Soriano (15 hits, 11 walks in 15 innings). He ruled himself out from the two game series after an elbow injury last Tuesday. The Yanks will have to rely on Joba Chamberlain's 98 mph meatball and a guy named David Robinson with a 12.6 K/9. Do I sound bitter?