Yankees vs. Rays series: Why it’s not a cakewalk for Tampa Bay team

Yankees vs. Rays Series, Yankee Stadium, Jul 31, 2023

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This July 31st another American League East matchup kicks off between the fifth place the New York Yankees (55-49) and the second place and Wild card’s number one contender the Tampa Bay Rays (63-44) in a 3-games series homestand. However, three is no certainty that the Rays are overwhelmingly the favorite despite the Yankees’ struggles.

The second-half schedule is tough for the Rays club considered the best MLB team prior to the All-Star break. But the struggles they’ve dealt with during the last fortnight have impacted the position of this team in the power rankings and their fall from the 1st place in the AL East. Outcomes in the consecutive series against top teams of different divisions, such as a 0-3 loss in the series against the Texas Rangers (1st in AL West), a 1-3 series loss to the Baltimore Orioles (1st in AL East), the 1-1 split series vs Miami Marlins (3rd in NL East) and a 2-1 victory against the Houston Astros (2nd AL West) in the previous series have paved the way for a record of 3-8 for this Tampa Bay based team.

Therefore, it won’t be a surprise if the Rays commit with their best efforts to at least keep a series-win streak considering the 2-3 record in the last 5 games as a visiting team, the Yankees’ 5th position, and proven inconsistencies throughout this second half, aiming to catch up the Baltimore Orioles and return back on to the 1st place in the AL East.

Meanwhile, the Yankees are still trying to find a way to keep the team aspirations alive, even though the main problem they have dealt with the whole season keeps affecting the results of games they should have won: the hitting ability. Looking back at all the starts of Gerrit Cole, it´s easy to realize that there is a concerning absence of batting contributions from the position players in the lineup that led close games like the one on Friday night July 28th.

Moreover, seems like the presence of one man on the team can positively affect the mindset of the batting players, as it happened in the comeback game of Aaron Judge. The Yankees captain led the offensive of the team with 3 hits (including a 2-run Homerun), 2 drove in and 2 scored. The New York Yankees were able to establish the biggest run differential win (5 runs) in any of the 14 games played before this series during this second half of the season vs the AL East top team Baltimore Orioles on Saturday, July 29. But just like they did win with Judge in the lineup, the next game lost without him. The Yankee players have the right to feel motivated by the presence and performance but definitely must keep doing adjustments to avoid playing at such an incompetent level without their best guy on the field.  

Yankees vs. Rays: The offensive matchup

TEAMLEAGUEGABRH2B3BHRRBIBBSOSBCSAVGOBPSLGOPS
5 Tampa Bay RaysAL10836135619211891615553834592712033.255.328.445.773
14 New York YankeesAL1053442457794139121454393368606321.231.303.404.707
Source: MLB

It is evident that the main reason for the Rays´ losing record is the poor performance they had during the month of July displayed in their .215 AVG (29th overall), .288 OBP (30th overall), .373 SLG (27th overall) and .661 OPS (28th overall). But these numbers are not enough to underestimate a team whose batting stats for the 2023 season looks like this: .255 AVG (11h overall), .328 (10th overall) OBP, .445 SLG (5th overall) and .773 OPS (5th overall). The Yankees hit the ball a similar way during the same time span, but the difference between these two teams is that Yankees’ numbers for the month of July .230 AVG (27th overall), .316 OBP (19th overall), .384 SLG (25th overall) and .700 OPS (25th overall) are almost identical to those for the whole season .230 AVG (29th overall), .303 OBP (26th overall), .404 SLG (18th overall), .707 OPS (23rd overall).

The New York Yankees definitely look like the underdog in this matchup in the hitting category due to the superiority of the Rays and the consistency in low performance, something uncommon for the Rays. But it has been a usual behavior in Yankees games.    

Yankees vs. Rays: The pitching matchup

Another big challenge for the Yankees is the Rays´ dominant pitching. The thing is that the solid Yankees pitching based on a 3.91 ERA ranked (9th overall), along with 1.24 WHIP (5th overall) and .233 AVG (3rd overall) looks lesser than the Tampa Bay Rays’ 3.81 ERA (3rd overall), along with 1.19 WHIP (3rd overall) and .228 AVG (1st overall).

Considering the pitching performance of each club during this month of July, both teams have shown a high level. The Tampa Bay Rays cumulated a 3.81 ERA ranked 3rd, but the 3.92 ERA of the Yankees is ranked 9th in the whole MLB during that time.

In conclusion, having a similar or a bit lower pitching effectiveness of the Yankees, the main focus and strategies will have to be oriented to the runs production from the Yankee players in the lineup. They were especially jumping early on the scoreboard since the Tampa Bay Rays have good numbers in terms of offensive, either when going ahead in the scoreboard or when trailing from behind in the run total.

Here are the already-announced pitchers to start each game:

Yankees vs. Rays Game 1 on July 28th, 7:05 PM ET

Domingo German’s basic statistics:

YearWLERAGGSSVIPSOWHIP
2023 Regular Season574.7719190103.21101.09
Career Regular Season31284.45111890517.15391.18
Source: MLB

Domingo German is set to face the Tampa Bay Rays veteran right-hander Tyler Glasnow. German will get another opportunity on the mound following back-to-back 6-inning losses vs Los Angeles Angels and New York Mets. He has allowed a total 11 ER, 11 H, 4HR and in both games.

Take a look at German´s last two outings:

Domingo German´s outing vs the Angels:

Domingo German´s outing vs Mets

As shown in the images, it´s obvious that German´s Sinker is the pitch type in his arsenal that is getting hit into positive plays for the batters the less. Therefore, it could be a beneficial adjustment to his pitching strategy this upcoming start to use the Sinker with more frequency.

Regarding German’s performance against the Rays’ batters, his numbers display successful outing against this team’s lineup:

Statcast
PlayerPAABH2B3BHRSOK%Whiff%BBBB%BASLGwOBAxBAxSLGxwOBAEVLA
 Germán, Domingo9789216032121.62766.20.2360.4040.3060.2070.3550.27890.815.6
Statcast
PlayerPAABH2B3BHRSOK%Whiff%BBBB%BASLGwOBAxBAxSLGxwOBAEVLA
 Díaz, Yandy24207301312.511.4312.50.350.650.4640.2950.4520.38395.918.1
 Arozarena, Randy18163001633.335.715.60.1880.3750.2880.1870.4080.30186.6-2.9
 Lowe, Brandon17172000529.437.5000.1180.1180.1030.070.1240.08286.734.6
 Margot, Manuel88210022515.4000.250.3750.2660.2090.2190.19390.9-20.3
 Paredes, Isaac320000133.311.1133.3000.230.0050.0090.23383.237
 Lowe, Josh44000012516.7000000.1450.1670.13887.316
 Franco, Wander7730000020000.4290.4290.3790.4150.4870.39384.612.4
 Ramírez, Harold55100012022.2000.20.20.1770.3110.5940.3995.110.8
 Raley, Luke44000025050000000.0050.0070.00593.975.5
 Bethancourt, Christian5521010025000.41.20.6640.2460.8230.4499719.6
 Siri, Jose2111000050150120.9750.40.9320.62798.723
Source: Baseballsavant

The 0.207 expected batting average is a good sign in German’s favor for this start, in addition to the 27% of swing and miss strikeout rate represents the effectiveness of some of German´s pitch types depending on the location at the zone and break-in trajectory of the pitched ball. Yandy Diaz, Wander Franco, and Jose are batters that Domingo German should be concerned about because of their ability to read and make contact with his pitches.

Tyler Glasnow’s basic statistics:

YearWLERAGGSSVIPSOWHIP
2023 Regular Season433.361111061.2881.12
Career Regular Season24233.91117780471.16041.23
Source: MLB

On the other side of this matchup is Tyler Glasnow, a right-handed veteran, who has found his groove after being reactivated from rehab after Tommy John surgery and a Left oblique strain.

This pitcher is a strikeout machine that could make it very difficult for the Yankees to create batted ball events if they don´t adjust their batting strategy to face a pitcher like this considered one of the Rays. Being selective and timing up his fastballs (his most frequently used pitch type) could give the Yankees’ players opportunities to capitalize on Glasnow´s throws.

In the second half, in 3 games started, he has a 2-0 record. However, his last game against the Los Angeles Dodgers ended with a poor 1.80 ERA in 20.0 IP, allowing 14 H, 4 ER, 4 BB, 24 K, 0.90 WHIP, and .194  AVG.

This will definitely be a matchup between Domingo German’s curveball and Tyler Glasnow’s fastball, as the above image displays.

Here are the numbers of the active New York Yankees players that had the opportunity to face Tyler Glasnow at home plate before this game.

The high Strikeout percentage (31.7%) and swing and miss strikeout rate (29.1%), in addition to the 0.222 BA and 0.226 expected BA are clear signs of how effective this pitcher has been when facing the Yankees player before. The positive thing is that because of his excessive fastball usage, the exit velocity when batting his pitches tends to be higher.

Yankees vs. Rays Game 3 on August 1st, 7:05 PM ET

Carlos Rodon’s statistics:

YearWLERAGGSSVIPSOWHIP
2023 Regular Season135.7544020.1151.38
Career Regular Season57493.651561510867.29621.24
Source: MLB

Finally, Carlos Rodon was able to earn his first win of the season as a Yankee and it was evident that he was looking forward to enjoying the victory in pinstripes. He is set to start the second game of this series and play at Yankee Stadium again. If he can commit to his duty as he did in the past game against the Mets, with the same hunger for a quality start, he could succeed in this upcoming game vs the Tampa Bay Rays.

His record over the 3 games he’s started after the All-star break is 1-2 with 6.60 ERA, allowing 12 H, 11 ER, 3 HR, 10 BB, 13 SO, .214 AVG, 1.47 WHIP within 15.0 IP.

Carlos Rodon’s performance against the Rays’ batters:

According to those numbers, if Carlos Rodon manages to keep the pace of the game holding the Rays batters to a low production of runs the victory will lean on the New York Yankees direction. Keeping an effective strategy against players like Yandy Diaz, Christian Bethancourt and Brandon Lowe will be suitable for a successful performance. He also needs to be careful of Jose Sirim Wander Franco, Isaa Paredes, and Randy Arozarena, because of their ability to hit fastballs, which is the preferred pitch type of Carlos Rodon.

The pitcher facing the Yankees lineup in this upcoming game for the Rays is Zack Eflin. A Right-handed pitcher with elite pitching technique who is currently tied with his teammate Shane McLanahan and Texas Ranger Ae Nathan Eovaldi for the most wins in the American League and MLB.

Zack Eflin´s basics statistics:

YearWLERAGGSSVIPSOWHIP
2023 Regular Season1163.6420200116.11161.02
Career Regular Season47514.361471351775.26681.25

In his second half, in 3 games started his record stands 1-2, establishing a poor 6.43 ERA in 14 IP, allowing 16 H, 10 ER, 2 BB, 11 K, 1.29 WHIP and a remarkable .291 AVG.

As his Statcasts numbers show, Eflin’s pitching approach is to mix his pitching arsenal has been very effective throughout this season. Having a good Exit Velocity (87.4 mph) estimation and one of the lowest Base on Balls percentages, along with the low wOBA and Batting average, Zack Eflin is definitely a serious pitcher to face against any team.  

Here are the numbers of the active New York Yankees players that had the opportunity to face Zack Eflin at home plate before this game.

Yankees vs. Rays Game 3 on August 2nd, 7:05 PM ET

Gerrit Cole’s statistics:

YearWLERAGGSSVIPSOWHIP
2023 Regular Season922.6422220136.11491.05
Career Regular Season139733.1928928901786.120791.10

In this series closing game, Gerrit Cole will start on the mound facing the Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Shane McClanahan. Cole´s last game against the Orioles had a frustrating outcome for the Yankees ace, because despite his efforts to shutout the Orioles for 7.0 innings of just 3 H and 5 K, he did not receive the support from the Yankees lineup to score at least a single run and the team lost the game in the ninth with a walk-off homer.

This will be the second home game that the Yankees ace is starting in the second half and is expected to perform at the same level. The Tampa Bay Rays is crowded with good Fastball hitters and some of them have faced Gerrit Cole enough times to feel comfortable with his deliveries to the zone.

His 4-seam fastball is still reigning as the most dominant in all MLB, with 30.6% strikeouts and 24.1% in PutAways. The following stats display Cole’s performance against the Rays batters, showing concerning numbers against this team’s lineup:

Gerrit Cole should elevate his pithing approach and execute a strategy against players like Randy Arozarena, Yandy Diaz, Isaa Paredes, Harold Ramirez, and Jose Siri. One of the reasons to see this start as a potentially difficult outing for Cole is because the constant usage of his 4-Seam Fastball could backfire since good fastball hitters can take advantage of the speed and location of the ball to hit extra bases.

The pitcher in charge of starting the game for the Tampa Bay Rays in this matchup will be Shane McClanahan. A right-handed pitcher whose drive on the mound is to attack the zone mainly using his Fastball and Changeup to dominate the batters he faces.

Shane McClanahan´s basics statistics:

YearWLERAGGSSVIPSOWHIP
2023 Regular Season1113.0020200111.01181.18
Career Regular Season33152.9473730400.24531.10

This young pitcher has tough last three games with a 6.00 ERA in 17.2 IP, allowing 16 H, 10 ER, 2 HR, 3 BB, 17 K, 1.27 WHIP, and a remarkable .267 AVG.

As his Statcasts numbers show, McClanahan’s pitching approach is to mix his pitching high-speed pitches which could be very effective against the Yankee players.

Here are the numbers of the active New York Yankees players that had the opportunity to face Shane McClanahan at home plate before this game.

This chart shows the struggles that most Yankees players in the lineup had when facing this pitcher.

What do you think? Leave your comment below.

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