Yankees @ Rays Series Preview

I’m not even going to dedicate a full post to last night’s game, but I will sum it up in this first paragraph.  Basically, the Yankees scored early, but Freddy Garcia gave back every last run and spotty defense cost the Yanks the game in the end.  Also, Nick Swisher epitomized the Yanks recent struggles by not coming through in every clutch situation and is now 0-for-17 with RISP and two outs this season.  But let’s get past it and move on.

So what have the Rays been up to?  They have been playing very well as of late.  They got off to that putrid start.  Since that, however, they have played very well and are now at 23-17 and have now won seven of their last ten, but are on a two game skid.  As Rob said in the last podcast, they have been getting good things from guys you wouldn’t expect and their stellar starting pitching has held up quite nicely.

One of the many sparkling plays Fuld has made this year. (bthealthsource.com)

Offensively as a team, Tampa has been nothing to rag home about.  They rank in the bottom seven in the American League in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, wOBA, BB%, homers, and runs scored.  However, they are in the top six in BABIP and stolen bases. Ben Zobrist has been playing very well at .288/.369/.568 with 8 homers and 27 RBI while Matt Joyce has also been a very goos surprise hitting .368/.424/.615 with 6 homers and 18 RBI.  There has been some platooning going on with BJ Upton and also make sure to look out for Evan Longoria as he still gets his feet under him coming back from injury.  Here’s the whole projected lineup:

  1. Sam Fuld, CF
  2. Ben Zobrist, RF
  3. Johnny Damon, DH
  4. Evan Longoria, 3B
  5. Matt Joyce, LF
  6. Casey Kotchman, 1B
  7. Sean Rodriguez, 2B
  8. Reid Brignac, SS
  9. John Jaso, C

Now let’s move on to the pitching.  The Rays formidable starting pitching has been spectacular and is the reason they are in first place.Jeff Niemann has been disappointing, but David Price has carried over what he did last year into 2011, James Shields is so far having a nice come back year and Wade Davis and Jeremy Hellickson are really starting to come into their own as MLB starters.

(Zimbio.com)

The very questionable Tampa bullpen has been very good as well.  Andy Sonnanstine, Joel Peralta, Juan Cruz, and Adam Russell have all been very good while Kyle Farnsworth has settled into the closer role recording seven saves in eight opportunities.  Here’s a look at the pitching match-ups:

Monday

AJ Burnett () vs. David Price (5-3, 3.12 ERA)

Tuesday

Ivan Nova () vs. James Shields (4-1, 2.08 ERA)

There are a few things to look out for in this series.  First of all, when will the bats wake up?  Curtis Granderson is the only player hitting.  They need to start rolling on all cylinders because not only are the Rays playing well, but the Red Sox now have a lot of momentum leaving New York.

(Getty Images)

Secondly, how will Ivan Nova bounce back after his worst start of the season?  He needs to get back to the way he was pitching earlier this season and start locating his fastball better.

And lastly, how will the bullpen handle another two days without Rafael Soriano?  Joe Girardi can’t overwork the bullpen in this series because they haven’t been pitching all that great in the last couple of game.  They either need to step it up or they need strong outing from Burnett and Nova.

Well, that’s it for now.  The first game will be played tonight at 6:40 and first pitch can be seen on YES.

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