The Yankees bounced back to split the 4-game series with the White Sox after dropping the first two. The series split was overshadowed by the acquisition of AL home run leader Edwin Encarnacion from the Mariners. He will join the Yankees on Monday and likely be in the lineup immediately. The Yankees will also get Giancarlo Stanton back from the injured list on Tuesday. Aaron Judge will not be far behind Giancarlo Stanton, however he will most likely not be ready during the series against the Rays. As the team gets healthy, a roster crunch is coming. Clint Frazier was already sent to AAA, Cameron Maybin, Mike Tauchman, and Kendrys Morales will likely be the next victims. The upcoming series will be a battle for first place once again, as the Yankees currently hold a .5 game lead in the division.
Game 1: Monday 7:05 PM
Yonny Chirinos (7-2; 2.88 ERA) vs Masahiro Tanaka (4-5; 3.58 ERA)
Game one of the series is a matchup between Yonny Chirinos and Masahiro Tanaka. Chirinos has been terrific for the Rays so far in 2019. In his last two starts, he has given up only 2 runs in 14 innings against the Red Sox and Athletics. If the Yankees hope to win game one of the series, they will have to find a way to score some runs off of Chirinos. Tanaka has struggled over his last 3 starts, giving up at least 4 runs in each of them. Despite his recent struggles, Tanaka has been the Yankees most consistent pitcher in the early part of the 2019 season.
Yonny Chirinos has appeared in 4 games against the Yankees in his young career, going 2-1 with a 2.33 ERA. In 2 games so far in 2019, he has a 2.08 ERA in 8.2 innings. He has done a great job of keeping the Yankees offense quiet, but has allowed 4 hits in 5 at bats to Luke Voit and 3 hits in 4 at bats to Gio Urshela. In 16 career starts against the Rays, Tanaka is 9-4 with a 3.33 ERA. In two starts against them in 2019, he is 1-0 with a 0.69 ERA. In 141 at bats against current Rays hitters, he is holding them to a .270 batting average with a .772 OPS. The bulk of this damage has come at the hands of Ji-Man Choi, Tommy Pham, Mike Zunino, and Kevin Kiermaier who are all hitting higher than .300 in 10+ at bats against Tanaka.
Game 2: Tuesday 7:05 PM
TBD vs J.A. Happ (6-3; 4.66 ERA)
The Rays will employ an opener in game two of the series. The most likely candidate to get the start will be Ryan Stanek who has started a number of games in the opener role for the Rays over the last two seasons. The Yankees will counter with J.A. Happ who once again struggled keeping the ball in the park in his last start, but has pitched better recently.
Happ has faced the Rays 17 times in his career, going 4-4 with a 4.34 ERA. This will be his first start against them in 2019, however in 2018 he went 1-1 with a 1.53 ERA in 3 starts. He has limited current Rays hitters to a .186 average, with a .546 OBP in 67 plate appearances. He has given up two long balls, both coming to Avisail Garcia while he was a member of the White Sox. If Happ can replicate his 2018 performance against the Rays on Tuesday, the Yankees should be in a great position to win the game.
Game 3: Wednesday 1:05 PM
Blake Snell (4-5; 3.70 ERA) vs CC Sabathia (3-4; 4.42 ERA)
The series finale is a battle between reigning CY Young Award winner Blake Snell and CC Sabathia. Snell has had an up and down 2019 season, showing flashes of his 2018 brilliance, but struggling mightily in some of his other starts. He has pitched well against the Yankees this year, despite his 0-1 record against the club in 2 starts. He has thrown 11.2 innings, giving up only 3 runs. Sabathia has struggled mightily recently, giving up 4 or more runs in 3 of his last 4 outings. He has also struggled to provide the Yankees with length in his starts, only pitching past the 5th inning once during that span.
Snell has struggled against the Yankees in his career, with a 3-5 record and a 3.97 ERA in 13 starts. The bulk of his struggles have come against Gary Sanchez, who has 3 home runs off of Snell in 14 at bats, DJ LeMahieu who has 3 hits in 8 at bats, and Brett Gardner who has 5 hits in 17 at bats. Outside of these 3 hitters, Snell has been able to limit the damage done against him. Sabathia is 17-16 in 50 career starts against the Rays. He has a 3.63 ERA, with a 2.45 ERA in 11 innings so far in 2019. He has been able to limit the Rays lineup to a .258 average with a .765 OPS, however he has struggled against Kevin Kiermaier and Mike Zunino (who is currently on the IL). Kiermaier is 5 for 16 with 2 home runs, while Zunino is 5 for 11 with a home run. If the Yankees hope to steal this game from the Rays, they will need CC Sabathia to get back on track.
Who’s Hot and Who’s Not
Brett Gardner (Hot)
Brett Gardner is once again showing that he is the streakiest hitter on this Yankees roster. In the last week he is 6 for 19 with 4 walks, 3 home runs, and 6 RBIs. He has bounced back in a major way after struggling for the previous two weeks. A roster crunch is coming and Gardner will likely see his playing time cut, but it would be fun to watch him produce at a high level until that time comes.
Gleyber Torres (Hot)
Gleyber Torres has very quietly had a terrific week. In his last 7 games he is 7 for 17 with a home run and 4 walks. His OPS on the season is up to .867 and he has repeatedly proven that he is a mature hitter at the age of 22. The sky is the limit for Torres, and he has just scratched the surface of how good he can be.
CC Sabathia (Not)
CC Sabathia has hit a rough patch in his final career season. He has allowed 18 runs in his last 4 starts, winning only one of those starts. He is currently stuck on 249 career wins, and needs to start pitching better if he plans on remaining in the starting rotation for the remainder of the season. Look for Sabathia to turn it around in his next start, as he attempts to get comfortable throwing his cutter again.
Jonathan Holder (Not)
Every time Jonathan Holder enters the game for the Yankees, something bad seems to happen. He has allowed 7 runs in his last 4 appearances and needs to be better out of the bullpen. Holder was expected to build upon his success from the 2018 season but if the early results are any indication, it is unlikely that this will happen. There are plenty of opportunities left for Holder to prove that his 2018 was not a fluke but he needs to improve quickly.
Fantasy Players to Watch
Edwin Encarnacion was acquired from the Mariners for pitching prospect Juan Then. He immediately brings an upgrade to the designated hitter position. He will likely play in all 3 games of the series, and as a result he is the fantasy hitter to watch for the infield/DH position.
Brett Gardner is on another one of his hot streaks for the team. He is hitting and fielding well during this recent stretch. It will likely be one of the last times he plays in every game of the series as the team is getting some of their stars back from the injured list soon. With Maybin, Tauchman, and Stanton not expected to play in all 3 games of the series, the choice comes down to Hicks and Gardner. Gardner gets the nod here because of his recent hot streak.
Masahiro Tanaka is the easy choice here for the starters. Happ and Sabathia have struggled recently and even when they are pitching well they both rely upon soft contact for the bulk of their outs. Tanaka gets a higher percentage of his outs via the strikeout. As a result, he is the choice for the fantasy series.
In an extremely important series against the Rays, the Yankees will likely turn to the bullpen early and often. Adam Ottavino is a key part of that bullpen and typically comes in during the highest leverage situations. Expect him to pitch multiple times and rack up some strikeouts in the process.
The Yankees need to carry their improved play from the weekend into this series. They have not won any of their last 3 series after winning 9 straight. Look for the team to come out with the same intensity they played with on Saturday and Sunday as they look to distance themselves from the Rays in the division.
Editors Note: This is a new thing we are doing this season. Each series you will choose one outfielder, one infielder, one starting pitcher, and one relief pitcher. We are only counting two stats. Total bases for hitters and strikeouts for pitchers.
Your totals will be counted and a winner will receive a prize at the end of each month. Make sure you come back and make your picks before each series. You will find them right here on the series preview post.