After splitting the two-game series against their crosstown rivals, the Yankees head to Tampa Bay for a four-game set to close out the first half of the season. With a 6.5 game lead in the division, the Yankees will have a great opportunity to put even more distance between themselves and the second place Rays heading into the All-Star Break.

Probable Starters

Game 1: Thursday 7:05 PM

J.A. Happ (7-4; 5.23 ERA) vs Yonny Chirinos (7-4; 3.10 ERA)

Game one of the series is a fourth of July matchup between J.A. Happ and Yonny Chirinos. Happ struggled in his last outing, giving up 8 runs in 4 innings against the Astros. Prior to that he earned the win in 5 inning, 2 run performance against the Rays. He was resigned by the Yankees during the offseason and has been one of the biggest disappointments for the Yankees this season. In his career against the Rays, Happ is 5-4 with a 4.30 ERA in 18 games.

Yonny Chirinos has been a pleasant surprise for the 2019 Rays. He is 7-4 with a 3.10 ERA including a no hit bid hat was broken up in the 7th inning against the Red Sox. The Rays have lost his last 4 starts after he has allowed at least 2 runs in 6 innings or less in all of those starts. In 5 career appearances against the Yankees, Chirinos is 2-2 with a 2.84 ERA. He is 1-1 with a 3.07 ERA in 14.2 innings against the Yankees so far in 2019.

Game 2: Friday 7:05 PM

Masahiro Tanaka (5-5; 3.74 ERA) vs Brendan McKay (1-0; 0.00 ERA)

Game two of the series is a battle between Rays killer Masahiro Tanaka and highly touted Rays prospect Brendan McKay. Tanaka is coming off his worst start of the season after giving up 6 runs while only recording 1 out in the London series. McKay will be making his second career start after winning his first with a 6 inning 0 run performance.

Tanaka has notoriously pitched well against the Rays. He is 10-4 with a 3.06 ERA in 17 career starts. In 2019, Tanaka is 2-0 with a 0.41 ERA in 3 starts. He is coming off of a complete game shutout in his last start against them two weeks ago. Hopefully Tanaka can continue his dominance of the Rays as he team heads into the All-Star break.

Game 3: Saturday 7:15 PM

CC Sabathia (5-4; 4.04 ERA) vs Blake Snell (5-7; 4.87 ERA)

Game three features a pair of pitchers who have struggled in 2019. Sabathia got off to a great start with a 2.97 ERA through his first 7 starts of the season. Since May 17, he has 5.23 ERA and has struggled to locate his pitches. He will be looking to get back on track against a Rays team that he has faced 3 times this season, allowing only 4 runs in 17 innings.

Blake Snell will go for the Rays after recording just one out his last outing against the Yankees while allowing 6 runs. He has struggled against the Yankees in his career with a 3-6 record and a 4.85 ERA. This includes his 0-2 record with a 6.75 ERA so far in 2019.

Game 4: Sunday 2:05 PM

James Paxton (5-3; 4.09 ERA) vs Charlie Morton (9-2; 2.36 ERA)

The series finale is a matchup between two offseason acquisitions by their respective teams. Paxton was acquired via trade from the Mariners. He has struggled with the Yankees, despite his 5-3 record. His ERA currently sits at a career high 4.09. Morton was signed as a free agent, previously pitched for the Houston Astros. He has been fantastic so far for the Rays in 2019 with a 2.36 ERA.

In 3 career starts against the Rays, Paxton is 3-0 with a 3.32 ERA. This will be his first start against them as a member of the Yankees. He is coming off of a terrific start against the Mets in which he allowed 1 run in 6 innings despite not having his best arsenal of pitches. Morton is 2-1 with a 4.45 ERA in 5 career starts against the Yankees. He earned a no decision in his lone start against the Yankees as a member of the Rays, giving up 5 runs in 4 innings. This will be the marquee pitching matchup of the series as both teams will be looking to head into the All-Star Break on a positive note.

Who’s Hot and Who’s Not

DJ LeMahieu (Hot)

DJ LeMahieu has been a regular on the “hot” list this season, and following another great performance against the Mets he is on there again. In the last week he is 9 for 21 with 5 doubles and 7 RBIs. Along with his terrific offense has come defensive versatility and strong defensive play at every position in the infield.

Aaron Hicks (Hot)

Yankee fans have been waiting for Aaron Hicks to get hot after he got off to a slow start. It looks like that is finally happening. In the last week he is 6 for 13 with 2 doubles and a home run. He is consistently getting ahead in the count and taking advantage of good pitches to hit. Hopefully Hicks can continue this stretch of good play as most of his numbers are still below his career averages.

Gary Sanchez (Not)

Gary Sanchez has been great so far in 2019, but in the last few weeks he has tried to do too much at the plate and the results are lacking. He is 1 for 17 with no extra base hits and only two walks. Despite the lack of results at the plate, he has continued to provide the team with great defense behind the plate. Expect Gary to get back on track, he is too talented not to.

Edwin Encarnacion (Not)

Edwin Encarnacion got game two off, but his poor results up to this point with the Yankees are alarming. He has continued to hit home runs since the trade but his average is down to .149. He is hitting even lower in the last week, going 2 for 14. He also has struggled to make routine plays at first base, showing that he is primarily a designated hitter at this point in his career. The Yankees did not give up much to acquire Encarnacion, but he still needs to be better to justify his roster spot.

Fantasy Players to Watch

Gleyber Torres

Gleyber Torres has played extremely well in the first half of the season. He is hovering around the .300 mark, with 19 home runs, and 50 RBIs. In the last week he is 4 for 10 with 4 walks and 3 runs scored. He has continually proven that he is a pivotal bat for this Yankees lineup, and he will need to play well for this Yankees squad to win the series against the Rays.

Aaron Hicks

Hicks finally looks like he is hitting his groove so far in 2019. He provides the team with terrific defense and offense from the center field position. In an important series against the Rays, look for Hicks to keep his hot stretch of play going.

Masahiro Tanaka

Tanaka has been terrific against the Rays over the course of the last two seasons. He seems to be extremely comfortable facing them, and the results indicate that. He should be well rested after only pitching 1/3 of an inning in London, so do not expect fatigue to become a major factor for Tanaka.

Aroldis Chapman

The bullpen has no shortage of options for the fantasy series. Chapman is the choice against the Rays, but any of the high leverage arms are good options. Chapman is the choice here due to the belief that they should win multiple games in the series but they will likely be hard fought, close games. With them being close games, he should get the opportunity to save games and strike out some Rays hitters.

As the Yankees hit the halfway mark of the season, I wanted to take a moment to thank everybody who has followed along with the series previews, participated in the fantasy series, and engaged of followed on social media. Looking forward to more of the same as the Yankees head down the stretch and hopefully capture title #28 in October!

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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. 

Series Preview Link

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