An intense American League East rivalry will be renewed this week when the New York Yankees come to Florida under different circumstance than when they departed last month.
The Yankees and Rays will get after it again Tuesday in the opener of a three-game series at St. Petersburg, Fla., and the start of Tampa Bay’s all-New York homestand, with the Mets paying a visit next.
The Rays have won 18 of the past 23 meetings in the intense series against the Yankees, counting playoffs. The matchup escalated with brushbacks and hit batters last season but ended with Tampa Bay’s dramatic victory to clinch the American League Division Series in five games last October.
When they last played at New York on April 18, the Rays got the best of Yankees ace Gerrit Cole 4-2 in the Bronx, sweeping the three-game series and improving to 5-1 in the season series.
After falling to 5-10 following that defeat, though, the Yankees have regrouped. New York started its season by dropping four of their first five series, but they are 4-0-2 in subsequent series, buoyed by their current 13-6 run.
Gleyber Torres and Giancarlo Stanton produced walk-off RBIs Saturday and Sunday, respectively, as the Yankees scratched out a three-game series sweep of the Washington Nationals over the weekend.
“It’s been tough here, but these guys keep grinding away and finding a way to win ballgames,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “It’s not always going to be easy. You’re not always just going to have your way with a team, but you’re going to have to win these tough ones every now and then to be a little bit of a separator as a club.”
Slated for his ninth career start against Tampa Bay, left-hander Jordan Montgomery (1-1, 4.41 ERA) holds a 1-3 career record and a 5.63 ERA against the Rays. In two starts against the Rays this season, Montgomery is 0-1 with a 6.55 ERA, surrendering eight runs over 11 innings.
After sweeping all four games from the Los Angeles Angels to open a seven-game West Coast road swing, the Rays lost the first two against the Oakland Athletics this past weekend before claiming Sunday’s series finale 4-3.
Like the Yankees, the victory pushed Tampa Bay to two games above .500 at 19-17 and 3 1/2 games behind first-place Boston.
The recent stretch has been an arduous one for the Rays, who compiled a 9-8 record over 17 straight days of baseball. They went 17-13 during a demanding run of 30 games in 31 days, often struggling at the plate and battling a myriad of injuries.
“We’ve got to be excited. We left home wanting to play better baseball and we did,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “We went into Anaheim and found ways to win, and then we were in every single game, every single inning (at Oakland).
“We came up short the first two nights, but it’s a huge credit to the guys. They don’t get frustrated. They stay at it and came out and just really competed well.”
On Tuesday night at home, Tampa Bay will open the series with hard-throwing 21-year-old Luis Patino (1-0, 1.17), who has been paired recently with lefty Shane McClanahan.
In his three outings, the right-handed Patino has allowed only four baserunners while striking out 10 in 7 2/3 innings, but he has never faced the Yankees.
–Field Level Media