The Tampa Bay Rays are proving so difficult for the New York Yankees to shake that they are on the verge of a rare occurrence at Yankee Stadium.
The Rays can get their first series sweep of the Yankees in New York in more than six years Thursday afternoon when the American League East rivals conclude their three-game series.
The Rays lead the season series 5-1 with each win coming by three or fewer runs. They opened the series with a 6-3 victory Tuesday and followed it up with a 4-2 victory Wednesday when pinch hitter Mike Brosseau delivered the tiebreaking single off Zack Britton in the eighth inning.
“I know the atmosphere isn’t the same as previous years, but it’s still Yankee Stadium it’s still playing the Yankees,” Brosseau told reporters. “We know they’re at the top right now and we’re still chasing them. We’re going to put our best forward and definitely compete.”
Tampa Bay’s latest win over the Yankees clinched only the Rays’ second series win in their past 17 series at Yankee Stadium. Now thanks to just enough clutch hitting and some stellar late-inning relief, they can get a sweep in New York for the first time since June 30-July 2, 2014, when David Price was still on the team and Joe Maddon was managing.
Overall, Tampa Bay is on a 10-1 run after squeaking out Wednesday’s win.
“Very high level of confidence in the clubhouse for sure,” Brosseau said. “I don’t think there’s one person in our clubhouse that thinks we’re ever out of a game.”
The Yankees, who are 15-3 when not facing the Rays, hope to rebound from striking out 14 times and going 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position Wednesday.
“It’s very frustrating,” New York outfielder Brett Gardner said. “They’ve got a really, really good team. They’re one of the best teams in the American League, and in order for us to get to where we want to be at the end of the year and be the last team standing, that’s one of the teams we’ve got to figure out and get through.”
So far, the Yankees are batting .207 (37-for-179) with 53 strikeouts against Tampa Bay. They have clinched their first home series loss since dropping two of three to the Chicago White Sox from April 12-14, 2019.
“They’ve played us well the last handful of years, it seems to be continuing,” New York starter Gerrit Cole said after allowing two runs and striking out 10 in 6 2/3 innings Wednesday.
New York is also trying to avoid getting swept in a three-game series at home for the first time since Aug 28-30, 2017, against Cleveland and trying to avoid three straight home losses for the first time since April 2-12, 2019.
The Rays started Blake Snell and Tyler Glasnow in the first two games and will use John Curtiss as the opener on Thursday. Curtiss has a 2.84 ERA in three appearances this season, and he struck out four in two scoreless innings on Aug. 9 against the Yankees.
Curtiss is expected to be followed by Trevor Richards, who has a 5.93 ERA in four appearances this season. Richards last pitched Aug. 14 against Toronto when he allowed three runs in 4 1/3 innings. He allowed two unearned runs in four innings Aug. 9 against the Yankees.
The Yankees will start James Paxton, whose fastball velocity is 92.3 mph this season, down from 95.4 last season. Paxton averaged 92.8 mph with the pitch Saturday against Boston when he allowed three runs in five innings.
Paxton is 3-1 with a 3.38 ERA in six career starts against Tampa Bay.
–Field Level Media