So the Rays and their MLB-best 28-11 record -- not to mention a three-game AL East lead -- come to the Bronx for a two-game set starting tonight.
A.J. Burnett (3.31 ERA; 3.67 FIP; 4.21 xFIP) faces Wade Davis (3.38 ERA; 4.94 FIP; 4.96 FIP) in tonight's match-up, while Andy Pettitte (1.79 ERA; 3.23 FIP; 4.17 xFIP) takes on James Shields (3.00 ERA; 3.44 FIP; 2.93 xFIP) tomorrow evening.
It looks like the Yanks catch something of a break here, not having to face the molten-hot David Price or Matt Garza. On paper Wade Davis hasn't been performing quite as well as his rotation-mates, with the highest WHIP, walk rate, ERA, FIP and xFIP of the Tampa fivesome. That being said his numbers are still plenty respectable, so it's not as if facing Davis will be a walk in the park. Burnett appeared on the verge of a second straight lousy start this past Friday but ended up pitching fairly effectively. If Burnett's on, the Yankees probably have a better chance of taking tonight's contest than tomorrow's.
Of course, if Pettitte continues his insane run the Yanks should be in reasonable position to take both games, considering Tampa's offense is in the middle of the pack right now. My initial assumption was that the Yankees historically struggle against Shields, although they actually have a career .299/.347/.545 line off Shields over 10 outings, the best numbers by far of any team that has faced Shields 10 times or more.
For you fellow history buffs out there, here's how the Yanks have fared against Tampa in the unbalanced schedule era:
No surprises here, considering the Rays weren't good until 2008. Long gone are the days when you could pencil in 14-15 wins against Tampa. I doubt the Yankees have gone 10-0 at home (2004) against anyone else at any point during the past 10 regular seasons.
Here are the two teams' offense and pitching numbers:
As previously mentioned, the Rays' offense leaves a little something to be desired, with only two regulars wOBAing over .340 -- Evan Longoria (a Godly .419) and Carl Crawford (.384, which would be a career high for him if he ends around there). This Rays team also appears to have a little less pop than it has had the last few seasons -- Carlos Pena in particular seems to be struggling, which of course means he'll end up pumping two out at Yankee Stadium.
The Yankees -- despite featuring a bottom half of the lineup seemingly held together by paper clips and glue during the past few weeks -- are still raking on offense, and though there have been encouraging signs this month Tex and A-Rod still haven't quite broken out power-wise yet. I expect that team SLG will be vaulting to the top of the league when everyone is finally healthy again.
The real story for the Rays in 2010 has been the pitching staff, which is tops in the AL in BAA, WHIP, ERA and FIP. Although it may surprise you to know that the Yanks are actually second in the AL in the first three of those four categories. Still, a 2.69 team ERA and 3.73 FIP is National league-style pitching domination, and if the Rays keep that performance up it will be incredibly difficult to overtake them, even with a middling offense.
If I had to make a prediction, I'd guess the teams split this brief two-game set.
For a look at how the opposition views us, be sure to check out DRaysBay's series preview.
For previous Yankeeist series previews, please see the following:
Yankees vs. Twins in the unbalanced schedule era [May 14, 2010]
Yankees vs. Tigers in the unbalanced schedule era [May 10, 2010]
Series Preview: Yankees at Red Sox II [May 7, 2010]
Yankees vs. White Sox in the unbalanced schedule era [April 30, 2010]
Yankees vs. Orioles in the unbalanced schedule era [April 27, 2010]
How the Yankees have fared against the Red Sox at home since 2003 [April 2, 2010]
How the Yankees have fared at Fenway Park since 2003 [April 1, 2010]