ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – The Rays open a three-game series at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday night. It is their first of three visits to the Bronx this season.
The Rays, who are 35-25 and in third place, nine games behind the Yankees in the American League East, split a four-game series with their rival at Tropicana Field last month. Tampa Bay pitching limited the Bronx Bombers to 12 runs, five in the last three games of the series, which is saying something given the Yankees’ level of production.
The Yankees have an MLB-best 44-16 (.733) record. Aaron Boone’s team has won 11 of its last 12 and has scored at least 10 runs four times in that stretch. They lead the American League and are second in MLB with an average of 5.1 runs per game. They lead the majors with 98 home runs. The Rays are averaging 4.2 runs and have hit 58 homers.
Both teams have been outstanding on the mound. The Yankees have MLB’s best ERA at 2.85, and the Rays are fourth at 3.26.
Corey Kluber (3-2, 3.88) takes the mound in the series opener. He will be opposed by Gerrit Cole (5-1, 3.63), who allowed five homers and seven runs in 2 1/3 innings in his last outing against the Twins.
On Wednesday night, Shane McClanahan (7-2, 1.87) looks for his eighth win when the lefty goes up against Nestor Cortes (5-2, 1.96). On Thursday, Drew Rasmussen (5-3, 3.41), coming off a rough outing in Minnesota, will be opposed by Luis Severino (4-1, 2.80).
First pitch for all three games will be 7:05.
On a roll: Jeffrey Springs had not started a game in the conventional sense in his MLB career prior this season. He started twice with the Rangers as a rookie in 2018, both as an opener.
The 29-year-old lefty has become a fixture in the rotation and has done a fantastic job as he continues to get built up. He threw a career-high 94 pitches in Sunday’s 6-0 win at Minnesota. Springs, who threw 92 pitches his previous start against the visiting Cardinals last week, went 5 1/3 innings against the Twins.
“That’s too many pitches in 5 1/3 innings, to be honest,” he told reporters Sunday. “I might have gotten a little gassed there toward the end. I would have liked to have thrown about 15 less pitches for sure.”
No matter, Springs has been sparkling. As a starter, he is 2-2 with a 1.83 ERA and 0.96 WHIP. He has not allowed a run in his last two starts, covering 11 1/3 innings.
“I am trying to build off each start and trying to learn from the adjustments I need to make from outing to outing,” he said.
His first seven appearances this season were out of the bullpen before making his first start on April 28 against Seattle at Tropicana Field. Another relief outing followed, though the North Carolina native has since made seven straight starts and has gone at least five innings in the last five. He went six innings twice.
Overall, Springs is 3-2 with a 1.45 ERA and 0.91 WHIP in 49 2/3 innings.
“When you look at the scouting report and you look at what he does, he is not doing anything different start to start,” said manager Kevin Cash. “He is pretty consistent, but most of your good pitchers are consistent with how they go about it. I think he is putting himself where he is pitching with confidence, his stuff is good and throwing early strikes, which will help any pitcher.”
Adam’s scoreless streak: Jason Adam has gone 16 straight appearances without allowing a run. The righthanded reliever has been used in virtually every role from the middle innings to closing, which he most recently did last Thursday against the Cardinals to earn his second save.
The 30-year-old right-hander, who broke in with the Royals in 2018 and has also pitched for the Blue Jays and Cubs, has a 0.72 ERA and 0.64 WHIP in 26 appearances (25 innings) this season.
“He controls the count so well,” said Cash. “His stuff is really good and I think that with the deception he creates, you can tell hitters just do not pick up the baseball very well when they have those late reactions to the breaking ball he throws, especially as a righty when they are getting out of the way of it. They are just not picking it up that quick.”
Parade of arms: When Luke Bard came on in relief last Wednesday against St. Louis, he became the 23rd pitcher to come out of the Rays’ bullpen this season. Andrew Kittredge (Tommy John surgery) is the latest casualty to a bullpen that has been decimated by the injury bug since spring training.
The hope is J.P. Feyereisen returns by the end of the month and Luis Patino, who has been throwing bullpen sessions, also re-joins the team after being shelved in April due to a left oblique strain. Nick Anderson (elbow), who has been out all season, could return in July. Same with JT Chargois (left oblique), who endured a setback since he first went on the injured list in April.
Summer reading: A few good baseball books have been published since the start of the season. One of them, True: The Four Seasons of Jackie Robinson by Kostya Kennedy focuses on four years in Robinson’s career and life. The years were 1946 when Robinson debuted in the minors with the Montreal Royals, 1949 when he won the National League MVP, his final season of 1956, and 1972 when he passed away.