You know it’s bad when even an off day is a roller coaster of emotions. I was filled with pure giddiness as the Orioles managed to hang on to win the first game of a day night doubleheader with the Red Sox. Thank You to Jeremy Guthrie, you owed the Tampa fans that one after careering it against the Rays last week at Camden Yards. Then I watched in dismay, as Baltimore fell in a shootout in game two. So, all that and it’s right back to where we started the day. All things considered, a split is probably as good as could be expected. It keeps the Rays two games back, with an unbelievably crucial four game series against the Yankees set to start on Tuesday.
The Rays enjoyed their last off day of the season Monday, as they got ready for ten straight games to finish the year. I think it was a good time to have a day off. They faced a knuckle ball pitcher on Sunday, which does who knows what to your timing as a hitter, and gives them a chance to be fresh for one last push to catch the Red Sox.
Tampa Bay has Wade Davis taking the ball in the first game against the Yankees. Davis has not faced New York this season but was 2-1 against them last year. He also was 1-0 at Yankees Stadium, going eight innings and allowing two runs on seven hits. Davis has not been spectacular of late, but the Rays have found a way to win seven of his last ten starts. Hopefully Wade can bounce back from his last outing, where he gave up four runs in just six and a third to the Baltimore Orioles.
The Yankees will send Ivan Nova to the mound in game one. I’m sure none of the Rays are thinking about this, but I thought about it, so I am going to mention it. Nova has been getting some hype as a rookie of the year candidate, especially with his play of late. He hasn’t lost since the beginning of June and in his only start against the Rays allowed just one run in five and a third. Jeremy Hellickson is another top candidate for rookie of the year. He has better pitching stats without the great win/loss record that Nova has put up. Wouldn’t it be nice of Hellickson’s teammates to rough up Nova and undercut his case a little bit at the same time? Just a thought.
The Rays offense has to step up and take some of the pressure off the Rays’ pitching staff. In 11 games against the Yankees this year the Rays have managed only 33 runs. They have been shut out twice and three of their five wins have come by one run. Evan Longoria has batted right in line with his regular season average of .244 against the Yankees but has just one hit off of Nova. Desmond Jennings, who got his bat going again in the Boston series, is 3-8 with a homer against the Yankees this season.
Look for the Rays to stay aggressive in this series. They may not run as much as they did in Boston, but I think Joe Maddon will have the Rays keep up the pressure on the Yankees defense when they get runners on base. They’ll have to pitch incredibly well and hope to get some breaks along the way. It should be an exciting series, as usual, when these two teams get together. I just hope it’s more exciting for the Rays than it is for the Yankees.