Tampa Bay Rays: ALDS victory over Yankees within sight

Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Ryan Yarbrough delivers a pitch. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Ryan Yarbrough delivers a pitch. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports /

The Tampa Bay Rays went 8-2 against the New York Yankees in the crazy thing we called the 2020 regular season.

They’ve gone 2-1 against them in the first three games of the best-of-five ALDS.

Can they get that 11th and final victory of the season out of the way tonight?

The Rays and Yankees meet in Game 3 of the ALDS at 7:10 p.m. ET tonight at Petco Park, usually home of the Padres but serving as a neutral bubble site for the American League during the playoffs this year.

The Yankees may have been many people’s favorites to reach and win the World Series, but maybe they weren’t paying as close of attention as they should have been.

The Rays, after all, won the AL East in the 60-game shortened season, finishing 40-20 for the second-best record in MLB.

The Rays, too, gave up just 3.6 runs per game, best in their division and fourth best in MLB — no small feat when you consider two of the top-five scoring offenses were in the East region. The Braves, who they faced four times, averaged 5.8 runs per game. The Yankees, 5.6.

And you know what? Maybe it’s better this way anyway.

After all, the team went 11-5 in games it was considered the betting underdog.

Maybe it’s OK to let them do all the talking in the Northeast because we know which team does all the winning when it counts.

Tampa Bay Rays’ Ryan Yarbrough expected to get bulk of Game 4 innings

Right-hander Ryan Thompson (4.44 ERA) takes the mound to start the game for the Rays, though he’s set to serve in the “opener” roll with left-hander Ryan Yarbrough (3.56 ERA) expected to throw the bulk of the game, per Marc Tompkin of the Tampa Bay Times.

Yarbough hasn’t exactly been great in the sabermetric stats, with his expected ERA at Baseball Savant falling in the 57th percentile — not bad, either, of course. He’s found success largely in limiting hard contact, ranking in the top 2% there.

On the field, his ERA+ of 119 puts him above average. He also limited baserunners, with 54 hits and 12 walks allowed in 55.1 innings. He struck out 44.

Yarbaugh did not face the Yankees in 2020 and saw them just once in 2019. In three innings he gave up just one hit and struck out three.

The Yankee to stop, or at least try to minimize the damage by, this series has been Giancarlo Stanton. With four home runs in his five hits, he’s played a role in 10 of New York’s 18 runs.

Left-hander Jordan Montgomery (5.11 ERA) will be taking the ball to start for the Yankees — a great sign for the Rays. They chased him in the first inning on Sept. 2, scoring five runs on four hits and a walk. They hit two home runs. He’ll certainly be on a short leash.

This game might not be a must-win for Tampa Bay, but with Gerrit Cole looming for the Yanks if the series reaches Game 5, both teams will certainly be treating it like it is.