Starting for Tampa Bay is Wade Davis. The right-handed Florida native has already faced the Yankees once this year, starting against CC Sabathia during the game the Big Fella took a no-hitter into the 8th inning. The Yankees got seven hits and worked four walks against Davis, the biggest blow coming on a two run homer by Robinson Cano.
Since then, the twenty four year old has been pretty effective, allowing only 11 runs in 34 innings (2.91 ERA). However, he's walked 17 while striking out only 24 during that span, leading to an FIP and xFIP of almost 5.00. Davis is averaging fewer than six innings per start and given that the Yankees are seeing the fifth most pitches per plate appearance in the Majors, if they are patient enough or potent enough tonight, they should be able to get him out of the game relatively early.
That's the good news. The bad news is that the Rays relievers have allowed the second fewest runs of any team in the MLB this season - fewer than one per game. Perhaps some of their effectiveness will rub off on the Yanks bullpen and help them escape the terrible stretch they've been going through.
It's A.J. Burnett's turn to go for the Yankees and if he's right, the bullpen won't need to do very much. After a scintillating start, Burnett has cooled of considerably, thanks mostly to his dreadful start in Boston. He bounced back from that 9 run shellacking with a much more respectable 6 2/3, 2ER effort against the Twins.
Burnett had talked about pitching to contact and throwing his fastball with movement to both sides of the plate during his run of early success, but ever since he dominated the Orioles and supposedly found his curveball, he's been giving out more free passes; he's walked seven batters in his last two starts, where as he only walked 11 in his first six outings.
One of those first six was against the Rays at Tropicana Field and while he struggled early - giving up two runs in the first inning - Burnett held on to throw six scoreless frames after that en route to his first win of the year.
As of now, the Rays have a three game lead over the Yanks and when this quick meeting wraps up tomorrow, the most likely outcome is that the two teams split and the margin is still three games. However, a mini-sweep in one direction or the other could put the Yanks either one or five games back in the standings. While most of the media attention will be devote to the tilts with the Red Sox and Mets throughout the week, these are the two games the Yankees most need to win.
Don't start what you can't finish,
When you bubble with skills that never diminish,
Your best team against mine is a light scrimmage,
So play like popeye and eat spinach.
Yankees: The same exact lineup as last night, which is not exactly a good thing. Nick Swisher and Jorge Posada are still out, as Swish tried to swing left handed and felt more pain in his biceps and Posada's ailing foot isn't getting any better. Jorge is going for an MRI but no such procedure has been ordered for Swish.
Jason Bartlett SS
Carl Crawford LF
Ben Zobrist RF
Evan Longoria 3B
Carlos Pena 1B
B.J. Upton CF
Hank Blalock DH
John Jaso C
Reid Brignac 2B