While the Boston Red Sox limped out of the gate, the Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees capitalized to become the top two teams in the AL East in the early season.
The Red Sox are playing well and starting to get going, but the Rays and Yankees haven’t let up. Now, the division leaders begin a three-game series Friday night at Yankee Stadium.
Only four games separate the top three teams in the division with the Rays leading the Yankees by a half-game. Last week when the Yankees started a three-game series in Tampa Bay, the gap was five games between the three teams.
The teams are meeting for the second straight weekend. The Yankees took two of three, sandwiching a 7-2 loss on Saturday between a 4-3 win in the series opener and a 7-1 win in the finale.
In the finale, the Yankees dealt with their first delay of the week by scoring four times following a 43-minute power delay. They waited out two postponements before Gleyber Torres hit three of their five homers in a doubleheader sweep of the Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday.
Torres has hit safely in 17 of his last 18 games and is batting .352 (25-for-71) with four homers and 11 RBIs in that stretch. He also said his elbow is a little swollen after getting hit by a pitch last Friday but would be ready for this weekend.
“It’s better and better,” Torres told reporters. “There’s a little bit of swelling right now, but I think it’s normal for getting hit by a pitch. I need a few more days and I’ll be 100 percent.”
The sweep of the Orioles gave the Yankees 20 wins in their last 27 games and 12 wins in their last 15 home games. It also put them a season-high 10 games over .500 at 26-16.
All in the pitching family
The Rays followed up the series with the Yankees by producing consecutive shutouts in Miami against the Marlins. They used seven pitchers to get through Wednesday’s 1-0 win and four pitchers in a 4-0 win Tuesday.
“Sometimes you have to find a way to win a 1-0 game and a lot of things have got to go your way,” Rays manager Kevin Cash told reporters. “Our pitching was outstanding, but we put ourselves in some tight, sticky situations. It was impressive to watch.”
Tampa Bay is 7-6 in its last 13 games after starting the season at 19-9. More concerning for Tampa Bay is some more injuries starting to crop up.
Last week, the Rays placed catcher Mike Zunino (left quadriceps) and ace Tyler Glasnow (right forearm soreness) on the injured list.
In Miami, the Rays lost catcher Anthony Bemboom to a sprained knee in the fifth inning Wednesday and he is headed to the injured list. They also lost Yandy Diaz (sore left ankle) and outfielder Guillermo Heredia (bruised right hand) Wednesday but X-rays were negative and both players are day-to-day.
The Yankees used Zack Britton and Aroldis Chapman in both games Wednesday and it remains to be seen if both pitchers will be used if New York is leading in a close game.
New York hopes lefty CC Sabathia (2-1, 3.26 ERA) can help get them to their top relievers when he starts Friday. Sabathia is two wins shy of reaching 250 for his career and allowed two runs on three hits in five innings last Saturday when he took a no-decision in Tampa Bay.
The veteran left-hander is 17-16 with a 3.67 ERA in 49 starts against Tampa Bay. As a Yankee he is 10-15 with a 4.08 ERA against Tampa Bay and 4-7 with a 4.75 ERA in 18 starts at Yankee Stadium.
On Friday, Tampa Bay will employ the opener for the second straight game, the 13th time this year and 67th time since the start of last season. The Rays did not announce who would open the game, but Yonny Chirinos, who is 5-1 with a 3.61 ERA in eight appearances is expected to get the bulk of the innings.
The Rays will start Blake Snell and Charlie Morton in the final two games.
–Field Level Media (@FieldLevelMedia)