Fresh off taking the opening series against the Red Sox, the Yankees (2-1) are going to face the Tampa Bay Rays (2-1) at Tropicana Field. The main storyline of this game is the return of Javier Vazquez. Many fans remember his terrible 2nd half in 2004 and thought that he simply was not meant to play in New York. When the Yankees traded for him in the offseason many fans did not like the trade because they did not believe that the pitcher had the mystical power of “being able to play in New York.” Well, tonight fans should be able to get a sense of whether 2010 Javier Vazquez will be a repeat of his disappointing 2004 New York campaign or if he will be his usual 200 innings a year 4.00 ERA self (even though the game is in Tampa).
Both teams are riding into the season with high expectations and have started off the season well, winning their respective opening series. The onus will be on the Rays who took two one-run wins from the Orioles but missed out on the chance to sweep, losing 4-5 on Thursday. The Rays have a lot of hype this season. Their prospects are as mind-blowingly good as ever and if young guns David Price and Jeff Niemann can pitch well the Rays will be a very dangerous team. The Yankees will continue to rely on their lineup to provide enough run support to win games and hope that their starters will go deep into the night to prevent the bullpen from shouldering a heavy load. The Yankees bullpen raised some eyebrows in the first game of the year against the Red Sox but Chan Ho Park and Joba Chamberlain both pitched well during the rest of the series.
Vazquez will face off against Price tonight, with CC Sabathia (filling in for Phil Hughes who will make his first appearance on April 15th against the Angels) and Wade Davis dueling on Saturday and AJ Burnett and James Shields wrapping up the series on Sunday. CC will try and regain his form against 24 year old Davis who is making his first start of the season. I can’t say I envy Davis because CC will be looking to prove to himself that his lackluster start in Boston was just a bump in the road.
Look for the Yankees to take 2 of three in this series. The Rays have the edge in the opener because Price is a stud who has proven to be cool under pressure whereas Vazquez might be on edge. The Yankees certainly are favored in the next two games. CC is an ace on one of the best staffs in baseball; it would be very surprising if Davis can keep up. Finally, the Yankees have the edge in Sunday’s contest with Burnett coming home, where he is infinitely more comfortable than Fenway Park and really who wouldn’t be, and Shields giving up 3 runs in 6 innings on 9 hits to the Orioles. Showcasing two powerful offenses which have been very productive so far as well as some of the best pitching in the league, this should be a fun series to watch.
Yankees Keys to the Series:
-Limit Evan Longoria at the plate.
-Starters go 7 strong.
-Robinson Cano continues his hot start.