Series Preview: Yankees vs Tampa Bay

Probable Starters:

RHP AJ Burnett (4-1, 3.31) vs. RHP Wade Davis (3-3, 3.38)

LHP Andy Pettitte (5-0, 1.79) vs. RHP James Shields (4-1, 3.00)

Notes:

  • Joba Chamberlain’s stellar performance against Boston last night marks the third time in 19 appearances that he has given up 2 or more earned runs and the second time in as many appearances that he has given up 3 runs earned runs. In 18.1 innings he has allowed 18 hits and 10 earned runs while only allowing 6 walks and striking out 22. He is not that bad. Two bad performances in a row does not mean he should be hung out to dry. Just saying.
  • After skipping one of his starts, Pettitte threw 6.1 shutout innings against the Twins to earn himself his 5th win of the year. In the 7 games that Pettitte has started the Yankees have 7 wins. I know this isn’t statistically significant but I still love to say it.
  • The Rays have won 4 straight but their offense shows has been sporadic. In their last 9 games the Rays have scored 33 runs while the pitching staff gave up 26 runs. Even though they have one of the better run differentials in baseball, 207 runs for only 116 runs against, they have been slowing down recently. But don’t look for that trend to continue and don’t expect this to be an easy series for the Bombers.

Yankees Keys to the Series:

  • Burnett needs to continue his dominance of the Rays if the Yankees hope to win. In his last 7 starts he is 6-0 and has a 1.76 ERA against Tampa. He is going up against Davis who has posted two straight losses but primarily due to a lack of run support.
  • James Shields needs to be taken out of the game early. The only two times the Rays have lost when Shields has taken the hill is when he has been pushed off the hill after 6 innings. If the Yanks want to help Pettitte out, they need to get Shields off the mound before the 6th like they on April 11th when Shields was taken out of the game after 5.1 innings of work and the Yankees got a 7-3 win.
  • Bullpen. Having given up 5 run leads to the Red Sox two days in a row, the bullpen needs to right itself. Not only for this series but for the season because the Yankees will not be able to compete with the Rays if the bullpen keeps giving up what would be easy victories.

Expected Outcome:

Complete toss up. You might as well flip a coin because the Yankees and the Rays are the two best teams in baseball right now and it really all depends on how deep the starting pitching can go and how well the bullpens hold up. If Pettitte and Burnett are able to go 6 or 7 strong, the Yankees could easily sweep if the bullpen holds up. But that is a big if. On the other hand if Davis and Shields have good performances the Rays could very well end up taking the series. Your guess is as good as mine. It should be a good series.

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