Yanks, Rays ready to renew AL East’s new true rivalry

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While the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox are hyped as having baseball’s premier rivalry, games between the Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays have increasingly taken on the feel of a spirited rivalry in recent seasons.

With New York and Tampa owning the two best records in the American League East, that feeling holds true even in the abbreviated 2020 season. The two clubs renew acquaintances Tuesday night when the Yankees host the Rays in the opener of a three-game series.

Both teams enter the series playing well.

The Yankees are on a six-game winning streak since dropping three of four at Tampa Bay Aug. 7-9. The Rays are 9-2 in their last 11 games, a stretch that began with a 1-0 win over the Yankees in their first meeting.

New York enters the series after completing a four-game sweep of the Red Sox with a 6-3 victory Monday when Luke Voit homered twice. Tampa Bay heads to New York after Willy Adames hit a two-run homer in the eighth inning in a 7-5 win over the Toronto Blue Jays in Buffalo on Sunday.

The rivalry has a decided home-field advantage, as well. The Yankees were 8-2 at home against the Rays last season and are 35-13 against the Rays at home in the past five seasons. But of course fans were allowed to attend those games.

“It will definitely be a little bit more peaceful,” Tampa Bay outfielder Kevin Kiermaier told reporters of heading to Yankee Stadium. “I don’t have to hear so many bad words out there in the outfield, talking trash to me or the guys next to me. So that will be a nice little change of pace, for sure.”

Unlike the first series, the Yankees will be playing without three of their stars as Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, and DJ LeMahieu are all on the injured list. Stanton injured his left hamstring running the bases in Tampa Bay on Aug 8, the Yankees cited the artificial turf as a cause of Judge’s right calf injury and LeMahieu is sidelined for at least two weeks after suffereing a sprain in his left thumb Saturday.

Regardless of who has played, there have been some noteworthy moments between the teams in recent meetings.

On Aug. 8, Yankees manager Aaron Boone and hitting coach Marcus Thames were ejected for defending their hitters from being thrown up and in by Tampa Bay’s pitchers. A day later, James Paxton stared at the Tampa Bay dugout after being removed from the game.

“We have a little bit of history of chirping and certain things that have gone on in between the white lines,” Kiermaier said. “I don’t think they’re the biggest fans of us, and vice versa.”

“We’ve had a lot of competitive games with them,” Boone said Saturday. “Obviously, some notable back and forths which is fairly common when you’re playing a team a lot, and you’re competitive, and you got two good teams and you’re playing for a lot. Sometimes emotions rise up but there’s no question we have a really good rivalry based on two outstanding teams that are chasing the same goal.”

Blake Snell, who said the Rays celebrate even more than normal after beating the Yankees, starts the opener and is coming off his first win this season. He allowed four hits in five scoreless innings in Wednesday’s win at Boston and has tossed eight scoreless frames in his last two starts.

The lefty is 3-6 with a 4.23 ERA in 17 career starts against the Yankees and, like his team, his splits based on location are significantly different. In New York, he is 1-5 with a 5.82 ERA in 11 starts and at home he is 2-1 with a 1.86 ERA in six starts.

Masahiro Tanaka opposed Snell on Aug. 7 and pitched five scoreless innings in a no-decision. He is 10-4 with a 3.07 ERA in 19 career starts against the Rays.

Tanaka last pitched Wednesday and allowed two runs on five hits in four innings in a no-decision against the Atlanta Braves.

–Field Level Media

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