By Lenn Robbins
The Yankees moved on from the mudroom rubber mat known as the Boston Red Sox to the closest team they consider a rival in the American League East – the Tampa Bay Rays.
The Yankees dropped 3-of-4 from the Rays in Tampa little more than a week ago. That ended the Bombers reign as the team with the best record in baseball. No worries. They feasted on the Sox, sweeping all four games by an aggregate score of 31-13 and prompting Boston GM Chaim Bloom to offer up his best Captain Obvious imitation.
“There’s a lot of work to do,” Bloom told The Boston Globe.
The Red Sox are barely a rivalry in name only. The real rival is Tampa Bay.
The Rays have never tried and would be foolish to even think about matching the Yankees dollar-for-dollar. The Yankees payroll is $254.19 million, tops in MLB. The Rays are a pocket-change $72.1 million.
The Rays are the A’s of the East. And they’re getting under the Yankee’s skin. Tampa Bay knocked Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka out of the game after four-plus innings and posted a 6-3 win Tuesday night in the Stadium.
“Beating the Yankees definitely feels good,” said Rays pitcher Blake Snell, who got the win. “Even without their stars in there, they’ve still got a great amount of talented guys. Beating the Yankees always feels great.”
They Rays have been an information-age, analytics-driven tightwad since 2005, when Brooklyn native Stuart Sternberg bought the team. Sternberg began building his fortune working on Wall Street while still a student at St. John’s.
(Wishing Thinking – Sternberg sells the Rays and team’s up with another St. John’s success story, Mike Repole to buy the Mets. Just dreaming).
The Rays (15-9) are now just one and one-half games behind the Yankees (16-7), who suffered their first home loss against 10 wins. A Rays win on Wednesday could trigger a stampede to the panic button in the Yankee Stadium.
The Yankees have ace Gerrit Cole going Wednesday night against Tyler Glasnow. Cole (4-0), 2.76 ERA) is looking to keep alive his 20-game regular-season win streak. This game is just as much about stopping the bleeding as it is extending the streak.
“They got a good team, good pitching and defense and they can hit a little bit,’’ said Luke Voit. “It’s nice to have Gerrit on the mound. We know he will dominate like he always does. It will be good to have our ace on the mound and hopefully get back on track.’’
The Yankees went 4-for-27 (.148) with runners in scoring position during the last series against Tampa Bay and that was with Aaron Judge (right calf) and D.J. LeMahieu (thumb) in the lineup.
The Rays will be without reliever Andrew Kittredge who might need Tommy John surgery.
Some Yankees might want to scrub in.
Kittredge threw inside on LeMahieu and Gio Urshela in the last series.
“I don’t think they’re the biggest fans of us, and vice versa,’’ Rays outfielder Kevin Kiermaier told Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. “We all respect each other and what our talents are. But it’s one of those things (where) we love to beat them and they love beating us.’’
It isn’t a new thing. Kittredge threw a pitch over Austin Romine’s head in a 2018 game. CC Sabathia defended his team. Now there’s even more on the line in this 60-game season. And there’s still one more three-game series starting at the end of the month.
Plenty of time to take this rivalry – the only rivalry in the AL East – from red hot to white hot.
“I think it was more about the history,” Judge told reporters on Aug. 8th. “You don’t usually forget stuff like that’’