Rays put dominance of Yankees to test again

MLB Baseball

Not even the sight of Gerrit Cole could stop the Tampa Bay Rays from beating the New York Yankees again.

After beating Cole, the surging Rays attempt to continue their mastery of the Yankees on Tuesday night when the AL East rivals continue a three-game series at Yankee Stadium.

The Rays opened the series by getting a 5-3 win Monday when Ji-Man Choi hit a two-run homer off Cole and Kevin Kiermaier also connected off New York’s ace.

By getting to Cole, the Rays opened a 4 1/2-game lead over the Yankees and improved to 7-1 in the season series heading into the penultimate meeting of the abbreviated 10-game series.

The Rays have won the last six meetings, and a win on Tuesday would equal their longest winning streak over the Yankees, whose lineup is missing Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Gleyber Torres.

“It’s big,” Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash said. “They’re in the division with us and both teams are fairly nicked up as we speak, and you’ll take as many as you get because you know when they get healthy, they’re a really good club.”

Monday’s win also was a continuation of Tampa Bay’s overall surge. The Rays are 25-11, on their second six-game winning streak of the shortened season and are 13-2 in their last 15 games.

Tampa Bay also is 19-3 in its last 22 games since beating the Yankees in the second game of a doubleheader on Aug. 8. It is the Rays’ best 22-game stretch since July 4-30, 2013.

New York’s inability to beat the Rays can be attributed to an unproductive offense, especially with runners in scoring position The Yankees were held hitless until the sixth, went 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position and struck out 11 times.

This season, the Yankees are 1-for-25 with runners in scoring position and have struck out 38 times in the four home games against Tampa Bay. Overall, the Yankees are 5-for-51 with runners in scoring position and have struck out 69 times against the Rays.

“I’m not worried about it,” Yankees first baseman Luke Voit said. “They came out hot tonight. It’s baseball. We had them last year, they got us this year.”

New York’s struggles against the Rays at home are part of a 3-8 slide that has them fending off the Toronto Blue Jays for second place in the AL East. The Yankees won three straight over the Mets, winning each time in their last at-bat, but generated little offense Monday other than homers by Gio Urshela and Voit.

After hitting Cole, the Rays will face Masahiro Tanaka (0-1, 3.48 ERA), though Yandy Diaz and Austin Meadows could be held out. Diaz exited Monday’s game with right hamstring tightness, while Meadows sat out with oblique soreness.

The Rays will hope Choi has recovered from his stomach issues after exiting Monday’s game in the ninth. Choi was 3-for-3 with a pair of walks and is batting .391 (9-for-23) against the Yankees this season.

Tanaka is 10-5 with a 3.33 ERA in 20 career starts against Tampa Bay. This year, Tanaka has experienced mixed results against the Rays, who got one hit off him in five innings Aug. 7, but tagged him for six runs in four innings two weeks ago in New York.

Tanaka has yet to exceed five innings, and in his last start he tossed five scoreless innings while throwing 66 pitches in the second game of Wednesday’s doubleheader at Atlanta.

Trevor Richards is expected to start for Tampa Bay as an opener. Richards has a 4.71 ERA in six appearances and has held the Yankees to two runs in seven innings over two outings this year.

–Field Level Media

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