On July 18, 2019, manager Aaron Boone’s “savages in the box” rant during an argument with plate umpire Brennan Miller went viral. The New York Yankees won two games over the Tampa Bay Rays on the day of Boone’s famous rant, but since then the rivalry has turned significantly one-sided in favor of the Rays.
The Rays go for the three-game sweep of the Yankees and look to continue their recent mastery in the rivalry Sunday afternoon in St. Petersburg, Fla., when the teams conclude their first series of the season.
From 2015 through the doubleheader featuring Boone’s rant, the Yankees went 57-36 against the Rays. Since then, the Rays are 12-2 in the past 14 regular-season meetings and 15-4 including their five-game victory in last season’s American League Division Series.
“They’re a good team,” Boone said. “They’re obviously the defending American League champions. We have expectations of being that and more this year, so they’re one of the teams that we have to go through.”
Tampa Bay followed up Friday’s 10-5 win by getting a 4-0 win on Saturday, highlighted by solo homers from Austin Meadows and Randy Arozarena, whom the Yankees cannot seem to get out. Meadows has seven homers in 29 regular-season games against the Yankees while Arozarena has five homers in 10 games against the Yankees, including the postseason.
Tampa Bay’s latest two wins occurred after it dropped four straight by allowing 38 runs. On Saturday, five relievers combined for 6 2/3 innings after Chris Archer exited with right forearm tightness that will send him to the injured list.
“They all did a really nice job,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “Anytime you shut out a major league baseball team, it’s something. When you do it in that fashion against that lineup, it’s really saying something.”
New York is on a three-game losing streak since cruising to a 7-2 win over the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday. In this series, the Yankees have seldom had opportunities with runners in scoring position as they have had only five at-bats in those instances while the Rays are 7-for-23 in those situations.
New York has been held to three runs or fewer in four of its first eight games after mustering five hits on Saturday. The best news was Aaron Judge returning after missing two games due to soreness in his left side and he is expected to be back in the lineup Sunday.
Judge was 1-for-4 and is hitting .346 but New York’s 3-4-5 hitters of Aaron Hicks, Giancarlo Stanton and Gleyber Torres enter in early season slumps. Hicks is batting .148, Stanton is down to .207 after hitting a grand slam Tuesday and Torres is batting .219.
“I think as a group, we’ve struggled a little to catch our stride where we’re obviously going to get to,” Boone said.
The Rays will use an opener, but it will be a momentous occasion when Brett Honeywell is called up for his major league debut. Honeywell is making his debut after enduring Tommy John surgery in 2018, an operation to repair a broken bone in 2019, a nerve decompression procedure last May and arthroscopic surgery in December.
He is 31-19 with a 2.88 ERA in 79 career minor league appearances and is pitching for the first time since 2017 with Triple-A Durham.
New York’s Jordan Montgomery (1-0, 0.00 ERA) will take the mound nearly four years to the day of his major league debut also against Tampa Bay. He is 1-2 with a 5.14 ERA in six career starts against the Rays.
Montgomery began the season nicely by allowing four hits over six innings in a 7-0 win over Baltimore on Monday.
–Field Level Media