Yankees look for sweep of nemesis Rays

MLB Baseball

The New York Yankees will look to complete a three-game sweep of the host Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Hit with an outbreak of COVID-19 within the staff before the three-game series began, New York lost third base coach Phil Nevin, first base coach Reggie Willits and five other support staff members — casting doubt on Tuesday’s game being played.

Still, the Yankees voted as a team to play the game and were victorious in the opener 3-1.

Manager Aaron Boone said six of the seven impacted, all fully vaccinated, were asymptomatic.

Boone and the Yankees got an outstanding eight-inning performance from ace Gerrit Cole to win 1-0 on Wednesday night. They are 11-3 over the past 14 games and 3-5 against the Rays.

“It just tested everyone’s mental strength, with all that’s going on. Everyone put the blinders on and go the job done,” said starting pitcher Jordan Montgomery, who earned the first game’s win.

Boone added: “I thought the focus of the guys was really good going into the game. This is a team that has played us really tough over the last year and the first part of this year, being a division rival.”

Jameson Taillon (1-2, 5.02 ERA) has been a mixed bag in his first season with the Yankees, primarily because of the home run ball, and will make his seventh start Thursday.

A native of nearby Lakeland, the right-hander has fired 28 2/3 innings that have led to 26 hits, but seven of those have left the yard, an average of 2.2 per nine innings pitched.

Taillon made his lone career outing against Tampa Bay by tossing 6 1/3 scoreless innings as Pittsburgh blanked the Rays 4-0 while he was a member of the Pirates on June 29, 2017.

At a time when they could use his speed and energy, the Rays are playing without spark plug Kevin Kiermaier for the remainder of the week’s six-game homestand against the Yankees and New York Mets.

Kiermaier, a two-time Gold Glove winner, hurt his left wrist on a head-first slide over the weekend in Oakland while attempting to steal second base. He was placed on the 10-day injured list.

However, Rays manager Kevin Cash said it might not have mattered who his club put in the lineup Wednesday against the overpowering Cole, who surrendered just four hits and no walks over 106 pitches.

“When you’re facing a guy who’s got it going, your margin of error is nil,” Cash said. “I can’t say that we did anything wrong, just couldn’t get anything going offensively.”

The right-handed Cole produced 12 of the Yankees’ 13 strikeouts as Tampa Bay posted its MLB-high 26th game with double-digit strikeouts.

Left-hander Rich Hill (1-1, 5.17 ERA) will make his eighth start in his first season with the Rays. He holds a 2-2 and 5.06 mark in 12 career games against the Yankees — four of them starts.

–Field Level Media

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