New York Yankees at Tampa Bay Rays series primer
Despite injuries to key starters, their pitching has remained stable.
Despite headlines wrapped with gauze, their reinforcements mostly have done their duty.
But are the Tampa Bay Rays dancing with trouble?
Can they stay better than .500 without Alex Cobb or Drew Smyly?
The questions are legitimate, and time will show whether "yes" will be the correct answer to both. Cobb has elected to have Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, and Smyly could face a season-ending operation on his left shoulder. Still, the Rays' pitching has served as a strength, all while Tampa Bay's bats have cooled.
Credit the Rays for holding a 17-15 record despite their litany of injury problems related to their pitching staff. Still, it will be their duty to change the discussion from surgeries and health scares to something more pleasing. It will be their task to evolve in a positive way.
More offense will help. Good signs were observed in the two victories over the Texas Rangers in the most recent four-game series at Tropicana Field over the weekend. The Rays cracked 15 combined runs in the wins on Friday and Saturday. The performances at the plate served as an effective complement to strong pitching that Tampa Bay has enjoyed of late.
The Rays must see more in a four-game series against the New York Yankees at Tropicana Field from Monday to Thursday. New York has won five of six games against Tampa Bay this season. A reversal of that trend would give the Rays a needed boost.
Here's a closer look at the upcoming Rays-Yankees series ...
SCHEDULE AND PROBABLE PITCHERS
Jacoby Ellsbury (Yankees): He hit .310 (9 for 29) with three RBI in seven games from May 4-10. He had two multi-hit contests in the span, including a 3-for-5 day in a victory over the Toronto Blue Jays on May 5. He has hit .341 with one home run and six RBI this season.
Evan Longoria (Rays): He hit .364 (8 for 22) with three home runs and seven RBI in six games from May 4-10. He had three contests with two hits each in the span. He has hit .292 with four home runs and 12 RBI this season.
Chase Headley (Yankees): He hit .143 (3 for 21) with four strikeouts in six games from May 4-10. He was held hitless in three contests in the span. He has hit .224 with three home runs and 10 RBI this season.
Kevin Kiermaier (Rays): He hit .136 (3 for 22) with three strikeouts in seven games from May 4-10. He was held without a hit in four contests in the span. He has hit .258 with three home runs and nine RBI this season.
0: Starts made this season by Cobb, before he announced his intention Friday to have Tommy John surgery. He left a spring training start March 17 against the Philadelphia Phillies with what was called right forearm tendinitis at the time.
19: Consecutive games that the Rays have allowed fewer than 10 hits. The streak stands as a team record.
121: Runs produced by the Rays this season. Only four teams in the American League have fewer: Texas, Los Angeles Angels, Seattle Mariners and Chicago White Sox.
"We just get back to work. Next guy comes in, he's got a job to fill. Pretty much how we've been all year. We have depth, so that's a good thing." -- Right-hander Nathan Karns to reporters, after he allowed two runs, four hits and struck out nine in seven innings in the Rays' 8-2 victory over the Rangers on Friday at Tropicana Field. He threw 117 pitches in the outing.
"I definitely calmed down. The first inning I was pretty pumped. I was kind of looking at the crowd. Then I kind of got into a zone." -- Reliever Andrew Bellatti to reporters, after he was awarded the victory following his one-hit, two-strikeout performance in 3 1/3 innings during the Rays' 7-2 victory over the Rangers on Saturday at Tropicana Field. He made his major-league debut that night.
"I was surprised to get that deep into the game." -- Right-hander Jake Odorizzi, after he allowed one run and seven hits in 6 2/3 innings during the Rays' 2-1 loss to the Rangers on Sunday at Tropicana Field. He returned after dealing with flu-like symptoms late last week.
May 15-17 -- Rays at Twins