Tampa Bay Rays at New York Yankees series primer

BY foxsports • April 27, 2015

Introducing the Tampa Bay Rays ... first place in the American League East.

Believe it. Is this what you expected this early after all the health injuries to start? Forgive most reasonable minds if April sights were set lower for this group. Still, the Rays have blown those predictions out of the water with their 11-8 record, good for a tie for first place in the division with the New York Yankees before a three-game series between the teams begins Monday at Yankee Stadium.

Make that five consecutive victories for Tampa Bay after a three-game sweep of the Toronto Blue Jays over the weekend at Tropicana Field. The Rays broke out for 21 runs. They also received strong pitching from right-hander Chris Archer and left-hander Drew Smyly in his return from tendinitis in this throwing shoulder.

Can more be done before the calendar flips to May?

Tampa Bay will attempt to return the favor against New York, which swept the Rays in three games from April 17-19 at Tropicana Field. Right-handers Nathan Karns and Jake Odorizzi will take the mound in the first two games. Then Smyly will close out the series for Tampa Bay as he continues to acclimate himself to a new season.

Here's a closer look at the Rays-Yankees series ...

SCHEDULE AND PROBABLE PITCHERS

WHO'S HOT

Evan Longoria (Rays): He hit .500 (11 for 22) with two RBI in six games from April 21-26. He had three multi-hit contests in the span, including a 4-for-4 day in a victory over the Blue Jays on April 25 at Tropicana Field. He has hit .306 with one home run and four RBI this season.

Mark Teixeira (Yankees): He hit .333 (8 for 24) with five home runs and 10 RBI in seven games from April 20-26. He had two multi-hit contests in the span, including a 3-for-4 day with one home run and one RBI in a loss to the New York Mets on April 25. He has hit .242 with eight home runs and 18 RBI this season.

WHO'S NOT

Steven Souza Jr. (Rays): He hit .167 (3 for 18) with six strikeouts in five games from April 21-26. He went hitless in three contests in the span. He has hit .254 with four home runs and 11 RBI this season.

Carlos Beltran (Yankees): He hit .111 (2 for 18) with nine strikeouts in five games from April 20-26. His lone hits in the span came on a 2-for-5 day in a victory over the Detroit Tigers on April 22. He has hit .161 with seven RBI this season.

STORYLINES

2: Additional victories for the Rays through 19 games this season compared to the same point last year. Their current five-game winning streak is their longest of the season.

4 2/3: Innings pitched by Smyly in his season debut against the Blue Jays on Friday at Tropicana Field. He allowed two runs, four hits and struck out five.

May 7: Date of the Rays' next home game. The coming nine-game road trip will include stops in Baltimore and Boston beyond the New York stay.

QUOTE BOARD

"Extremely unfortunate that his pitch count kind of got to the difficult decision-making zone, and that's on me that we had to prioritize his health over his record at this point. I apologize to him, but that's the plan we had in place and we wanted to stick to it." -- Manager Kevin Cash to reporters, after Smyly's debut in the Rays' 12-3 victory Friday. Smyly had a pitch count of 75. He threw 79.

"I struck out twice tonight looking. I wasn't too happy about that. I just wanted to get another AB and another opportunity to hit the ball hard." -- Infielder Tim Beckham to reporters, after his go-ahead double in the bottom of the eighth inning helped the Rays beat the Blue Jays 4-2 on Saturday. He has hit .302 with three home runs and 10 RBI this season.

"I was honestly thinking if I could get through five (innings), that was going to preserve our bullpen a little bit. But my pitch count was in a good place and I still felt like I had a little bit left in me so they let me go." -- Right-hander Chris Archer to reporters, after he allowed two hits and struck out seven in the Rays' 5-1 victory over the Blue Jays on Sunday. He became the first AL pitcher to go four consecutive starts within one season without allowing an earned run since Zach Greinke did so for the Kansas City Royals in 2009.Archer is 3-2 with a 0.84 ERA and 37 strikeouts in five appearances this season.

LOOKING AHEAD

May 1-3 -- Rays at Orioles

You can follow Andrew Astleford on Twitter @aastleford or email him at aastleford@gmail.com.

 


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