Friday night, the New York Yankees are at Tropicana Field to face the Tampa Bay Rays, and it will be a true battle of the young guns on the mound.
Since pitching and defense will dictate the outcomes of all three games, the match-ups on the mound will set the tone. Let's look at the Friday night's pitchers.
Ironically, both the Rays and the Yankees have their "young guns" squaring off. Both players are 24 years old, both stand at 6'5 feet, and both are right-handed pitchers.
Tampa Bay Rays: Wade Davis (8-9)
Davis didn't look very good this season, after losing all five of his starts in the month of June. Davis' June numbers included an ERA of 6.0, and batters were hitting just shy of .270 against him.
Since the start of July, Davis has looked like a different pitcher. He has gone unbeaten. Over his last three starts, he has posted an ERA of 2.11. For the month of July, Davis has pitched 25 innings, faced 110 batters and allowed nine earned runs, six walks and 12 strikeouts. Eleven of those 12 strikeouts were in his last three starts and a monthly ERA of 3.12. That is pretty impressive stuff.
Davis is suddenly throwing with a lot more confidence. Davis is not afraid to throw hard because he is locating the ball much better.
Davis faces a potent Yankees lineup who have seen him before. This works in the Yankees favor because Davis is not new, and they have hit him successfully.
Davis needs to be careful with Cano, Gardner, Granderson, Thames, A-Rod, and Jeter because all have multiple hits in the few at-bats they have had against him.
New York Yankees: Phil Hughes (12-3)
Unlike Davis, Phil Hughes started out the season on fire. Hughes was an 2010 All-Star and his name was frequent in Cy Young discussions.
He was the Yankees most reliable pitcher through the month of May. As they say, all good things must come to an end, or in Hughes' case, back down to baseball-reality.
Hughes got a lot of help via the Yankees hitters, who seemed to always score a lot of runs when he is on the mound. This masked a few mediocre starts and redefined them as great. It was not that Hughes didn't look solid, he completely did, but his struggles started earlier than the numbers or newspaper headlines might read.
Hughes has been slowly declining, as his ERA is rising.
His OBA has consistently dropped in each start since the end of May. July has been ugly for the youngster. In 23 innings, Hughes has faced 90 batters, and allowed 15 earned runs, issued five walks, all with an ERA of 5.79. He has struck out 15, but in his last two starts, he only has five in total.
Hughes cannot seem to locate his fastball, and his curveball has turned flat. There has been no marked improvement, but he wins games because luckily, the team scores runs.
Hughes does have the advantage of not having to face the Rays' BJ Upton who crushes his pitches, as Upton is on the DL. Look for Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena to stir up some hits as they have has success against Hughes whether he is hot or not.
Davis has found what Hughes has lost, so I expect both teams bats to dictate in this matchup. Looking ahead, Hughes has the brighter future. But, for this game, I have to go with the Rays.
Score: Rays beat the Yankees 9-5.
Hughes and Davis: No decision.
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