At the end of Sunday’s play, the New York Yankees have a 2.5 game lead over the Tampa Bay Rays. The Yanks and the Rays are most definitely going to the playoffs; the only question is which team wins the American League East. The two teams play each other for seven epic games in the next two weeks. However, the Yankees have a chance to pad their lead before they arrive in St. Petersburg for three games.
This week, the Yankees wrap up their ten-game home stand in which they are already 6-1 against the last place Baltimore Orioles. The O’s are 2-10 against the Yanks and have not won a game in the Bronx all season.
However, these are different O’s. Led by new manager Buck Showalter, Baltimore Orioles have gone 19-13. Here are the pitching matchups for this week’s series:
Game 1: Brian Matusz (BAL, 7-12, 4.72 ERA) vs. AJ Burnett (NYY, 10-12, 5.15 ERA)
Game 2: Jake Arrieta (BAL, 4-6, 5.11 ERA) vs. CC Sabathia (NYY, 19-5, 3.02 ERA)
Game 3: Brad Bergesen (BAL, 6-10, 5.47 ERA) vs. Ivan Nova (NYY, 1-0, 2.89 ERA)
Matusz has been excellent since Showalter took over, going 4-1 with a 2.43 ERA in six starts in August. Meanwhile, Burnett is coming off his first win since July 28, going six innings, allowing six hits, three runs, walking two and striking out eight.
Arrieta faced the Yankees in his big league debut in June, getting the win, but has struggled since. Sabathia is continuing his Cy Young campaign and going for his 20th win of the season, something that he has never done before. Bergesen and Nova have both struggled in their last starts and didn’t go deep in the games.
Meanwhile, the Rays play the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park for three and jump across the border to play Blue Jays. Here are the matchups for the Rays-Sox series:
Game 1: Jeff Niemann (TB, 10-5, 3.97 ERA) vs. Jon Lester (BOS, 15-8, 3.27 ERA)
Game 2: David Price (TB, 16-6, 2.92 ERA) vs. Daisuke Matsuzaka (BOS, 9-4, 4.29 ERA)
Game 3: Matt Garza (TB, 14-7, 3.46 ERA) vs. Clay Buchholz (BOS, 15-6, 2.25 ERA)
Niemann has struggled in his two starts since coming off the DL and Lester was lit up last time against the Orioles. Price had a 4.38 ERA after the All-Star Break before tossing a gem against the Blue Jays last Wednesday while Dice-K has given up four runs in each of his past four starts, posting a 5.54 ERA in that span.
Garza has been the Rays' most valuable starter lately posting a 2.42 ERA since the All-Star Break, while Buchholz has continued his CY Young campaign but struggled in his last start against the White Sox.
After their series versus the Red Sox, the Rays will head up to Toronto to play the Blue Jays. James Shields and Wade Davis, their two worst starters, will face a tough Blue Jays lineup that hit six home runs off of Shields last month. The Red Sox and Blue Jays can help the Yankees pad their lead in the AL East before the big three game series at Tropicana Field.
The Yankees' soft schedule can also help. The Rays are a team that plays the Yankees well, so the Yanks will definitely love to have these extra games. If the Yankees can enter the series ahead of the Rays they could easily end the race with a series victory.