Runs at premium in Tampa Bay

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No one has had to deal with more injuries thus far than the New York Yankees. Yet the Bronx Bombers find themselves in a favorable position, holding down a Wild Card spot while being just two games out of first-place.

The Yanks will have an opportunity to move to the top of the American League East this weekend when they travel to Tropicana Field and meet the rival Tampa Bay Rays — the feel-good story on the young season — for the first time in 2019.

Tampa Bay has mostly been powered by excellent starting pitching, as the staff holds a remarkable 2.44 ERA entering Tuesday’s action. That mark is nearly a full run better than the team sitting right under them (Cincinnati Reds, 3.36 ERA), and in turn, the Rays have seen the under go 19-14 in their first 33 games.

While the Rays have been able to regularly lean on their dynamite 1-2 punch of Blake Snell and Tyler Glasnow, the Yankees can’t go to either such option on their staff at the moment. Luis Severino (shoulder) and James Paxton (knee) currently reside on the sidelines. But despite this, the 3.58 ERA posted by New York starters ranks them fifth.

This weekend’s critical three-game set from The Trop could reveal a lot of truths for both sides. Let’s break it down by the pitching matchups:

Domingo German vs. Tyler Glasnow (Friday): You couldn’t mash up a matchup between two more surprising pitchers in the AL, with German and Glasnow set to meet in the series opener. The latter leads the majors with a fabulous 1.47 ERA, this after he was dealt midseason last year in an under-the-radar trade from the Pittsburgh Pirates — where he worked in the bullpen.

Not only has Glasnow been an early AL Cy Young candidate but the under has gone 6-1 in his starts.

German has arguably been the bigger surprise considering his troubling freshman campaign a year ago that saw him wind up 2-6 in 21 games (14 starts) with a 5.57 ERA. It’s easy to forget that now, as German’s ERA is currently more than three runs lower (2.35). In addition, opponents are hitting a measly .158 off the right-hander, lowest in the AL. UNDER

CC Sabathia vs. Blake Snell (Saturday): At least some people were expecting some sort of regression from Snell, the reigning AL Cy Young winner, but it just hasn’t happened. Despite a freak bathroom injury that briefly landed him on the injured list, Snell has still looked strong, striking out more batters this year (12.05 K-9) compared to last (11.01 K-9).

However, this could be a particularly tough matchup for the fourth-year southpaw. Even at his best last season, Snell was hit around a bit by the Yankees, who saddled the hurler with a 6.08 ERA and 1.43 WHIP in three meetings.

Sabathia had much better results against this foe in 2018, compiling a 2.00 ERA and 19-2 K-BB ratio in three dates with Tampa. He’s off to a decent start this season but with opponents making more contact than ever off Sabathia, not to mention an average velocity below 90 mph for the first time in his career, it’s only a matter of time that his effectiveness decreases. OVER

Masahiro Tanaka vs. Ryne Stanek (Sunday): The Rays’ famed bullpen game strategy will be on full display when Stanek toes the rubber in the series finale. In his four “starts” opposite the Yankees last year, the under went 3-1. Tampa Bay’s relievers have collectively crafted a 3.40 ERA up to this point, placing them fifth in MLB.

Meanwhile, Tanaka will try to keep up his solid work and has a favorable matchup that can help his cause. The Japanese import was excellent against the Rays last year in notching a 2.37 ERA and 1.05 WHIP in three assignments. He’s helped produce a 4-2-1 record for unders thus far. UNDER

Last Week: 3-0

Season: 10-7

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