NEW YORK YANKEES (10-6)
at TAMPA BAY RAYS (7-9)
First pitch: Friday, 7:10 p.m. ET
Line: Tampa Bay -110, New York +100, Total: 7.5
The Yankees look to rattle off their sixth straight win as they take on the Rays in the second game of their four-game series on Friday night.
New York has done well in the early going of the 2014 season to take the AL East lead, including a 4-1 record against the Red Sox and Rays thus far. Over their current five-game winning streak, the Yanks have outscored their opponents 25-8, including two shutouts. Their bats were loud in the first game of this series, lighting up Tampa Bay's top pitcher David Price for 10 hits and six runs (2 HR) during a 10-2 rout. In the contest, 3B Yangervis Solarte hit his first career home run while going 3-for-5 from the plate. He is leading the club with a .373 batting average and seven doubles this year. The Rays, who have been decimated by injuries to their pitching staff, have now lost four straight games and sit near the bottom of the division. Pitching is not their sole problem though, as they have scored just seven runs over their losing streak while hitting a combined 26-for-127 (.205 BA). The only two players on the team that are hitting better than .270 thus far are 3B Evan Longoria (.300) and OF Matt Joyce (.324). The pitching matchup will be between two pitchers whose combined age is 74, as 39-year old RHP Hiroki Kuroda (2-1, 3.86 ERA) goes up against 35-year old LHP Erik Bedard (0-0, 0.00 ERA). Tampa Bay has been a pain for the Yankees since the beginning of 2012, going 22-16 against them overall and 12-7 when playing at home. Prior to Thursday night’s loss, the Rays had won eight of the previous 10 games between these two clubs. The Yankees are 62-33 (.653) as a favorite of -110 or higher since the beginning of last year, while going a horrendous 1-11 as a team in nighttime road games when Kuroda is pitching over the same period.
Hiroki Kuroda has been one of the most consistent starters in the league for the past six seasons and has started out the 2014 campaign solid once again. Over his first three starts, Kuroda has averaged just over six innings per outing with his last start being his worst to date. He did earn the win against Boston as his offense backed him with seven runs, but he allowed six hits and four runs while giving up his second homer of the season. Kuroda has been absolutely horrible against the Rays in his career, throwing against them five times while compiling a 2-3 record, 7.36 ERA, 1.53 WHIP and allowing eight home runs. Most of his poor stats came over the past two games, as he gave up 14 hits (5 HR) and 12 runs in 11.2 frames, while coming away with a loss each time. OF Matt Joyce will certainly be in the lineup on Friday, as three of his five hits against Kuroda have left the ballpark and he is hitting .357 overall against him. Also giving the right-hander a lot of trouble has been 2B Ben Zobrist (5-for-12, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 2 doubles, 1 triple) and 3B Evan Longoria (4-for-14, 1 HR, 5 RBI). On the other hand, 1B James Loney has gone only 1-for-12 (.083) against the veteran. The New York bullpen has not seemed too phased by losing Mariano Rivera to retirement and closer David Robertson for a bit with a groin injury as the relievers have combined to go 0-1 with a 2.95 ERA while going a perfect 8-for-8 in save opportunities. With Robertson going down, Shawn Kelley (2.45 ERA, 4 saves) has done a great job filling in as the closer while having six strikeouts and not walking a batter yet in his 7.1 innings.
Erik Bedard looked like he had top-of-the-rotation abilities when he entered the big leagues, but injuries quickly got the best of him and he has gone a combined 11-26 with a 4.50+ ERA in each of the past two seasons. He’s getting a start for the Rays as they have three of their starting pitchers on the disabled list (Matt Moore, Alex Cobb and Jeremy Hellickson). Bedard pitched two innings in relief for Tampa Bay already this year, allowing two hits and an unearned run. When facing the Yankees in his career, Bedard has put together a record of 4-5 (5-9 team record) with a 4.09 ERA and 1.31 WHIP. He did have a great start late last season on Sept. 29 against them though, throwing seven scoreless innings while allowing only three hits and zero walks while striking out nine. OF Alfonso Soriano has four home runs in his past nine games and is 7-for-14 with a homer and three doubles against Bedard in his career. On the other hand, the Yankees SS Derek Jeter is just 6-for-32 (.188 BA) with 10 K’s in the matchup against the lefty. While the Rays starters have been unable to get it done this year, their bullpen has pitched to a 2-1 record with a 3.23 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and 4-for-4 in save chances. These numbers have been even better at home (2.62 ERA, 1.00 WHIP). Closer Grant Balfour (3.18 ERA, 4 saves) has been perfect at closing out games so far, and had not given up a run until Yangervis Solarte took him deep on Thursday night.