The Tampa Bay Rays, who beat the Yankees eight out of 10 times during the 2020 regular season and did so with some tempers flaring throughout the final series, await Monday at the Petco Park bubble in San Diego.
Manager Aaron Boone was blunt about the Yankees' approach to a best-of-seven series against the Rays, who swept the Toronto Blue Jays in the AL Wild Card series with Wednesday's 8-2 win.
"Look, they've been the best team in our league all year," Boone said. "So we're excited to go play the best team and, hopefully, can have our way with them this time.
"We know they're going to be a challenge. We know they're going to be tough. We know they'll be ready for us. But we look forward to that challenge and, hopefully, we can turn the tables on 'em."
Aroldis Chapman was at the forefront of the Yankees-Rays dramatics Sept. 1, throwing a 101 mph fastball high and tight to Mark Brosseau and igniting fiery comments from Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash. The bad blood is there, but the Yankees are focused on one thing only.
"Well, you've got to understand -- we have a rivalry," Chapman said through an interpreter. "We play in the same division and we're trying to do the same thing -- just win. I've got to say that whatever happened happened. That's in the past. I've got to say that we've got to put that aside and focus on this series ahead, especially Game 1. We want to go and get a win."
Gio Urshela's thoughts aligned with Chapman. Urshela, who went 2-for-5 with a grand slam and a potential game-saving double play in the ninth inning, voiced the Yankees' mentality.
"It's the postseason," Urshela said. "Whatever happened in the season is happened. We've got new games. Postseason is entirely different. We're always going to keep that same mentality to win the game."