Yankees going into Rays series with an 'edge' after sweep of A's
Considering it was the A’s, the worst team in the major leagues, it’s hard to overreact to the Yankees clobbering them again Wednesday, this time 11-3, to complete a three-game sweep. Was a great series against a hapless team really some kind of revealing state-of-the-Yankees barometer entering a four-game showdown with the mighty Rays?
Who knows, but we’ll begin finding out for sure when Tampa Bay arrives Thursday night at Yankee Stadium. Still, the Yanks looked upbeat and powerful on a sparkling afternoon in the Bronx and they seem to be trying to use the sweep as a springboard of sorts against the Rays. Probably a good strategy for a club that’s been slapped by injury and started the day in last place in the American League East, even with a winning record.
“I like where we’re at, like we’re coming in with an edge,” said Yankees manager Aaron Boone. “I felt that this morning, like there was an energy, a quick turnaround game [from a Tuesday night game] and it’s like, ‘We gotta go. We gotta keep going.’
“And I feel like we’ve done a good job of that over the last 10 days, really.”
In case you don’t remember, the Yanks lost two-of-three to the Rays in St. Petersburg last weekend in their first series of the season. But the series was so close that the run differential winner for the three games was Tampa Bay at plus-1. Over the three games, the Rays scored 15 runs and the Yanks 14. Every game was decided by a single run.
That, plus the Rays' record – at 29-8 at start of play Wednesday, the best in baseball – and the regular fire that is always a part of this rivalry, should make for must-see baseball. During the last series, Rays star Randy Arozarena was hit by pitches twice in the opener, angering Tampa manager Kevin Cash, who was ejected by umpires. Not the first time that hit-by-pitches have jolted tempers between the two teams, though there wasn’t any on-field trouble last week.
Asked to describe the rivalry, Aaron Judge said: “They got a good ballclub, you know? Those competitive juices really get going when you’re playing another good team. They’ve got great pitchers. They got a great lineup, not only putting the ball in play but doing some damage and hitting a lot of home runs. So, over the years, it’s been fun going toe-to-toe with those guys. We’ve even seen them in the postseason. Battles here at home, battles at the Trop, so we’re looking forward to another great series.”
On Wednesday, Harrison Bader, DJ LeMahieu and Anthony Volpe launched home runs against Oakland. The Yankee offense is cooking, having scored at least seven runs in each of the last four games, and everyone was in a good mood as they prepared to leave the stadium to go to the team’s annual Welcome Home Dinner.
Volpe amazed teammates with his first career grand slam, a deep shot to dead-center that traveled 419 feet and left his bat at 107.4 miles per hour. He’s the fifth-youngest Yankee (22 years, 12 days old) ever to hit a grand slam.
“The kid’s got juice, there’s no doubt about it,” Bader said of Volpe. “He’s got a short, quick, intentional swing.”
“Very few people can take it out to dead center like that and he kind of knew it off the bat,” added Judge, who was 3-for-4 and reached base four times in his second game back from the Injured List. “So it was impressive, man. He’s been hitting the ball hard all season. I think the average (Volpe is batting .205) you see up there isn’t right. He’s swinging the bat well. He has a great approach.”
Bader remained on a tear – he’s batting .429 since he returned and has eight homers in his last 17 games, if you include his binge during last year’s playoffs.
“He brings that energy, man, and you need that over 162,” Judge said of the center fielder. “A guy like that in the lineup, they can ignite it with a big three-run homer. It’s special.”
Now let’s see if the Yankees can put forth a special effort against what might be a special club. The Rays do so many things very well – they entered Wednesday tops in the majors in OPS (.864), homers (75) and ERA (2.97). They are averaging 6.22 runs per game (second to Texas).
“They’ve got a really, really talented team over there on all sides of it,” Bader said. “It’s fun and I think we’re just really excited for the level of competition, which allows us to play looser and more confidently.”
“I like where our mind is,” Boone added. “I like where our room is, like how we’re preparing. And that’s the thing we can control right now. And, obviously, getting a couple guys back has been big for us in our lineup.
“It’s just nose down. We’ve got, obviously, a very difficult opponent coming in as part of this homestand next and we just gotta keep on moving forward. Keep on moving.”