RAYS (26-16) AT YANKEES (27-16)
1:05 p.m. ET; YES, FS-SUN, MLB.TV
Last Sunday, Blake Snell racked up the strikeouts for the Tampa Bay Rays and did not complete six innings, while Masahiro Tanaka displayed efficiency with his pitches as the New York Yankees won 7-1 in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Snell and Tanaka will match up again when the American League East foes play the middle game of a three-game series at Yankee Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The Yankees lead the season series 3-1 after scoring three times in the ninth inning off Tampa Bay closer Jose Alvarado to get a 4-3 win Friday. New York won its fourth straight and improved to 9-2 in its last 11 games when Gio Urshela hit a two-out, walk-off single.
Snell (3-4, 3.56 ERA) retired the first nine hitters Sunday against the Yankees, striking out seven of them. He finished with 12 strikeouts to tie the third-highest total of his career.
“Snell had it going,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “He had all his pitches and able to strike his breaking ball, the changeup was good, and he had the chase breaking ball. He was pitching like the Cy Young Award winner.”
The downside to piling up 12 strikeouts and getting 26 swings and misses was that he threw 96 pitches and lasted only 5 2/3 innings He wound up allowing three of his four hits with two outs in the fifth.
The hits he allowed in the fifth were a double to Austin Romine followed by an RBI double to Mike Tauchman and a run-scoring single to DJ LeMahieu.
“With me not being able to keep us in the game and let the fifth inning happen, I can’t allow that to happen,” Snell said. “It’s frustrating.”
In Snell’s career, he has yet to get past the sixth against the Yankees. He is 3-5 with a 4.25 ERA in 12 starts against them. Snell has allowed three runs or fewer in nine of those outings.
Snell is 1-4 with a 5.63 ERA in eight starts in New York. He won his last start in the Bronx on Aug. 16 when he pitched five scoreless innings and held the Yankees to two hits of a 3-1 win.
The reigning Cy Young Award winner will be making his fifth start since a brief stint on the injured list. He was tagged for 10 runs in 6 1/3 innings in the first two of those starts, but he has totaled 21 strikeouts and allowed two runs on five hits covering 11 2/3 innings in the last two outings.
Tanaka has struggled at times to find a consistent split-fingered fastball. He threw the pitch nine times with one swing and a miss May 7 against Seattle but on Sunday, he threw it 27 times.
“The splitter, I think it’s starting to come back,” Tanaka said through an interpreter after the start against the Rays. “I don’t think it was my best, but I think it was better.”
His win over the Rays ended a skid that saw him lose three of his previous four decisions, during which he produced a 5.33 ERA. Against the Rays, he allowed one run, five hits, struck out seven and threw 73 pitches to 26 hitters.
“That’s vintage Masa,” Romine said. “He tends to always step up for us in big games. He’s going against one of the best pitchers in the game, and today he went out and just kept putting up zeros.”
Tanaka is 9-4 with a 3.54 ERA in 15 career starts against Tampa Bay. He is 4-1 with a 2.98 ERA in seven career home starts against the Rays.
Saturday will be the fourth time Tanaka and Snell will oppose each other. Other matchups included Snell’s lone win in New York, and his major league debut on April 23, 2016, in a game the Yankees won on a ninth-inning homer by Brett Gardner.
–Field Level Media