The Yankees swept the Rays at home and fully exorcised any and all 2021 demons.
Unlike the series with the Cubs last weekend, this sweep was hard-fought. Every game was low-scoring and neither team was particularly dominant at the plate. The Yankees just got the timely hits when they needed them.
Pitching was on full display. Not even losing Luis Severino to a last minute sickness derailed the Yankees. This was an important series and the team played like it knew it would win it the whole time.
Pitching is power. Another series gone, another series where the Yankees still finish with the best pitching in the league. New York’s arms own a 2.81 ERA and shined bright this series, with Gerrit Cole and his six shutout innings on Tuesday leading the way.
Nestor Cortes also rebounded from his clunker in Minnesota and still owns a sub-2 ERA. Best of all, Clarke Schmidt pitched three scoreless frames in an emergency start and Ryan Weber added 3 2/3 scoreless innings out of the bullpen on Thursday. The Yankees’ pitching is otherworldly this year, and the Rays just learned this the hard way.
The Rays have no answers. To use a poker term, the Rays are fully on tilt. Gone is the focused, technically and tactically disciplined team that practically ran away with the division the last two years. Instead, Tampa Bay looks as though it’s trying to will itself into contention again.
The Rays made three errors in the series and are tied for being the fifth-worst-fielding team in baseball after being a top-10 team two of the last three years. They’re batting just .232 as a team and own the seventh-worst scoring offense in MLB. To add insult to injury, they now sit third in the AL East and 12 games behind the Yankees.
Toronto will be harder to beat. The Yankees were, hands down, the better team versus the Rays this week. Yet, next comes a key three-game series against the Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre. The Yankees have dominated Toronto all year, but only averaged four hits a game against the Rays.
That won’t be enough against a Jays team that ranks second in MLB in batting average and knows how to score runs in a hurry. New York’s strong pitching won’t be enough. The bats need be better about putting the ball in play and not letting Toronto run the table.