Mandatory Credit: Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

Baseball-wise, nothing changed in four games between the Yankees and Rays at Yankee Stadium in a long weekend series. Both teams each won two games and the standings remain the same. The Yankees are astonishingly last in the AL East, eight games behind first-place Tampa Bay.

But unlike last weekend’s trip to Tropicana Field, there’s more hope this time. The Yankees were competitive in three of four games and almost mounted a comeback Sunday too. The Rays held serve, but now have to face cracks in their own foundation.

Some takeaways:

Court is back in session. The Yankees just have more confidence as a lineup when Aaron Judge is in it. This series was no exception, just look at the at-bats from Friday-Sunday. Remember, this is the same team that looked mostly lifeless headed into the Tropicana series without Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. This time, with Judge in the lineup, they nearly took three out of four.

Judge himself had a very modest series, batting just .187. However, his two home runs carried the day Saturday and he also had five RBI. The rest of the lineup is also finding a groove, and will soon have more help if Josh Donaldson starts his rehab assignment this week.

The Rays’ reality check. As has been mentioned, the Rays’ strong start this year is thanks to playing bad teams early. Tampa Bay is still a respectable 31-11 on the year, but 6-7 against 2022 playoff teams. Three of those losses, of course, are against the Yankees.

Unfortunately for the Rays, it’s about to be an uphill battle. Righty Drew Rasmussen, who pitched seven shutout innings against New York on Thursday, went down with a flexor strain the next day and won’t throw for weeks. Veteran Yandy Diaz is in the midst of a career season at age 31 and left Sunday’s game with a groin injury.

The schedule doesn’t get easier for the Rays either. Their next opponents are the streaky Mets, the first-place Brewers, the hard-hitting Blue Jays, and ever dangerous Dodgers. The season started with a walk and now, the Rays must run while shorthanded.

The Yankees’ pitching SOS. These four games were a textbook example of just how much help the Yankees’ pitching staff needs. The bullpen is already tired from having to carry Jhony Brito and Clarke Schmidt’s inconsistencies. It doesn’t help that Domingo German is streaky, nor that Gerrit Cole and Nestor Cortes have combined for a 6.09 ERA this month. Additionally, no Yankees starter completed six innings in these four games.

No further help is on the way either. The Yankees’ minor league pitching cupboard is bare.

The best anyone can hope for is Luis Severino finally returns in Cincinnati over the weekend and is in top form. Additionally, maybe Carlos Rodon can finally get going and debut this summer after a cortisone injection in his back. Don’t forget Frankie Montas not only still exists, but could start throwing soon.

New York might be the better overall team, but the Rays have always had competitive pitching. The Yankees have too under Matt Blake, but need to be that much better the next time these two teams face on July 31.

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Josh Benjamin has been a staff writer at ESNY since 2018. He has had opinions about everything, especially the Yankees and Knicks. He co-hosts the “Bleacher Creatures” podcast and is always looking for new pieces of sports history to uncover, usually with a Yankee Tavern chicken parm sub in hand.