Season Series: Rays won 8-2.
NEW YORK YANKEES
Playoff Entry: second place, AL East.
Playoff Seed: No. 5.
Manager: Aaron Boone (third season).
Top Relievers: LHP Aroldis Chapman (1-1, 3.09 ERA, 3 saves), LHP Zack Britton (1-2, 1.89, 8 saves). RHP Chad Green (3-3, 3.51, 1 save, 32 K in 25 2/3 IP).
Series Summary: The Yankees are in the playoffs for the fourth straight year but still looking for their first pennant since winning the 2009 World Series. … Favored to win the AL East, the Yankees alternated hot and cold spurts: a 16-6 start following by a 5-15 slide, a 10-game winning streak and six losses in their last eight games. … Played much better in the Bronx, going 22-9 at home and 11-18 on the road. … Offense was reliant on home runs, with 156 of 315 runs scoring on long balls during the regular season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, then 13 of 22 runs scoring on seven homers in the two-game sweep at Cleveland during first round of playoffs. The wild 10-9 win in Game 2 was the longest nine-inning game in major league history at 4 hours, 50 minutes. … Giancarlo Stanton hit .200 with one homer, four RBIs and 16 strikeouts in 35 at-bats after returning Sept. 15 from more than a month on the injured list with a strained left hamstring, then homered in each game vs. the Indians. … Aaron Judge also slumped after returning Sept. 16 from a strained right calf, with no homers and two RBIs, then was 1 for 9 with an early home run against Cleveland. … New York’s fielding percentage was its worst since 1973. … Backup catcher Kyle Higashioka will start behind the plate in the series opener again as Gary Sanchez sits. Cole had a 1.00 ERA while pitching to Higashioka (three earned runs in 27 innings) and a 3.91 ERA while pitching to Sanchez (20 earned runs in 46 innings) during the regular season, then allowed two runs over seven innings with 13 Ks and no walks while pitching to Higashioka in Game 1 against Cleveland. Cole and Higashioka have known each other since playing on a scout team together as teenagers in Southern California. … The big-budget Yankees lost the season series to the thrifty Rays for the first time since 2014. New York hit .218 with 13 homers against Tampa Bay, averaging 3.4 runs per game. Yankees pitchers had a 4.84 ERA vs. the Rays, allowing 47 runs and 16 homers. … Tampa Bay is 56-41 at home against the Yankees since 2010, winning its home season series nine times with one split.
TAMPA BAY RAYS
Playoff Entry: AL East champions.
Playoff Seed: No. 1.
Manager: Kevin Cash (sixth season).
Top Hitters: 2B Brandon Lowe (.269, 14 HRs, 37 RBIs, 36 runs, .916 OPS), SS Willy Adames (.259, 8, 23, .813 OPS).
Top Relievers: RHP Nick Anderson (2-1, 0.55 ERA, 6 saves), RHP Pete Fairbanks (6-3, 2.70), RHP Diego Castillo (3-0, 1.66, 4 saves).
Series Summary: The Rays are AL East champions for first time since 2010, third time overall. They won nine of their final 11 regular-season games, finishing 20 games over .500 and completing the best 60-game start to a season in franchise history. It also matched the best 60-game stretch the club has had at any point in a season. … Counting their two-game sweep of the wild-card Blue Jays in the first round of the playoffs, the Rays enter the ALDS on an eight-game winning streak. … It is Tampa Bay’s sixth trip to the ALDS since 2008. Only the Dodgers (10), Yankees (8), Red Sox (8) and Cardinals (7) have made more Division Series appearances during that span. … The win over Toronto ended a streak of five consecutive losses in multi-game postseason series dating to the 2008 World Series. … Injured OF Austin Meadows (left oblique strain), a first-time All-Star in 2019, missed the wild-card round but might be nearing a return. … Hard feelings between the Yankees and Rays date to at least March 2008, when they clashed in spring training, and tempers have flared repeatedly over the past few years following inside pitches. Tampa Bay players wear T-shirts with four horses lined up behind a fence, a reference to Cash declaring ”I’ve got a whole damn stable full of guys that throw 98 miles an hour” in response to Chapman throwing a 101 mph pitch near Mike Brosseau’s head on Sept. 1. That earned the closer a three-game suspension that remains under appeal. Both managers were suspended for one game apiece. … The Rays thrived this season despite injuries that forced Cash to juggle his rotation and tinker with bullpen roles. The team had 12 pitchers earn at least one save, matching the major league record set by the 1973 Rangers. Fairbanks became the 13th in the playoffs, picking up a save in Game 1 against the Blue Jays. … A resilient team, the Rays led the AL with 20 comeback wins. … Tampa Bay is in the postseason in consecutive years for the second time. The Rays beat Oakland in the 2019 AL wild-card game before losing to Houston in the Division Series.
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