The rival Yankees and Rays entered the season as the two favorites in the AL East, and they did indeed finish atop the division. The Rays handily outdid the Yankees, though, finishing with a 40-20 record to New York’s 33-27 mark. The Rays got there in part because they dominated the Yankees in the regular season with eight victories in the teams’ 10 contests. However, the clubs have been much more evenly matched in their ALDS showdown. At 2-2, they’ll meet for the decisive Game 5 of the series on Friday.
To this point, the offensive excellence of designated hitter Giancarlo Stanton – who already has four home runs in the series – has led the Yankees. In all likelihood, though, New York will need a sterling performance from ace Gerrit Cole, a 30-year-old who’s starting on short rest for the first time in his career, in order to advance. The club signed Cole for this type of game when it landed the ex-Pirate and Astro on a record contract worth $324MM over nine years last offseason. Cole has since gone 2-0 in the playoffs, including a Game 1 victory against the Rays, and allowed five earned runs on 12 hits with a 21:2 K:BB ratio over 13 innings.
With a payroll that falls well short of the Yankees’, the Rays have used a mix of creativity and shrewdly acquired talent to earn a place among the game’s elite teams. They revolutionized the opener strategy a couple years ago, and they won’t be afraid to turn to it yet again Friday. Righty Tyler Glasnow, Cole’s former Pirates teammate, will take the ball in Game 5 at the start; however, Glasnow’s only on two days’ rest, and manager Kevin Cash said on Friday that the Rays will utilize 2018 AL Cy Young winner Blake Snell early if there’s a need for it, per Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Snell could further strengthen a bullpen that was one of the majors’ best during the regular season.
So far in the series, the Yankees have outscored Glasnow, Snell & Co. by a 23-19 count. But none of that matters heading into a do-or-die Game 5. Which team do you expect to finish with more runs Friday and advance to face the Astros in the ALCS?
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