"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

The Devil Rays

Although it didn’t work out particularly well in Toronto, the Yankees have had some rather fortuitous timing since the All-Star break. First they faced a White Sox team that had a .648 winning percentage in the first half just as it hit its first serious skid of the year. The Yankees swept the Chisox at home to open the second half, and the Sox have since gone 2-7, pushing their skid to 3-12 dating back to their final series before the break.

Next the Yankees faced the Mariners at home without having to see Jamie Moyer or Felix Hernandez, taking two of three. They then traveled to Toronto on the even of the Shea Hillenbrand fiasco. The Jays took three of four that weekend, but have since lost three of four to put their post-Hillenbrand record at .500. Most recently, the Yankees stopped by Arlington, Texas to finish their season series with the Rangers with a three-game sweep. The last of those victories saw the Yankees score four runs in the eighth inning against Francisco Cordero, who just earlier today was sent to Milwaukee in the deal for Carlos Lee. Had that trade happened before the Yankees traveled to Texas, the sweep may not have.

Tonight the Yankees come back home to host a three-game weekend series against the Devil Rays. Good timing? Well, Scott Kazmir was supposed to start tomorrow, but has been skipped due to shoulder soreness. Alex’s boy, Yankee-killer Jonny Gomes, has a shoulder injury of his own that will require surgery this offseason. Though he’s tried to play through it, it isn’t working. Gomes is hitting just .121/.181/.258 in July and has been dropped to the bottom third of the order. Finally, Aubrey Huff, the other Devil Ray who always seemed to hurt the Yankees (in part because, like Gomes, he’s simply a good hitter), was dealt to Houston for a pair of minor leaguers two weeks ago.

Yeah, that’s good timing. Not that the Devil Rays have been a big threat to the Yankees thus far this season (the Yanks lead the season series 6-2), but every little bit helps.

The only roster change the Devil Rays have made since the Yankees last saw them just before the break has been replacing Huff on the 25-man by activating lefty Ruddy Lugo from the DL. Of course, the Huff trade and Gomes’s struggles have forced them to shuffle their line-up a bit. Here’s what we’re likely to see tonight against Chien-Ming Wang:

R – Julio Lugo (SS)
L – Carl Crawford (LF)
R – Rocco Baldelli (CF)
R – Ty Wigginton (3B)
R – Jorge Cantu (2B)
L – Travis Lee (1B)
R – Jonny Gomes (DH)
L – Russell Branyan (RF)
S – Dioner Navarro (C)

Incidentally, the 22-year-old Navarro has gone .283/.345/.358 since coming to the Rays, moving his major league career line to .280/.358/.376. Remind you of any 21-year-old left fielders you’ve seen around?

Oh, and I am in no way related to 28-year-old Baton Rougue native Tim Corcoran, who will be taking the hill for the D-Rays tonight. Though I think we’ve covered that during his previous relief appearances against the Yankees.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver