"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Tampa Bay Devil Rays

The Boston Red Sox are the best team in baseball, and the Yankees just swept them in a series in which the Sox threw their three best starting pitchers. The Tampa Bay Devil Rays are the worst team in baseball and the Yankees took six of eight from them after the All-Star break. This weekend the Yankees will once again miss not only Scott Kazmir, but James Shields as as well. Can you say extended winning streak?

The catch, of course, is that the Yankees will have Ian Kennedy making his major league debut on Saturday. Kennedy’s tremendously talented, but so is Phil Hughes, and he’s been experiencing some growing pains thus far this season despite the fact that, as a man in his third full professional season and with seven major league starts under his belt, he’s a veteran compared to first-year pro Kennedy. Hughes, who starts tonight, has just two quality starts in those seven major league outings and is coming off a pair of similarly frustrating outings in which he allowed just eight hits in 12 1/3 innings and struck out ten, but also allowed ten runs due to five walks in the first game and three homers in the latter.

Opposing Hughes will be Andrew Sonnanstine, who, as a fourth-year pro with 16 major league starts under his belt, is of similar vintage to Hughes (though, as a Kent State product, he’s three years older). Sonnanstine’s only career start against the Yankees was his first following the All-Star break. He allowed five runs on a walk and nine hits, including homers by Jorge Posada and Hideki Matsui, in 6 1/3 innings in that game and hasn’t been much better since, posting a 7.28 second-half ERA despite allowing just three more homers in his last eight starts and posting a solid 2.49 BB/9. The Yankees swept the Red Sox on the strength of their pitching. There’s no reason they can’t sweep the Devil Rays by preying on their pitching, just as they did the last time the Rays came to town and the Yankees scored 45 runs in the process of winning the final three games of that four-game set (the loser in game one, incidentally, was Mike Mussina).

Before I get to the D-Rays roster, here’s a quick progress report on the Yankees as they exit the rough part of their schedule. Two weeks ago I said the Yankees had to “at the very least split” their fourteen straight games against the Tigers, Angels, Tigers, and Red Sox. They went 8-6. After the All-Star break, I sketched out a plan for the Yankees’ season in which they would have to do no worse than 12-11 against the remaining contenders on their schedule. With just six of those 23 games left (Seattle at home starting Monday and the Red Sox in Boston in two weeks), the Yankees are 11-6. If, over the final 28 games of the season, the Yankees can have the same rate of success they’ve had against contenders thus far in the second half (.647, which means taking four of six from Seattle and Boston), and the same rate of success they’ve had against the pretenders thus far in the second half (.677), they’ll finish the season with 94 wins. Based on current winning percentages, that would give them the third best record in the AL and the Wild Card by some four games over the Mariners. That’s good news, though it’s important to note that it requires the team to continue to win at least two of every three games it plays. It’s also worth noting that the Wild Card all but guarantees the Yankees a first-round matchup with the Angels.

Tampa Bay Devil Rays

2007 Record: 54-80 (.403)
2007 Pythagorean Record: 52-82 (.387)

Manager: Joe Maddon
General Manager: Andrew Friedman

Home Ballpark (2007 Park Factors): Tropicana Field (102/102)

Who’s Replacing Whom?

Ben Zobrist (minors) replaces Ty Wigginton
Josh Paul (DL) replaces Raul Casanova (minors)
Dan Wheeler replaces Shawn Camp (minors)
Juan Salas (drug suspension) replaces Jay Witasick (DL)
Jon Switzer (minors) replaces Casey Fossum
Joel Guzman (minors) replaces Jae Kuk Ryu (minors)

Current Roster:

1B – Carlos Peña (L)
2B – Brendan Harris (R)
SS – Josh Wilson (R)
3B – Akinori Iwamura (L)
C – Dioner Navarro(S)
RF – B.J. Upton (R)
CF – Delmon Young (R)
LF – Carl Crawford (L)
DH – Jonny Gomes (R)


R – Josh Paul (C)
S – Greg Norton (UT)
S – Ben Zobrist (IF)
R – Joel Guzman (IF)


R – James Shields
L – Scott Kazmir
R – Andy Sonnanstine
R – Edwin Jackson
R – Jason Hammel


R – Al Reyes
R – Dan Wheeler
R – Brian Stokes
R – Gary Glover
L – Jon Switzer
R – Juan Salas
R – Scott Dohmann

Typical Lineup:

L – Akinori Iwamura (3B)
L – Carl Crawford (CF)
L – Carlos Peña (1B)
R – B.J. Upton (CF)
R – Delmon Young (CF)
R – Brendan Harris (2B)
R – Jonny Gomes (RF)
R – Josh Wilson (SS)
S – Dioner Navarro (C)

15-day DL: R – Jay Witasick
60-day DL: R – Rocco Baldelli (R), R – Shawn Riggans (C)

Inactive List: R – Elijah Dukes (OF)

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