Tampa Bay ace Shane McClanahan will look to help the Rays split their four-game series against the New York Yankees Sunday afternoon in St. Petersburg, Fla., but red-hot Manuel Margot may play an even bigger role.
Through three games in the matchup between the top two teams in the American LeagueEast, manager Aaron Boone's Yankees have gotten the better of the Rays, winning twice and getting three outstanding starts from Nestor Cortes, Jameson Taillon and Gerrit Cole.
So far, the series has all been about pitching by the pinstriped visitors, and it appeared to be more of the same with Cole opening with 4 2/3 no-hit innings Saturday.
But after the Rays tied it against him, Yandy Diaz drove in the game-winning run, and Margot stretched his hitting streak to 15 games with an RBI single after Wander Franco tripled. Tampa Bay won 3-1.
On a club that has been caught in an occasional offensive rut in 2022, Margot may be one of the most crucial bats in the lineup.
In an up and down May, Margot has hit .451 with eight extra-base hits and 16 RBIs, a chunky portion of his team-leading 23.
However, the "down" part is that he has only played in 15 games -- hitting in all of them -- because his hitting streak has been sandwiched around a 15-day injured list stint.
"The work and preparation are what have helped me," Margot said. "We've just got to come in with an attitude. (Luis) Severino is pitching tomorrow. He's a very good pitcher."
The right-handed Severino (3-0, 3.02 ERA) is coming off his best start of 2022, in the second game of a home doubleheader last Sunday.
He posted seven scoreless innings against the Chicago White Sox, but the Yankees dropped the game 5-0. Severino earned no decision, but he scattered eight hits, struck out five and walked no one.
In 14 career appearances (10 starts) against Tampa Bay, the seven-year veteran has posted strong numbers -- an 8-2 mark with a 3.11 ERA. Rays batters have hit at a .241 clip with seven homers in the 14 appearances.
The Yankees managed only four hits Saturday, but they received an outing of three runs or fewer from their starter for the 44th time in 47 games, which leads the majors.
On the injury front, third baseman Josh Donaldson (right shoulder inflammation) was transferred to the 10-day IL, retroactive to May 24, after originally begin placed on the COVID IL.
Outfielder Aaron Hicks (right hamstring tightness) was scratched in the series opener, but he pinch-hit and struck out in the eighth in Saturday's loss.
"We liked the matchup for Hicksie," Boone said. "It was the best we got all day. We know the fans don't like to hear about underlying numbers, but there are a lot of great things you can't see that exist. That AB was one."
The Rays' McClanahan (4-2, 2.06) was sharp in a 4-0 win Tuesday against the visiting Miami Marlins, crafting six scoreless innings with nine whiffs.
However, in three career starts against the Yankees, McClahanan is 0-2 with a 5.84 ERA and a .327 batting average against.
A victory Sunday behind the left-hander, who is tied for the major league lead with 74 strikeouts, would leave the club with a 4-2 slate to finish its homestand.
--Field Level Media