The next chapter between "the stable" and "the savages" will take place in the postseason. The Rays and the Yankees are set to renew their rivalry on Monday in Game 1 of the American League Division Series in San Diego.
Tempers flared earlier this season after Aroldis Chapman threw a 101 mph fastball over the head of Mike Brosseau. That was a new tipping point in a rivalry that has featured years of constant chatter and displeasure between the dugouts. These teams freely admit that they don't like each other, and now they'll be facing off with a chance to advance to the AL Championship Series.
The Rays, who won eight of the 10 regular-season meetings en route to an AL East title, will rely on a pitching staff that is led by Blake Snell, Tyler Glasnow and Charlie Morton. New York will lean upon a fearsome lineup that features the Majors' leading hitter in DJ LeMahieu and home run king Luke Voit, plus Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. Now that the matchup is set, let's take a look at some key questions heading into the series opener.
Who will be the "home" team?
By virtue of having higher playoff seeding, the Rays will bat last in Games 1 and 2. The Yankees will do so in Game 3 and, if necessary, a potential Game 4. Should the series advance to Game 5, Tampa Bay would be considered the home team.
Yankees: Manager Aaron Boone kept the battery of Gerrit Cole and Kyle Higashioka together for a sixth consecutive start and went with right-handed hitter Clint Frazier instead of lefty Brett Gardner in left field opposite southpaw Snell.
- DJ LeMahieu, 2B
- Aaron Judge, RF
- Aaron Hicks, CF
- Luke Voit, 1B
- Giancarlo Stanton, DH
- Gio Urshela, 3B
- Gleyber Torres, SS
- Clint Frazier, LF
- Kyle Higashioka, C
Rays: The Rays liked to mix-and-match all season, and that won't change in this series against the Yankees. Tampa Bay will consistently try to start as many left-handers as possible against a right-handed pitching, even putting together a lineup of nine lefty bats at one point this season. However, the Rays will get some righties in there, especially with lefties Zack Britton and Chapman looming in the New York bullpen.
- Yandy Díaz, DH
- Brandon Lowe, 2B
- Randy Arozarena, LF
- Ji-Man Choi, 1B
- Manuel Margot, RF
- Joey Wendle, 3B
- Willy Adames, SS
- Kevin Kiermaier, CF
- Mike Zunino, C
Who are the starting pitchers?
Yankees: Cole joined Tom Seaver (1973) as the only pitchers to strike out at least 13 batters without issuing a walk, outdueling Bieber in the Yankees' Game 1 victory at Cleveland. Cole scattered four hits, permitting two runs, including a solo homer. The $324 million ace was 7-3 with a 2.84 ERA in 12 regular-season starts, though he was 0-1 with a 4.96 ERA in three outings against Tampa Bay, spanning 16 1/3 innings.
Rays: In his Game 1 start against the Blue Jays in the Wild Card Series, Blake Snell became the first left-handed pitcher to record nine strikeouts or more and allow one hit or fewer in postseason history. Snell also became the first Rays pitcher to have a no-hitter through five innings in team postseason history. The Rays are hoping for more of the same from the left-hander vs. Cole and the Bronx Bombers. Snell has faced the Yankees twice this season, going 1-0 with a 3.38 ERA and eight strikeouts in eight innings.
How will the bullpens line up after the starter?
Yankees: We received a peek at Boone's postseason bullpen blueprint in Game 2 against the Indians, when he summoned Chad Green and Britton for four outs apiece, then turned to Jonathan Loaisiga in the seventh for a right-on-right matchup. That move didn't work, and it served as a clear indication of the club's lack of faith in Adam Ottavino. Chapman was stretched for six outs, something the closer hadn't done since 2017.
Rays: The Tampa Bay bullpen is led by Nick Anderson, Diego Castillo and Pete Fairbanks, all hard-throwing righties. Aaron Loup, Ryan Thompson and John Curtiss are also viable options out of the bullpen. The Rays included Shane McClanahan, their No. 6 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, on the Wild Card Series roster, and it'll be interesting to see if the left-hander makes the ALDS roster. Tampa Bay likes his three-pitch mix out of the bullpen. The fact that he would be making his Major League debut could serve as an advantage due to the Yankees having a limited scouting report on him.
Are there any relievers who are unavailable?
Yankees: With four days to rest between games, Boone will have no issues in Game 1.
Rays: "The Stable" will be ready to run.
Any injuries of note?
Yankees: The Yankees entered the postseason relatively healthy. Voit has been limping through an unspecified foot issue for more than a month -- it's likely plantar fasciitis, but Boone simply refers to it as "foot stuff." That prompted the Yanks to carry Mike Ford on the roster against Cleveland, and Boone subbed Voit out for defense late in games.
Rays: Tampa Bay general manager Erik Neander kept the door open for Austin Meadows (oblique) to return to the lineup during the ALDS. Meadows went through batting practice on Saturday and will face live batting practice over the next few days. The decision will come down to the wire on Monday.
Who is hot and who is not?
Yankees: Urshela is coming off what he described as his "best game" in the big leagues, having belted a go-ahead grand slam and contributing a game-saving defensive play. Gardner is swinging a hot bat and started over Clint Frazier in both games against Cleveland. Stanton homered in both games of the Wild Card Series. Frazier finished the year in a 2-for-20 slide and struck out as a pinch-hitter in Game 2.
Rays: In 23 games with the Rays this season, Arozarena hit seven home runs, stole four bases and posted a 1.022 OPS in 64 at-bats. Arozarena has carried his hot bat into the postseason, going 4-for-9 with three extra base hits in the two wins over Toronto. He's going to continue hitting in the middle of the order for Tampa Bay.
Anything else fans want to know?
Yankees: Boone said that "a spot or two" could change on the roster. It may be tough for Boone to leave Gary Sánchez out of the lineup against Snell. Sánchez is 6-for-20 (.300) with five homers and eight RBIs against the lefty. Judge, by the way, has managed only one single in 16 at-bats.
Rays: The club worked out at Tropicana Field on Friday before heading to San Diego for a pair of workouts at Petco Park over the weekend. Hunter Renfroe and Manuel Margot will be the bubble tour guides, as both were with the Padres last season.