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Tuesday, September 4, 2012
W2W4: Yankees at Rays (Sept. 4)


The Rays have won eight of 13 games from the Yankees so far this season, outscoring them 54-51, and matching them in home runs (13 apiece).

They'll take that into tonight's matchup on Tuesday Night Baseball (7 p.m., ESPN).

The Yankees are 22-27 vs. the Rays since 2010, their worst record against an AL team in that span. They have also lost 10 of their past 11 games at the Trop.

Let's take a closer look at the matchup.

Starwatch: Evan Longoria and Derek Jeter
Longoria is hitting .247 with a .341 slugging percentage since returning to the lineup on Aug. 7. His biggest issue is that he’s unable to hit the pitch on the outside part of the plate.

Before going on the DL, he missed outer-third (and further away) pitches at a 17 percent rate. Since returning, it’s 32 percent.

But Longoria represents the great equalizer between the two teams. He's hitting .413 with five home runs and 15 walks in his past 14 games against Yankees.

Jeter currently leads the majors in hits with 177. If he maintains his lead, he will be the second-oldest player to lead the majors in hits. The current mark was set by Pete Rose, who was 40 years old when he did so in 1981.

Jeter’s opposite-field hitting has returned this year. He leads the majors with 66 opposite-field hits.

Key stats for Freddy Garcia
Garcia has been a better pitcher since returning to the rotation in July after some early struggles. He has allowed three runs or fewer in nine of his 11 starts since then.

He 3-0 with a 4.39 ERA and averaging nearly a strikeout per inning in his past five starts since the beginning of August.

Garcia has increased his strikeout rate significantly. He is averaging 7.8 strikeouts per 9 innings as a starter, which is just shy of his career-best mark of 7.9 set in 2004.

The pitch to watch from Garcia tonight is his slider, which has been more effective in two-strike counts this season.

The graphic on the right illustrates the difference.

Garcia is 9-2 career against the Rays, his second-best winning percentage vs. any AL team (he’s 16-3 vs. the Angels). He is 3-0 with a 3.55 ERA in his past five starts vs the Rays.

Jose Molina is 10-for-26 (.385) in his career against Garcia.

Carlos Pena represents the flip side of that. He’s 5-for-42 against Garcia, the .119 batting average being the second-lowest allowed by Garcia to a hitter (Chone Figgins, .091)

Key stats for Alex Cobb
Cobb has been better at home this season (3.44) than on the road (5.30) He's pitched 52 1/3 innings at Tropicana Field without allowing a home run, the most innings pitched at home without allowing a homer all season.

Cobb’s ground-ball rate is 57.3 percent, second-highest among AL starters. However, he is 3-1 with a 2.17 ERA in his five starts when his ground-ball rate was below 50 percent this season and his ERA is 5.28 when his ground-ball rate is 50 percent or higher.

Cobb throws a changeup as an out pitch. Opponents swing at it when it’s thrown out of the strike zone 51 percent of the time, the highest “chase rate” for an AL starting pitcher.

The effectiveness of the pitch is noticeable against left-handed hitters, as noted in the chart on the right.

Cobb has faced the Yankees twice, allowing five earned runs and eight hits in 13 innings. Current Yankees are 9-for-47 against him.

This post was adapted from a post on the ESPN Stats & Information blog