For Rays outfielder Kevin Kiermaier, he acknowledges the tension between his team and the New York Yankees:
“With all the history that we’ve had the last couple years, it is what it is,” Kiermaier said. “I’ve said it many times: They don’t like us, we don’t like them, and it’s going to continue to stay that way. It’s going to be a very fun, energetic, exciting (series). And I know each team is going to want to try to put it to the opposition. I know that for a fact.”
This season alone, the Rays have defeated the Yankees in eight of their 10 matchups. However, it hasn’t been the cleanest of play. Just last month, Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman attempted a 100 MPH fastball near the head of pinch-hitter Michael Brosseau. As a result, Chapman was suspended three games by the MLB.
“To be honest, what happened obviously happened, and I’m not going to say we forgot about that because we haven’t,” Kiermaier said. “It will just be another reason, another notch in the belt or chip on your shoulder, whatever you want, just to make it that much sweeter to try to beat those guys. And when you do it, it feels that much better.”
In response, Yankees hitting coach Marcus Thames had insight on the team’s mindset entering next week’s play:
“We just have to stay focused on what we need to do and don’t let that little stuff get to you. They’re gonna do what they have to do to try to make us uncomfortable. I think we have to do the same thing as hitters. If [pitching inside] is their game plan, good luck to them. I don’t think they can pitch in for strikes. So, for me, it is what it is and if we stick to our plan, our approach, we’ll be fine.”
The rivalry between Tampa Bay and New York has been a recent trend dating back to the 2017 season. In a single game, Yankees reliever Tommy Layne hit Corey Dickerson. In retaliation, Rays pitcher Matt Andriese hit rookie Aaron Judge in the same game.
Since then, we have seen the likes of New York (CC Sabathia and Masahiro Tanaka) and Tampa Bay’s (Diego Castillo and Mike Brosseau) play a role in the ongoing feud.
The series between the Rays and Yankees is scheduled to begin on Monday in San Diego.