Series Preview: Yankees (1-1) @ Devil Rays (1-1)

Seems like we did this same exact thing just last week, except it was a little farther away and a little earlier in the morning. The Yankees make their 2004 USA debut tonight against the Devil Rays, finally kicking off the season in proper fashion.

So the Yankees flew several thousand miles to play the Devil Rays, then flew back several thousand miles again and waited around for a few days... to play the Devil Rays.  Seems like all the build up should lead to something a little more grandiose (the Red Sox, perhaps), but we'll have to wait I suppose.  The Rays are a fun team, however, and they play pretty good baseball (if you're into the impatient team with a lousy pitching staff area of baseball), and hey, I just want to see some real action, so let's get it on.

As Yankee fans found out last week, the Rays aren't to be taken lightly.  They can beat you in a few different ways with a good blend of speed and power in their lineup.  The pitching staff isn't scaring anyone though, so the Yankees, hopefully less jet-lagged this time around, should be able to feast a la the second game of the season.

Things to look out for:  The return of Bernie Williams (hitting seventh and DHing in game one) to the batting order, making the lineup scary good (did you really feel comfortable with Ruben Sierra or Tony Clark hitting seventh?)... Kenny Lofton's debut in his rightful spot at the top of the order (and his possibly rightful spot in center)... Aubrey Huff taking that sweet, sweet swing of his... Carl Crawford running on just about everybody at every opportunity... Mike Mussina righting the ship and dominating and Kevin Brown cruising again, but Jeremi Gonzalez really isn't as bad as he looked (Damian Moss, on the other hand, is as bad as he looked.)

Pitching Probables:

Tuesday:  Mike Mussina (0-1, 9.00) vs. Victor Zambrano (1-0, 4.50)
This could be the start of a pitching rivalry like Pedro/Clemens.. or not.  Zambrano's a fine pitcher, and easily the most talented starter on the Rays right now, but chances are he won't be able to escape a beating two times against the newfound Murderer's Row (maybe it should be Serial Killer's Row with this lineup...)  Mussina looked intimidated in his last start, and didn't seem confident in his pitches, particularly his breaking ball.  Hopefully, for the Yankees, that will change.

Wednesday: Kevin Brown (1-0, 1.29) vs. Jeremi Gonzalez (0-1, 9.64)
Brown dominated the Rays last time out, and he didn't even have his best stuff.  Gonzalez got slapped around last time out, and he clearly didn't have his best stuff.  Chances are, it will be a repeat performance, but it might be a little excessive to call for another 12 runs from the Yanks (although 8 or so is completely within the realm of possibility, at all times.)

Predictions and Prognostications:
New York's offense showed what it can do in game two of the Japan series, and it should be even better with Bernie in the game.  Unless something strange happens, it shouldn't be pretty for the Tampa starters, though I have a feeling I'll be saying that a lot this season.  Yanks take both.

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