|Yanks aim to take 13th straight home series vs. Rays|
NEW YORK -- Toward the end of last week, there was some trepidation about New York Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman. His velocity dipped all the way to 94 on one fastball and he wobbled through the ninth inning on Saturday in a downpour.
On Tuesday, some of the trepidation was erased as Chapman closed out a pitching clinic by J.A. Happ and opened a three-game series against the Tampa Bay Rays with a stress-free 4-1 Yankees victory.
Beating the Rays at home of late is not a new development for the Yankees, who can take their 13th straight home series from their American League East foes Wednesday night.
The Yankees quickly opened the series with one of their shorter games of the year, wrapping up their 14th win in the last 17 home meetings with the Rays in 2 hours, 32 minutes. They did it because Happ allowed a hit in seven scoreless innings and Chapman needed only nine pitches to secure the final three outs.
"He was great," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said of Happ, who pitched a night after Luis Severino lasted four innings in an 8-5 loss to the Mets. "We needed it. We needed him to go out and give us some innings."
The Yankees are 7-2 in their last nine games since a nightmarish sweep in Boston likely ended any hopes of winning the AL East. They got the stress-free night from Happ and Chapman after making extensive use of their bullpen in the previous eight games.
"I felt like he walked out there tonight with more confidence and a better feel of where the ball was going," Boone said of Chapman.
The Rays tied a season-low with three hits, marking the fourth time and second time against the Yankees. Willy Adames hit a solo homer and is batting .480 (12-for-25) in his last seven games but the Rays have been held to two runs on nine hits in their last two games.
"It happens," said Rays left fielder Mallex Smith, who is hitless in his last 10 at-bats. "It's baseball. We'll turn around tomorrow and put something on them."
Smith is not the only Tampa Bay hitter scuffling of late.
Jake Bauers, who had a few big homers against the Yankees in Tampa Bay, is hitless in 13 at-bats and has one hit in his last 19 at-bats. Matt Duffy is hitless in his last 10 at-bats as is Kevin Kiermaier.
A series loss by the Rays will extend the record at the current Yankee Stadium by any opponent.
Masahiro Tanaka was originally slated to pitch, but when the Yankees put CC Sabathia on the disabled list Monday, they opted to slot Luis Cessa into the rotation and he will pitch Wednesday.
Cessa will make his fourth start of the season for the Yankees when he gets recalled from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes Barre. He last appeared for the Yankees on Aug. 2 in Boston when he allowed five runs on seven hits in 3 2/3 innings in a 15-7 loss.
On Tuesday, manager Aaron Boone cited Cessa's experience as a spot starter for why the Yankees opted for him over prospects Justus Sheffield or Chance Adams.
"We just feel like the best guy to slot in kind of on the fly like this is a guy that's been up to this up and down role the last couple of years," Boone said.
As a starting pitcher this season, Cessa is 1-2 with a 3.14 ERA in three starts. One of those starts was July 25 in Tampa Bay when he allowed two runs on four hits in 5 1/3 innings.
This season in Triple-A, Cessa is 3-0 with a 2.55 ERA in five appearances. His last start there was Aug. 7 when Cessa allowed three runs on five hits in 4 2/3 innings at Norfolk.
Cessa is 0-3 with a 4.30 ERA in seven appearances (three starts) against the Rays.
Jake Faria will make his 11th start of the season for Tampa Bay and first since missing 61 games with a strained left oblique. In two relief appearances spanning 6 2/3 innings since coming back, he has allowed one run on seven hits while throwing 68 and 43 pitches respectively.
"He's built up, I think he can probably go four or five innings," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "We'll see how efficient he is."
Faria's last start was May 22 against the Boston Red Sox when he was pulled after 2 2/3 innings due to the injury.
"His season, it's been probably a pretty trying season for him and he knows that there's some time left here to kind of fix some things, make some adjustment and finish strong going into the offseason," Cash said.
The 25-year-old right-hander is 0-0 with a 6.43 ERA in two career starts against the Yankees. He pitched four innings in Tampa Bay's 5-3 win in New York on July 30, 2017, and three innings in the Rays' 9-6 win in New York on Sept. 28.