Thoughts on both teams before tonight’s series opener against Tampa Bay:

Yankees:

Impression Lately: Pretty obvious. They’re blundering offensively and can only rely on two of their starting pitchers to keep them in games. If they can’t figure out a way to start scoring more runs, they’ll have to learn to enjoy watching Whitley, Nuno and Phelps get torched beyond their offense’s scoring ability on any given start. They’re still only 1.5 games out of 1st place, behind Toronto. They are projected as 17.4% likely to win the division, 7.5% to earn one of the two wild cards, and 25% overall to make the playoffs (all per fangraphs). Their run differential is still terrible, at -32 and they are 4-6 in their last 10 games.

Thing I’m Expecting: Brian Roberts to contribute little on offense. Seems like a pretty safe bet, given the fact that he’s contributed next to nothing for the first 80 games.

Thing I Hope to See: Carlos Beltran had 3 hits and hit a solo HR last night to help the team pull to within 1 run. They’d never come closer to leading the game after that. But maybe Beltran is starting a hot streak at the plate, which would be long overdue. He brought his hideous slash line up to .220/.276/.415 after last night’s game. Maybe he’s about to go on a tear for a month.

Player I Want To Watch: I’m interested in seeing if David Phelps can bounce back from a poor start against Toronto last week (5.0 IP, 6 ER, 8 H, 1 BB, 1 HBP, 7 K). He’s an average starting pitcher which is something the Yankees could use, given the fact that they trot out someone named Vidal Nuno every 5 days and Chase Whitley appears to be turning back into a career minor league reliever. Phelps could stake a claim to the rotation with a few strong performances and tonight is a good time to begin.

Rays

Impression Lately: The Rays, as many know, are absolutely ravaged by injuries this season and are a big long-shot to miss the playoffs and finish at the bottom of the AL East like we all had grown accustomed to before 2008. They’ve had performances beneath projections from guys like Evan Longoria and Ben Zobrist and have struggled to find a sustainable closer option, despite signing Grant Balfour in the offseason. Tampa is coming off a resounding shellacking of the Orioles (winning 12-7), however, and have won 2 in a row. Still, their run differential on the year is -37 which is the worst in the division, to accompany their 10 game deficit in the East. They have a 1.8% chance of making the playoffs right now (per fangraphs again).

Thing I’m Expecting Tonight: Chris Archer seems to have the Yankees’ number so far in his career. The 25 year old right hander is 4-0 with a 1.26 ERA over 28.2 IP against the “Bombers.” So, naturally I’m going against the grain and expecting him to finally have a bad performance. That’s right, I’m not buying what he’s selling. I don’t care if his ERA is a respectable 3.29 to accompany an even nicer 2.96 FIP. Sometimes unexpected outcomes happen in baseball. Tonight I’m expecting the unexpected.

Player I’m Interested in Seeing: The Rays always seem to have good, young talent but honestly I can’t think of one player on their current roster who piques my interest. Brandon Guyer had 3 doubles a few nights ago, but I think his face is kinda dumb (full disclosure: I couldn’t pick him out of a crowd), so I don’t really care to watch him play, nor do I even know if he’ll be out there tonight. I guess I’m looking forward to seeing Joe Maddon over-use the shift and perhaps hear a philosophical quote he relayed to the team to help them get over the fact that they’ve been awful in 2014 so far.

Player I’m Afraid Of: Ben Zobrist was 3-6 with 1 HR, 2 RBI and 8 TB yesterday. He’d been injured and playing below expectations recently, so I’m thinking he’s starting to get hot and that frightens me. He’s another quiet Yankees assassin, and I’m fearful he’ll haunt David Phelps’ (and my own) dreams tonight.