Brandon Nimmo points to sky after double (Wikipedia photo)

The Yankees played three hard-fought games at Tropicana Field against the American League East’s first place Tampa Bay Rays this past weekend to finish a short road trip. They would lose the series, only taking Saturday’s game 3-2, and were 4-6 over their previous 10 games. The Yankees held a record of 19-17 and were in last place in the division before hosting Game 2 in the Bronx on Tuesday of a three-game series versus the Oakland As.

The Yankees have been inconsistent in the opening two months of Major League Baseball this season. The most unexpected performance over the weekend was from ace starter Gerrit Cole (5-0), who entered the game with a 1.35 ERA, but delivered his worst start of the season, giving up five earned runs in five innings pitched. He allowed two home runs, including a game-tying three run homer to Rays catcher Christian Bethancourt in the bottom of the sixth inning. The Rays would win the game 8-7 in 10 innings.

After losing the series to the Rays, manager Aaron Boone’s Yankee squad came back with a 7-2 victory over the As on Monday night and were 10 games behind Tampa Bay as of Tuesday. The Rays are at Yankee Stadium for a four-game series starting tonight. 

A positive for the Yankees has been outfielder Harrison Bader, who has been their best player since making his season debut on May 2 after recovering from a strained oblique suffered in spring training. Bader was posting a .389 average with two home runs, seven RBIs, and a 1.222 OPS when the Yankees faced the As on Tuesday. In addition, last year’s AL MVP Aaron Judge returned on Tuesday from the injured list after being placed on it May 1 with a right hip strain.

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Judge gives the Yankees much-needed offensive help since they were averaging just 4.08 runs per game when they played Oakland on Tuesday. Starter Carlos Rodon, who the Yankees signed to a six-year, $162 million free-agent deal in December, is making progress toward appearing in his first regular season game with the franchise. According to multiple reports, Rodon isn’t feeling any pain in his injured back, but  he must clear some mental hurdles before starting his rehab assignment. 

The news isn’t all bad on the injury front: Pitcher Luis Severino is on his way back from a right lat strain, sustained the last week of spring training, and is expected to make a minor league start this week in hopes of returning to the rotation next week.

“I’ll do whatever they want me to do,” said Severino.

Meanwhile, the Mets have also found it difficult to find some quality starts from their rotation. They dropped two out of three to the Colorado Rockies at Citi Field this past weekend, making it three series in a row that the Mets have lost. They were under .500 at 17-18 when they began a three-game set on the road versus the Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday with Max Scherzer on the mound, but in second place in the NL East—although standing nine games behind the first-place Atlanta Braves.

The Mets are encouraged by the play of rookie third baseman Brett Baty and rookie catcher Francisco Alvarez, who have been getting more comfortable at the plate. First baseman Pete Alonso led the team with 11 homers, 29 RBIs, and 23 runs scored as of Tuesday. However, after a strong beginning to this season, he had hit a lowly .164 over his previous 15 games going into Tuesday night. Outfielder Brandon Nimmo topped the Mets with a .310 batting average and 39 hits. All-Star shortstop Francisco Lindor was hitting just .217 but was second on the team in RBIs (25) and runs scored (22), and first in doubles (12).

The mediocre and, at times, poor performance by the Mets’ pitching staff has been the key issue for a team that has played well below expectations. They were ranked 22nd out of the 30 MLB teams with a 4.74 ERA and had surrendered 52 home runs, the third most. 

Manager Buck Showalter’s group will finish their series against the Reds this afternoon before taking on the Washington Nationals on the road tomorrow through Monday.

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