After they were shut down by the New York Yankees' starting pitching through two games, the Tampa Bay Rays won't find Saturday afternoon's matchup with the division rival any easier.
Fresh off Friday's 2-0 shutout victory, the American League East-leading Yankees will send out Gerrit Cole with the chance to win the four-game set with the Rays in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Through the first two games, the Yankees -- who won their fourth straight and moved to 20 games over .500 -- saw starting pitchers Nestor Cortes and Jameson Taillon craft eight strong innings innings.
On Friday, Taillon won for the fifth time in six decisions by facing just one batter over the minimum, allowing two hits and no walks over eight innings. He was replaced by Clay Holmes, who fired a perfect ninth for his sixth save.
Taillon tossed a season-high eight innings, the first time he has gone that long since June 1, 2018. The Yankees also became the first club to post consecutive eight-inning outings by a starter.
Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash praised the pitching of Taillon, who has walked just five in 50 2/3 innings.
"You've got to give Taillon a lot of credit," Cash said. "He followed what Cortes did yesterday, and they've been doing it all season."
Yankees skipper Aaron Boone agreed.
"I think they've been the best group, to this point, in the league," Boone said of his rotation.
Over the two triumphs against the Rays, New York starters have yielded one run, six hits and one walk in 16 innings. They have fanned 10.
The Yankees' No. 1 pitcher, Cole (4-1, 3.31 ERA) allowed five runs and seven hits in eight innings against the Baltimore Orioles on Monday. He struck out 11 -- his 49th time reaching double digits -- and didn't issue a walk.
But the final line is somewhat deceiving.
Baltimore tagged Cole for four runs in the fourth inning, turning a 2-0 deficit into a 4-2 advantage in the eventual 6-4 loss. The Orioles scored a single run in the sixth after the Yankees had evened the contest.
That made Cole the pitcher of record and saddled him with his first loss of the season.
By not issuing a base on balls, he posted the 20th time in his career that he reached at least 10 strikeouts without a walk -- the second-most in baseball since 2014.
Owning a 2-1 record and a 3.58 ERA in May, the 31-year-old Cole is just 1-6 with a 4.46 ERA in 11 career starts against the Rays, who have hit .231 against the right-hander.
The Rays' starter will be Corey Kluber (1-2, 4.42), a two-time Cy Young Award winner who signed a one-year deal with New York last season and went 5-3 with a 3.83 ERA across 16 starts in his lone season in the Bronx.
Included in those five wins was a masterpiece last May 19 against Texas. Kluber crafted the Yankees' 12th no-hitter, striking out nine against the Rangers and using 101 pitches in a 2-0 win.
Kluber, 36, has been excellent against his 2021 club. Over eight starts, he sports a 5-2 mark with a 2.51 ERA. The Yankees have hit just .198 against the Birmingham, Ala., native.
However, May has been brutal for Kluber. He is 0-1 with a 6.00 ERA in four starts, with batters hitting .303 against him.
--Field Level Media