ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Tampa Bay reliever Ryan Thompson and his teammates will have no problem getting motivated when the Rays and New York Yankees renew their intense American League East rivalry Monday.
“I think a lot of it has to do with their attitude toward us. They hate us, and so it’s easy for us to get more excited to play those guys,” Thompson said Sunday. “It’s kind of how they’ve behaved in the past couple years with us pitching inside, with them throwing at our guys, stuff like that.”
Rays left-hander Rich Hill and Yankees right-hander Jameson Taillon are the scheduled starters in Monday’s opener of a four-game series at Yankee Stadium.
“We don’t have any reservations about it,” Thompson said. “We just go out there, and we’re like we’re going to beat those guys. They can talk all the talk they want, they can throw at our guys, we’re going to beat them, and in the past two years, we’ve definitely done that.”
The Rays beat the Yankees in last year’s AL Division Series en route to the AL pennant. Tampa Bay has won six of nine, including a 3-0 record in New York, in this year’s season series.
“When we play the Yankees, we don’t talk about it, it’s just something different,” Thompson said. “There’s a little bit extra that you can just feel it in the room, in the clubhouse and the field. We want to beat those guys.”
Hard feelings between the Yankees and Rays go back to at least March 2008, when they clashed in spring training, and tempers have flared repeatedly over the past few years following pitches inside to batters. Beanballs, dramatic homers and dugout chirping have become commonplace.
Last year saw Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman throwing a 101 mph pitch near Mike Brosseau’s head on Sept. 1.
Brosseau responded by hitting two homers the next day and connecting on a go-ahead homer off Chapman in the decisive fifth game of the ALDS.
The Yankees haven’t appeared in the World Series since 2009, when they defeated the Philadelphia Phillies.