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Rich Fyle column

From the drawers of the Top Secret Fyles:

Through the 2007 season, the MLB team that played its home games inside a funny-shaped, enclosed stadium sitting on a peninsula on Florida’s west coast was known as the Devil Rays.

The next year, management dropped “Devil” and the franchise became known as the Rays, who coincidentally reached their initial World Series thanks to long-time stars Carl Crawford, Evan Longoria and David Price.

Tampa Bay, which got to last season’s World Series while ousting the Yankees on the way, has become a gigantic pain in the neck to the Bronx Bombers over the past couple of seasons.

In the old days, Paul O’Neill, Bernie Williams and Jorge Posada destroyed the Devils Rays most of the time.

About eight years ago, the frugal Rays developed a concept in which they would outsmart the higher-salaried Yankees through computer analytics and defensive shifts master-minded by then-manager Joe Maddon.

Now, essentially for the past two-plus seasons, the Rays are dominating the Yankees. That’s right, dominating.

With Sunday’s 4-2 victory to complete a three-game series sweep over the Yankees, the Rays are now 5-1 this year against the Yankees and 15-3 in the past 18 regular-season meetings.

New York, outscored 30-14 in its current five-game losing skid, lost its seventh straight series to the Rays. It was Tampa Bay’s second sweep in the past three series in New York after Tampa Bay accomplished the feat twice in the previous 51 road series of at least three games. Including their five-game ALDS win, the Rays ARE 18-5 IN THE PAST 23 MEETINGS since July 18, 2019.

The Yankees, 29th out of 30 in MLB slugging, dropped to an AL-worst 5-10 — their ugliest 15-game start into a season since 1997, when they did make the playoffs but lost a five-game ALDS against the Indians. It’s also the latest into a season New York is at the bottom of the AL since a 9-17 start in 1991.

The Rays earned the right to dance over the Yankees because the latter has four players in the middle of the lineup slumping badly, ineffective starting pitching other than Gerrit Cole and Jordan Montgomery, and has one of the worst fielding teams in the AL — and that doesn’t count outfielders failing to hit the cutoff man.

The Yankees will come out of their hitting slump certainly by next week when they play four games at Baltimore’s cozy Camden Yards — their personal Home Run Derby play box over the past decade.

But, it’s up to manager Aaron Boone and Co. to get the starting pitching and the poor defense straightened out.

Times sports copy editor Richard Fyle can be reached at rfyle@wdt.net

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