NEW YORK YANKEES (55-37, +5.9 Units)
at TAMPA BAY RAYS (50-43, +1.1 Units)
Sportsbook.com Series Line: Tampa Bay -120, New York -110
Two teams trying to stay close in the tough AL East meet in Tampa Bay for a key four-game series when the Rays host the Yankees. Tampa Bay hasn’t won a series versus an AL opponent in over a month, dropping 2-of-3 games in four straight AL series. One of those series losses was leading up to the All-Star break when they dropped the final two contests of a three-game set against the Yankees.
This is a tight series to call with each team holding the pitching advantage in two of the four games, and these teams splitting the past 20 meetings at Tropicana Field 10-10. The Rays are just 22-23 at home this year, while New York has the third-best road record in the majors at 25-18. The winner of this series will come down to who hits better, and the Yankees are the superior offensive team. Tampa Bay also enters this series with a brutal 1-0 loss in 16 innings in Boston Sunday night, as the Rays mustered three hits (all singles), one walk and struck out 13 times in 50 at-bats before the game ended at 1:54 a.m. ET. Tampa also used eight relief pitchers in the loss to the Red Sox. The pick here is for NEW YORK to win the series. Odds.
The FoxSheets provide two more reasons to side with the Pinstripes.
JOE GIRARDI is 85-54 (61.2%, +22.0 Units) against the money line vs. AL teams allowing 4.2 or less runs/game on the season as the manager of NY YANKEES. The average score was NY YANKEES 4.9, OPPONENT 4.2 – (Rating = 1*).
TAMPA BAY is 19-27 (41.3%, -12.0 Units) against the money line when playing against a team with a winning record this season. The average score was TAMPA BAY 3.9, OPPONENT 4.3 – (Rating = 1*).
Pitching Probables for Monday, July 18 – 7:10 EDT
Monday line: New York -140, Tampa Bay +130, Total: 9
NYY: 9-10 (-4.75 Units) when A.J. Burnett starts
TB: 3-2 (+1.40 Units) when Alex Cobb starts
Burnett (8-7, 4.15 ERA) has been up-and-down all season, with his last outing including both good and bad. On July 9 versus Tampa Bay, he allowed two homers and three runs in 5.2 innings, but he only allowed one other hit and struck out nine batters. Burnett had pitched very well in his career at Tropicana Field before the Rays scored six runs in 5 2/3 innings off him on May 16. Before this poor performance, Burnett was 6-2 with a 2.09 ERA and .177 opponent’s BA in 11 career starts at Tampa Bay. Scores.
Cobb (2-0, 3.41 ERA) was recalled from Triple-A to replace injured Wade Davis in the rotation. He will take the mound Monday and try to build on what’s been a surprisingly good season. After allowing seven runs and eight walks in his first two starts, Cobb only allowed four runs and four walks in 18.1 innings spanning three outings in June (1.96 ERA). The 23-year-old rookie has never faced New York.
Pitching Probables for Tuesday, July 19 – 7:10 EDT
Tuesday line: TBD
NYY: 8-5 (+1.00 Units) when Bartolo Colon starts
TB: 8-8 (-0.85 Units) when Jeremy Hellickson starts
Colon (6-5, 3.47 ERA) allowed five runs in 5.2 innings in each of his past two starts versus Tampa Bay, which includes his July 7 performance against the Rays. But more concerning to the Yankees is his last start in Toronto where he allowed eight runs (three earned), six hits and two walks and getting chased before escaping the first inning. Colon says that his pitching is being affected by his concern over trying not to hurt his hamstring, but there is nothing physically wrong with him.
Hellickson (8-7, 3.21 ERA) has been pretty consistent all year, allowing more than 3 ER only two times in 16 starts. He has faced four straight tough lineups (Boston, Milwaukee, Cincinnati and St. Louis) and held his own (3.76 ERA, 1.10 WHIP) so he shouldn’t be too scared of the Yankees bats. Hellickson has never started against the Yankees, who went 5-for-16 with a homer in 3.2 innings versus Hellickson in relief last year.
Pitching Probables for Wednesday, July 20 – 7:10 EDT
Wednesday line: TBD
NYY: 8-8 (-2.10 Units) when Freddy Garcia starts
TB: 12-8 (+1.65 Units) when David Price starts
Garcia (7-7, 3.43 ERA) had thrown five straight quality starts (1.87 ERA, 1.04 WHIP) before Toronto torched him for six runs (5 ER), seven hits and four walks in five innings his last time out. Although he has only faced Tampa Bay once since 2006 (7 IP, 2 ER in a win last year), he is 8-2 with a 3.56 ERA against the Rays in 15 career starts.
Price (9-7, 3.73 ERA) is the lone lefty for Tampa Bay this series, which isn’t necessarily a good thing based on New York’s 19-9 record (.679) against left-handed starters this year. Price’s ERA is more than a run higher than last year’s 2.72, but his strikeout rate has increased from 8.1 K/9 in 2010 to 8.8 this year. He pitched pretty well his last time out versus Boston (6 IP, 3 ER, 7 K), but in his last outing before the All-Star break, the Yankees touched him up for four runs and 10 base-runners (7 H, 3 BB) in just five innings. Price is 3-1 in nine career starts versus New York, but has allowed 12 runs on 21 hits in the past 16 innings against the Yankees.
Pitching Probables for Thursday, July 21 – 7:10 EDT
Thursday line: TBD
NYY: 16-5 (+8.20 Units) when CC Sabathia starts
TB: 12-8 (+1.35 Units) when James Shields starts
Sabathia (14-4, 2.64 ERA) has been unbelievable during a seven-start winning streak. In these seven victories, Sabathia has a 1.68 ERA and 0.95 WHIP with 59 K and 10 BB in 53.2 innings. Two outings ago, on July 10, he tossed a four-hit shutout against the Rays, striking out nine and walking only one. He is 9-5 with a 3.04 ERA in 21 career starts versus Tampa Bay, allowing a mere .233 batting average to the Rays.
Shields (8-8, 2.60 ERA) has also been excellent this season, especially with seven complete games. But largely due to a lack of run support, he is currently suffering through a four-game losing streak. He was hit hard against Boston his last time out (6 IP, 6 ER), but he only allowed a total of six earned runs (2.57 ERA) in his previous three outings. The losing streak is likely to continue against the Yankees and Sabathia, as Shields is just 3-10 (team is 4-13) with a 4.47 ERA in 17 career starts versus New York. Las Vegas odds.