Yankees vs. Rays Game 4
By: Willie Bee
It seems longer than two days ago that the New York Yankees were riding a 5-game win streak after taking the opener of their series with the Tampa Bay Rays. Two games and 27 runs against them later, New York has seen its lead in the AL East vanish and needs a victory Sunday just to leave the Sunshine State with a split.
The series finale isn't going to attract much interest with its pitching matchup as Vidal Nuno makes a spot start for the Yanks opposite Tampa's Cesar Ramos. The battle is set for a 1:40 PM (ET) start, with the Rays favored from -116 to -130 on the moneyline.
SBR's live baseball odds list both 8 and 8.5 for the scoreboard hurdle, juiced high or low depending which total a bettor chooses.
Yankees Raise White
Flag In Game 3
Ivan Nova couldn't solve the Tampa Bay lineup while Chris Archer mastered New York hitters in Saturday's 16-1 laugher that lifted the Rays to a level 9-9 record. Adding injury to insult was Nova exiting the game with a sore right elbow and sent off for an MRI.
The game got so far out of hand that Yankee manager Joe Girardi used utility infielder Dean Anna to pitch the eighth inning instead of burning through another reliever.
Nuno is being called upon to make just his fourth major league start due to New York playing a doubleheader earlier this week. The lefty has three relief outings under his belt for 2014, the most recent 12 days ago against the Orioles who lit Nuno up for seven runs in 3.1 innings. He faced the Rays once last year on this mound, and did a good job allowing just two runs in six frames.
Rays Continue Hitting
Barrage From Friday's Victory
One night after plating 11 runs on 16 hits, Tampa Bay again recorded a 16-hit attack on Saturday that included five home runs, two each by Ryan Hanigan and Wil Myers. The Rays entered this set averaging just over three runs per game, and have increased that clip to 4.11 per contest.
Ramos has taken the rotation slot opened up when Matt Moore went down with a season-ending elbow injury that will require Tommy John surgery. His first start a week ago wasn't pretty with only two innings of work and four runs allowed in Cincinnati where the Rays fell 12-4. The LA native has seen the Yankees 13 times before, all in relief, and surrendered 11 runs along with 11 free passes in 13 frames.
Hitting is contagious as the old saying goes, but Clint Fagan, slated to work the plate for this umpire crew on Sunday, has one of the largest strike zones in the big leagues and bettors have seen three of his previous four games south of the dish stay below the total. What's more, home teams are winless in his four plate assignments.
Fagan doesn't scare me, however, and I'm going to ride the 'over' once again for my free MLB pick on Sunday.
My pick: Yankees-Rays Over 8.5 (+105)
Season: 18-15 (+2.15)
Yankees vs. Rays Game 3
By: Willie Bee
As it turns out, the Tampa Bay Rays do have some hitters in their lineup. Mired in a scoring slump, the Rays broke out with an 11-5 win Friday night over the New York Yankees, bringing the tally to 28 runs scored in the first two games of this series.
Considering the clubs entered the set having scored five runs in three games between them on Thursday, all by the Yankees, it's a big turnaround for both lineups. Baseball bettors are being offered another medium-low total for Saturday night's battle (7:10 PM ET) which pits Ivan Nova of New York against Tampa Bay's Chris Archer.
Scoreboard watchers are deciding on a 7.5 run mark, while SBR's live MLB odds has Tampa Bay in the -140s for a moneyline, up about 10¢ since it went out.
Suffers Meltdown In Game 2
Hiroki Kuroda didn't have his best stuff Friday, and the relievers behind him had some of their worst stuff. This is going to be Joe Girardi's biggest test this season, figuring out an entirely new rotation to his bullpen, and you can bet the New York front office is already scouring MLB rosters for potential setup arms and/or closers.
Nova is making his second road start of 2013, and third consecutive assignment vs. AL East foes. He survived five walks in Houston on April 3 to get the 4-2 victory over the Astros, then was pasted at home vs. Baltimore before coming back with a nice outing this past Sunday against the Red Sox (7.1 IP, 2 ER).
The big Dominican pitched well against the Rays in '13, posting a 2.54 ERA in four starts and a relief outing, only to have a 1-3 record to show for his work. The lone win came out of the 'pen at Tropicana Field, and his start on this diamond saw Nova pitch around six walks to earn a no-decision in an eventual 3-2 Yankees triumph.
Beef Of Rays Lineup
Archer got off to a great start allowing only two runs in his first two starts covering 13 frames. But then he got pounded this past Monday in Baltimore, surrendering 12 hits and seven plate crossings in five innings.
The righthander saw the Yanks three times in 2013, and came away with the victory each outing. Archer held New York hitters to a puny .160 average while striking out 14 against three walks. Two of the three assignments were in St. Pete (13 IP, 3 ER) and the other was a 2-hit shutout in the Bronx.
One of the best sights Friday for the Rays was breaking the 4-game slide with the meat of their order contributing as Evan Longoria, James Loney and Wil Myers combined for eight hits, two runs and seven RBI. Of course, New York reliever Cesar Cabral hit two of those batters, plus one more, in the bottom of the eighth, which brings another whole new element to Saturday's clash.
How much umpire Marty Foster allows pitchers to come inside will be key early on in this game. Let's ride the offensive wave one more time with a free MLB pick on the 'over'.
My pick: Yankees-Rays Over 7.5 (+105)
Season: 17-14 (+2.10)
Yankees vs. Rays Game 2
By: Willie Bee
CC Sabathia had his best start, the lineup scored a season-high 10 runs and the defense turned a triple play. Not a bad start to the road trip for the New York Yankees...and not a good start to this homestand for the Tampa Bay Rays who were routed with their top pitcher on the mound.
The Yankees will now try and extend their winning streak to six while the Rays aim to stop their skid at four when the clubs reconvene for Game 2 of the set Friday (7:10 PM ET). New York's Hiroki Kuroda is set for his fourth assignment of the young season opposite Erik Bedard of Tampa Bay.
Sports books sent the Yankees out as -110 favorites, that number holding following overnight action though some shops have tightened the moneyline closer to a pick 'em. SBR's live baseball odds has the total at 7.5 runs, favoring the 'under.'
Yanks score 10, Turn
Triple Play In Opener
With the exception of Brian Roberts' throwing error and Brian McCann's passed ball that led to a Rays run in the fourth, it was a near-perfect performance on Thursday for New York. The 10-2 Yankees victory included a pair of homers, two triples and one triple play, helping them to a 2-game cushion atop the AL East.
Kuroda climbs the hill for the fourth time in '14, and third straight against an AL East opponent. The 39-year-old is coming off back-to-back wins against the Orioles and Red Sox, both at home, after losing his season debut in Houston. He got knocked around a bit by Boston last weekend, allowing the Sox to score four runs in his six-plus innings, but had enough support from his lineup for a 6-4 decision.
Tampa Bay beat Kuroda up pretty good in his two assignments against them in 2013, winning both games while he posted a 9.26 ERA. His August outing at Tropicana Field saw the Rays bang four homers and score seven times during Kuroda's six frames.
Punchless Rays Drop Into Division's Cellar
It should tell you how desperate the Rays are for pitchers if Bedard is in their rotation. The veteran lefty signed a minor league deal with Tampa Bay this spring, and was released originally after failing to make the big league team, but the Rays re-signed him a few days later. He made one start at Triple-A before being called up, and has one relief appearance for Tampa since then.
Bedard faced the Yanks twice last season while with Houston, and did okay with 11combined innings and only four runs crossing the plate.
The Rays are also desperate for some offense right now, their 2.94 runs per game average just barely above the Houston Astros who bring up the rear in the American League. Maybe facing Kuroda will help jumpstart the bats, but I'm going to ride the opposing streaks with a free MLB pick on New York.
My pick: Yankees -110
Season: 16-13 (+2.05)
Yankees vs. Rays Game 1
By: Willie Bee
Shutouts were the story on Wednesday's baseball betting card, with five whitewashings among the 15 games played. Three of those involved either the New York Yankees or Tampa Bay Rays who now clash in Florida for a big 4-game weekend series.
The set gets underway at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg with a 7:10 PM (ET) start on Thursday, along with an all-southpaw mound matchup. CC Sabathia opens the series for the Yankees against Tampa's David Price who is -170 chalk, up a few ticks from the opening moneyline. SBR's live MLB odds shows a unanimous 7 run total, split evenly high and low.
New York has a .600 winning percentage (165-110) against the Rays over the course of this rivalry, but the tide has been turning recently. Tampa Bay has won three of the last four season series, the other ending in a 9-9 deadlock, and beat the Yankees 12 of 19 meetings a year ago.
The Rays won five of the nine played at Tropicana Field in 2013, six of those contests failing to reach the total.
Yanks Hit Road Atop AL
New York (9-6 straight up, +1.4 units) begins a 7-game road trip with this series, a visit to Fenway on deck next week. The Yankees have reeled off 4-straight wins to move into first place of the AL East, blanking the Cubs in a pair of games Wednesday to finish off a sweep of Chicago and conclude a 6-3 homestand.
Sabathia has yet to find his groove in 2014, as his 6.63 ERA over three appearances would attest. He didn't pitch that badly last Friday in the series opener vs. the Red Sox, but a couple of homers in the sixth did him in as Boston scored all four of its runs on the two swats.
The Rays have given CC the fits since he joined the Yankees in 2009. The southpaw has seen Tampa Bay 23 times in that span, with New York 7-16 in those contests while Sabathia owns a 4.46 ERA. Eleven starts at The Trop have produced just one victory for Sabathia and the Yankees, his ERA on this mound at 4.68.
Rays Return Home
Tampa Bay (7-8, -2.4 units) returns home from its first road trip which did not go well. The Rays lost five of eight on the swing, a sixth loss perhaps averted by Tuesday's rainout in Baltimore which will be made up later this summer. Wednesday's 3-0 setback at the O's was their third consecutive defeat, and they haven't scored more than four runs in their last nine.
The Rays are unbeaten with Price on the bump this season, and he came within two outs of a shutout his last start at Cincinnati. The former Vanderbilt standout has walked only two batters in nearly 22 innings, allowing 19 hits and 2 HR in that span.
Price and Sabathia squared off once in 2013, with Price getting the better end of the bargain in that August collision. Overall last season, he was 2-1 in three assignments, striking out 18 and issuing one walk in his 21 innings of work.
Tampa's rotation is a huge mess right now, the worst news coming earlier this week when it was announced Matt Moore would undergo season-ending elbow surgery. Alex Cobb is also out with a lat strain, and not expected back until mid-to-late May, while Jeremy Hellickson is still rehabbing from surgery with June his tentative return date.
That puts added pressure on Price and Chris Archer, Saturday's scheduled starter, to hold down the fort for at least a month. I like Price tonight, only not at -170, and will instead get behind both offenses to snap out of their funks to put some runs on the board. Add the 'over' to my list of free MLB picks.
My Pick: Yankees-Rays Over 7 (-105)
Season: 14-13 (+0.05)