MLB Picks: Superb Pitching Makes Yankees vs. Rays Go 'Under'

Jason Lake

Friday, May 27, 2016 11:11 AM UTC

Friday, May. 27, 2016 11:11 AM UTC

With two quality pitchers on the mound, you could slide a sheet of paper between the MLB odds for Friday's game between the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays.

New York Yankees vs. Tampa Bay Rays
On the surface, there's not a whole lot of difference right now between the New York Yankees (22-24, –3.51 units) and the Tampa Bay Rays (21-24, –5.99 units). New York's a half-game ahead of last-place Tampa Bay in the AL East with a game in hand. But the Rays do have a positive run differential of plus-4, while the Yankees are the only negative team in the division at minus-19. Then again, if you prefer Elo ratings, Tampa Bay (1513) is just one spot ahead of the Bombers (1509) at No. 15 in the majors. Welcome to mediocrity, boys.

There's nothing mediocre about the two pitchers scheduled for Friday's matchup (7:10 p.m. ET) at the Trop. Masahiro Tanaka is due up for the Yankees, while the Rays respond with Chris Archer. Should be a competitive game; both teams are available at –105 on the MLB odds boards as we go to press. How do we pick between the two?

Silver Hammer
Well, as usual, we're going to start with the free MLB projections from our friendly friends at FiveThirtyEight. Nate Silver and the crew figure this game is a toss-up. They give the Yankees the pitching edge with Tanaka (3.38 FIP), who has indeed outperformed the wayward Archer (4.58 FIP) this year. But Tampa gets all that back by playing at home – New York has to make the trip south after losing 3-1 to the Toronto Blue Jays (–116) Thursday at Yankee Stadium.

We might have to look elsewhere to get some value for our MLB picks. Tampa Bay is available as low as –104 as we go to press, and New York can be bought for –101 if you shop around, but that doesn't come close to paying for our vigorish. So let's move on to the total, which sits at seven runs (UNDER +100). It's an indoor game, no weather report required. Tampa has the UNDER at 15-7-1 playing at home this year, and Archer has been saddled with an unusually high .350 BABIP, so let's ride the regression monster and take the UNDER. It's 6-3 in Tanaka's nine starts, too, and 4-0 on the road.

Fantasy Corner
Archer has had his problems against New York, though. Current Bombers have a combined .730 OPS against him; SS Didi Gregorius is 3-of-10 with a .817 OPS, and he's only owned in 6.8 percent on ESPN fantasy leagues despite a nine-game hitting streak. You might not want Gregorius (.699 OPS) long-term, but he's good for a spot start here if you need him. In the meantime, we're pounding the UNDER in that awful, awful stadium with its melancholy park factor of 0.740 for runs. All we want if life beyond the Thunderdome.

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Free MLB Pick: UNDER 7 (+105)
Best Line Offered: at Heritage
Record: 8-9 ML, 1-0 Totals (+0.24 units)

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