The Rays continue their homestand Monday when the Yankees come to town. Find out how we're placing our MLB picks in this series each of the next three days.
It's understandable why the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry is generally regarded as Major League Baseball's best. But for my money, the baseball played when those teams meet the Tampa Bay Rays has been far more exciting the past few years.
New York will be in Tampa Bay the next few days for the first of six series between the division foes. It's the continuation of a 6-game homestand for the Rays who swept the Oakland A's this past weekend, while the Yankees remain on the road for another few days after winning two of three in Toronto to start their trip.
Wednesday's Game Three
By: Willie Bee
Ichiro Suzuki came to the rescue Tuesday night to help the New York Yankees even their series with the Tampa Bay Rays. The two teams now head back to the diamond this evening for the all-important rubber match.
Wednesday's mound clash will begin with Andy Pettitte hurling for the Yanks opposite Alex Cobb for the Rays. Cobb, who was all of seven when Pettitte made his MLB debut in 1995, has been installed as the -115 favorite and the MLB odds are carrying a 7 or 7.5 run total depending which outlet you prefer.
New York rallied for three runs in the final two innings of Game 2, the last two plated by Suzuki's single off Tampa Bay closer Fernando Rodney. The outcome left the Rays 0-5 in games started by David Price this season.
Pettitte has been fabulous in the early going, missing one start a couple of weeks ago with a bad back, but otherwise pitching well with wins in each of his three starts while clocking a 2.01 ERA and 1.07 WHIP.
The old port-sider hasn't been on this mound since 2009 when the Yanks split a couple of his starts at The Trop. The Yankees are 8-7 vs. the Rays since Pettitte rejoined the team in 2007, his ERA at 4.90 in those matchups; this will be his 32nd career start against them, 15th in St. Pete, and New York is 21-10 in the other 31 (3.94 ERA overall).
Cobb has followed up a good spring with a good jump on the regular season, each of his three starts quality efforts. The Boston native has been hitting a lot of bats the last two times out, however, and Tampa Bay has lost two of his three career starts vs. New York, though Cobb has a respectable 3.15 ERA in those 20 innings.
Crew chief Joe West has been missing from this series, not sure if the chunky country crooner is taking a week off or temporarily away. Assuming he doesn't return and disrupt the current rotation, Sam Holbrook will call the balls and strikes. Totals are 3-2 O/U in his games so far, right on his .600+ clip to the high side the past three seasons (56-35-8).
Taking CC Sabathia as the underdog in Game 1 didn't work out well, but it's still difficult not to like Pettitte and the Yanks as the dogs tonight. New York +105 will be my play. Don't leave the site before checking out my preview of the series finale between the Cardinals and Nationals.
My MLB Pick: Yankees +105 at The Greek
Tuesday's Game 2
By: Willie Bee
Very little is going right with my picks right now, and very little went right for CC Sabathia and the New York Yankees in their series opener at the Tampa Bay Rays.
New York will regroup and try to even the 3-game set Tuesday night when a pair of pitchers looking for their first wins of the season are pitted against one another. Not only are Phil Hughes and David Price without dubyas on their personal ledgers, the Yankees and Rays are a combined 0-7 when these two hurlers take the mound, a stat that is guaranteed to change in Game 2.
Morning lines at 5Dimes have the Rays -166 behind Price, the take-back on the Yanks at +159. MLB odds are unanimous with a 7.5 run total, the UNDER carrying extra juice.
Tampa Bay jumped on Sabathia for four runs in the first inning Monday, and that proved to be the difference in a 5-1 victory. Ryan Roberts hit his first two homers of the season while Matt Moore earned his fourth win in as many starts with eight innings of 2-hit, 9-K baseball.
Hughes is coming off his best performance of 2013, but the result was the same as his previous two outings with the Yankees dropping a 6-2 decision to the Diamondbacks last Thursday in New York. The righthander allowed just two runs, both on solo homers, in seven innings which equaled the length of first two trips to the mound combined.
He faced the Rays just once in 2012, his first start of that campaign, and didn't make it through the fifth having burned up 99 pitches in a 3-0 setback at The Trop.
Price has taken the mound four times in 2013, and the Rays are 0-4 behind their ace who has two quality outings and two very ugly appearances (at Baltimore last week and vs. Cleveland three starts ago. The former Vanderbilt star has faced the Yankees 14 times the past three seasons, resulting in a 4.18 ERA and 9-5 Tampa Bay record (3-2 last year).
Rob Drake, who has been known to have a quick thumb as far as ejections go, is up next for the umpiring crew. It's Drake's first plate assignment of 2013 after totals ran 19-12-4 O/U/P a season ago.
It won't hurt my feelings if you fade my plays for the near future after 11 losers in the last 15 previews. I'm going to bank on Price breaking out with a run line play on the Rays. If you're looking for more fade material, check out what's happening in the Cardinals-Nationals series over in the National League.
My pick: Rays -1.5 (+125) at The Greek
Monday's Series Opener
By: Willie Bee
The schedule is off by just a day for the series opener to match both of the recognized staff aces as Tampa's David Price will pitch Tuesday's Game 2. But it's still a great mound matchup, and still a clash of lefthanders when CC Sabathia takes the hill for the visiting Yanks against Matt Moore of the Rays. Each hurler is looking for their fourth win of 2013, and the MLB odds say that Moore has the best shot of getting it with the Rays -115, or thereabouts.
ESPN is spotlighting this game on its Monday night marquee, and there's a 7 run total that carries some extra juice on the OVER.
The Yankees missed a sweeping win in Toronto on Sunday, the second straight series they had to keep their brooms on hold after winning the first two games. The Rays did pull off a sweep vs. the A's after starting that series on a 2-8 run, most of that action away from home. The week begins with New York 1.5 games behind Boston and Tampa Bay four back.
Rays Slowly Twisting Rivalry In Their Favor
The Yankees were just about at their zenith when the Rays first took the field in 1998. New York's early dominance was therefore expected with Tampa Bay winning just one season series the first 12 years while the Yanks rolled up a 133-69 (.658) regular season mark from '98-'09, including 61-40 at Tropicana Field where there isn't a shortage of NY fans due to the team playing in this city during spring training.
Tampa Bay has been slowly turning things around in its favor the past three years, however, they are posting a modest 29-25 edge in the head-to-head battles. The Rays have really built that up with a strong 18-9 mark at The Trop from 2010-12, and have won 11 of the past 13 on this diamond.
Fourteen of the last 17 in St. Pete (dating to 2010 season) ended as 1-run affairs, something worth putting away for reference during this series when we think about playing the run line. Six of the last 10 inside the dome have played OVER the total, a string that goes back to that exciting last-day-of-the-2011-season clash.
Rays Perfect Behind Moore, Yanks 3-Straight Dubyas With CC
It is still a work in progress for Tampa's Matt Moore, and his career matchups vs. New York seem to prove that. On one hand he has split the four games 2-2 against solid Yankee lineups, but it's been two good outings and two not so good. His first MLB start was at Yankee Stadium in Sept. 2011, and he tossed five shutout innings with 11 K's. His last two assignments vs. the Yanks in 2012 saw him surrender 11 runs (9 earned) in 9.1 innings, both Tampa defeats.
There are control issues however that have carried over from spring training to the regular season; lineups are batting just .133 off the 23-year-old, but reaching base at twice that clip thanks to 11 walks in 18 frames.
What could I say to add to CC Sabathia's lore? He's this generation's version of Mickey Lolich in many ways, giving fat guys hope each and every day that they, too, can be big league pitchers. Fat old guys like me have to like Crooked Cap, especially as the underdog, which is the way I'm leaning with my MLB picks tonight.
My MLB Pick: Yankees +104 at BetOnline