Phelps Pitching Makes Yankees the Best Bet vs. Road Reds

Matthew Jordan

Friday, July 18, 2014 1:08 PM UTC

Friday, Jul. 18, 2014 1:08 PM UTC

Both the Reds and Yankees expected to be playoff teams this season and perhaps they will be, although each is on the outside of the postseason field looking in entering the second half.  New York is a -111 favorite on MLB odds for Friday's opener.

Respective Playoff Odds
Before jumping on the favored Yankees as your sports pick, understand that New York is 47-47, 3.5 games out of a wild-card spot (in a massively crowded field) and five games behind first-place Baltimore in the AL East. The Yankees are +250 to make the playoffs at sportsbooks and -400 to miss out. I don't see how they make it unless GM Brian Cashman makes a major move to fortify the rotation. He admitted as much this week: "I have to reinforce our pitching, in my opinion." Friday is a day that likely will determine whether CC Sabathia might pitch again this season or need potential career-ending microfracture surgery on his right knee. After visiting two specialists, the team is expecting a final diagnosis for the degenerative condition in Sabathia's knee. Pretty much no one thinks he will pitch again this year.

The Yankee lineup isn't exactly gangbusters, either. Derek Jeter should not be playing every day at shortstop as he has an on-base percentage of .324 and is slugging .322 , which is worse than some pitchers. Carlos Beltran has been mostly a flop, batting just .216 with nine home runs. Beltran is expected to be activated off the seven-day concussion list for this game. The only Yankees producing a decent level are outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury (.282, six HRs, 42 RBIs, 24 steals) and Brett Gardner (.279, nine HRs, 37 RBIs, 15 steals) and first baseman Mark Teixeira (17 HRs, 48 RBIs).

Cincinnati is 51-44, 1.5 games behind fading first-place Milwaukee in the NL Central and 1 game back of a wild-card spot. The Reds, who have won seven of their past nine games, are even money at sportsbooks to make the playoffs and -140 to miss. Unfortunately for the Reds, two of their best two hitters, second baseman Brandon Phillips and first baseman Joey Votto, are out for at least another month. Votto was a spring NL MVP betting favorite but this is his second stint on the DL and he's been disappointing otherwise, batting.255 with six home runs. The offense hasn't been very good, other than Todd Frazier, and the Reds are looking for a bat (White Sox's Adam Dunn?), but the pitching has been solid. Incidentally, lights-out closer Aroldis Chapman tweaked a hamstring in Tuesday's All-Star Game, but he expects to be ready if called upon.


Probable Pitchers
It's right-hander Mike Leake for the Cincinnati Reds. Leake (7-7, 3.54) is one of those guys who is going to give up a lot of hits -- 130 in 127 innings pitched, WHIP of 1.24 -- but generally give his team a quality start. Of course, that's usually against the weaker National League lineups where the pitcher hits and not against a slugging DH from the AL. Not that the Yankees lineup is all that scary these days. The Reds have lost two of Leake's past three starts. He final outing before the break he allowed four runs and nine hits over six innings against Pittsburgh. Leake was excellent in May with a 2.16 ERA but it's 4.50 since then. Only a few Yankees hitters have ever faced him. Catcher Brian McCann, who has been a major disappointment after signing and $85 million free-agent deal this offseason, is 2-for-8 with a double off Leake. Kelly Johnson is 2-for-5 with a homer. Another important tip for those placing MLB picks today, Jeter has never faced Leake.

It's right-hander David Phelps for New York, and he might be the ace of that injury-ravaged staff at the moment. Phelps (3-4, 3.94), a former reliever, hasn't won in his past four starts, even though he has allowed two runs or fewer in three of them. He's another guy who isn't overpowering and will allow guys on base. Phelps' WHIP is 1.37. At Yankee Stadium this year, Phelps is 2-1 with a 2.57 ERA in eight appearances, four of them starts. No Red has more than three official at-bats off him. Of course the Reds get to add the DH for this series.

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MLB Free Picks
Yankees -111 on MLB odds and 'over' eight runs at -110. Phelps seems more reliable, at least at home, than Leake does right now. The Reds have won six of seven as an underdog. They have won five straight following an off day. New York has lost five straight at home. The Yanks are 3-7 in Phelps' past 10 series-opening starts. However, they are 5-0 in Phelps' past five at home against teams with a winning record. The 'under' is 5-0 in Phelps' past five as a favorite. 

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