New York and Tampa Bay were supposed to be battling for the AL East lead, at least according to the baseball futures odds. Instead, the Yankees and Rays are wallowing below .500 as they prepare to meet for the second time in as many weekends.
Tampa Bay Rays vs. New York Yankees
Friday, April 16, 2021 – 07:05 PM EDT at Yankee Stadium
Every American League division is currently being led by a team picked to finish no better than fourth in preseason rankings, a fact many will dismiss as a case of it simply being too early on the schedule to get too excited about. For Tampa Bay and New York, the gap between them and the frontrunning Boston Red Sox is starting to widen in the AL East, however, and either the Rays or the Yankees figure to fall even further behind after their weekend set in the Bronx.
Rays Have Dropped All 3 of Their Extra Inning Affairs
We’re not sure if managers Kevin Cash and Aaron Boone were keeping their pitching plans for Friday’s series opener a secret, or if their failure to line up the rotations well in advance was possibly due to some confusion or indecision on their parts. Either way, online betting sites didn’t include numbers on their overnight lines. Cash finally decided to send Michael Wacha (0-1, 7.00) to the mound, but Boone has yet to officially reveal his plans.
Tampa Bay spent the last week at home where the Rays started things off in good order by taking two of three from New York. Then the homestand ended on a sour note by dropping the last three of a 4-game set to the Rangers. Offense – or lack thereof – is a big reason why the Rays, are off to a 5-8 start, the team ranking 14th in the AL averaging 3.84 runs per game.
That rate of scoring hasn’t been nearly enough to support Wacha in his two appearances, one a start and the other a bulk relief assignment. He entered last Sunday’s series finale against the Yankees with a 2-0 lead, and immediately gave the advantage away by allowing New York to score three in his first frame of work. Wacha made one start at Yankee Stadium last season while with the New York Mets, and surrendered four runs in three innings for a no-decision.
Judge, LeMahieu Only Yanks Producing
Boone and the Yankees spent the last week down in Florida, first dropping two of three to the Rays and then falling twice in three games to the Toronto Blue Jays at their Spring Training site in Dunedin. They scored 23 runs in the six contests, not exactly living up to the Bronx Bombers nickname, and are just ahead of Tampa Bay averaging a flat 4.00 RPG. Combined with struggles by the back of the rotation, the Yankees’ 5-7 start has them off 5.67 units on the MLB odds.
New York’s MLB.com site lists Jordan Montgomery and Gerrit Cole as the starting pitchers for Games 2 and 3 of this series, so unless Boone is moving Montgomery (1-0, 3.27) up a day, Friday’s assignment is likely to go to Michael King (0-0, 0.00). The 25-year-old made his season debut two weeks ago in a long relief outing against the Blue Jays, and was outstanding with six innings of 1-hit baseball. King started one game against the Rays last season at Tropicana Field, and took the loss (3.2 IP, 3 ER, 5 BB).
Rivalry Trends, Big Apple Forecast & A Free Pick
Their meeting last weekend at Tropicana Field produced a pair of wins for the Rays as roughly +125 underdogs, while the Yankees’ lone win came as -140 favorites. The two contests with totals in the 8-8½ range both skipped past the marks while the matchup that closed with a 9½-run target fell short.
Tampa Bay won 10 of the 15 meetings a season ago, including taking the ALDS three games to two. The Rays have struggled historically in New York where the Yankees have won close to two out of every three played in the Bronx. In the eight matchups at Yankees Stadium last year, totals were split right down the middle (4-4 O/U.)
Cloudy, cool and possibly damp is tonight’s forecast for New York City. There’s a 20%-30% chance of showers just before game time, and whoever delivers the first pitch for the Yankees will do so with the thermometer around 50°F along with an 8-10 mph NW breeze (out to right). I’m fully expecting New York hitters to pound on Wacha, and will lean that way with a free MLB pick for this series opener.
Free MLB Pick: Lean Yankees in Advance of Lines