Yankees vs. Blue Jays Game 3
By: Willie Bee
Sometimes you master the knuckleball, and sometimes the knuckleball masters you. Or in the case of Saturday's matchup between the New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays, it works both ways.
RA Dickey certainly had control of his knuckler while the Yanks couldn't get anything going against the flutter pitch, and the result was a 4-0 Toronto win to even the weekend series north of the border. The AL East rivals will decide the set Sunday in a 1:07 PM (ET) contest at Rogers Centre that pits CC Sabathia for New York opposite Drew Hutchison on the hill for the Jays.
SBR's live MLB odds have been following the numbers since they first appeared, and the money line has swung from the Yankees being slight favorites to Toronto backers needing to lay -125 to -130. A 9 run total priced 20¢-30¢ on the low side awaits bettors.
Look To Square Records
After being blanked Saturday, the Yankees now sit near the bottom of the majors averaging less than three runs per game. Half of the 14 runs they've scored so far came in Friday's series-opening victory vs. the Blue Jays, and while it's still very early, offense has to be a big concern right now for manager Joe Girardi.
Sabathia is set for his second start of the campaign following an assignment in Houston on Opening Day. The slim-downed southpaw got off to a shaky beginning to that contest as the Astros plated four in the first and two more in the second on their way to a 6-2 triumph. Sabathia settled down to blank Houston the next four innings, but it was too deep a hole for New York bats to dig out.
He saw the Blue Jays once in 2013, tossing eight frames and allowing four runs (3 earned) in a 5-4 decision at Yankee Stadium. Sabathia's last trip to the mound in Toronto came late on the 2011 schedule, and he's 3-0 in four starts (New York 3-1) with a 2.40 ERA at Rogers Centre since joining the Yankees in 2009.
Long Ball Providing
Bulk Of Jays' Offense
Toronto's lineup isn't exactly on a tear either, with the Blue Jays' .640 OPS ranking 22nd in the major leagues. They are, however, managing to poke the ball over the fence with seven homers in six games, third behind the Giants (9) and Mariners (8).
Hutchison is taking aim at a 2-0 start to his season after earning the dubya last Tuesday in Tampa Bay. The righthander worked into the sixth without allowing a run, his first MLB victory since beating Boston in June 2012. Shortly after that decision, Hutchison underwent Tommy John surgery and missed most of 2013 before getting in some work in the minors the last two months of the season. He won a slot in John Gibbons' rotation with an excellent spring, posting a 19-4 K/BB ratio in 15 innings along with a 1.80 ERA.
I'm liking the 'under' for Sunday's series finale, so let's go that way with my free MLB pick.
My pick: Yankees-Blue Jays Under 9 (-120)
Season: 5-4 (-0.90)
Yankees vs. Blue Jays Game 2
By: Willie Bee
So, Michael Pineda will make his New York Yankees debut one day after Masahiro Tanaka made his? I've got to admit to never seeing that coming.
More than two years after being acquired by the Yankees in a trade from Seattle, Pineda will finally don the pinstripes and climb the hill for a regular season contest when New York's series with the Toronto Blue Jays continues. RA Dickey will flutter in the game's first pitch at 1:07 PM (ET), and the Jays are favored in the -115 to -120 range on the moneyline.
SBR's live MLB odds show an agreement among sports books with an 8 run total, the high side of that number costing baseball bettors a little extra.
Tanaka, Yanks Draw First Blood In Series
It was a somewhat inauspicious start to Tanaka's big league career Friday night when he served up a home run to the first MLB batter he faced. But the righthander settled down after that and got plenty of offense as the Yankees rolled to a 7-3 decision in the opener of this 3-game set. Jacoby Ellsbury and Ichiro Suzuki each had three hits for New York to pace the lineup.
The win was tempered by the loss of first baseman Mark Teixeira due to a hamstring injury. Teixeira is coming off a wrist injury that cut his 2013 campaign short, and his absence thins a New York infield even further after losing Robinson Cano to free agency and Alex Rodriguez to suspension in the offseason.
Pineda came to the Yankees in a January 2012 trade with Seattle, but has missed the two seasons since due to right shoulder surgery. He did manage to make it back last season for 10 rehab starts in the minors, then enjoyed a fine spring for the Yanks with four appearances -- 3 starts -- that produced a 1.20 ERA and 16-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 15 innings.
The big Dominican has faced the Blue Jays three times before despite only having the 2011 season under his belt. Seattle won two of his starts, but Pineda was knocked around in his only appearance under the Toronto dome (6.1 IP, 5 ER).
Blue Jays Turn To Dickey To Level Series
Toronto dropped to 2-3 on the season with Friday's setback, and while the season's still young, it's worth noting that their three losses have come by a combined 23-7 score. Dustin McGowan was ineffective Friday night in his first start since 2011, and the Blue Jays got just one quality start in the first turn through the rotation.
Dickey got the Opening Day nod from manager John Gibbons, and promptly laid an egg in TampaBay. The knuckleballer walked six and allowed six runs in five innings vs. the Rays, that performance coming on the heels of a 5.79 ERA during spring training.
There's nothing scary about New York's lineup at this point, but I still like Joe Girardi's gang as the underdog against Dickey. Add the Yanks to my free MLB pick list for Saturday.
My pick: Yankees +105
Season: 4-3 (+0.90)
Yankees vs. Blue Jays Game 1
By: Willie Bee
It cost the New York Yankees $20 million just to negotiate a contract with Japanese pitching sensation Masahiro Tanaka. Friday night in Toronto, they'll begin looking for some immediate return on their investment in the opener of a 3-game series against the Blue Jays.
Masahiro Tanaka grabs the marquee for this matchup at Rogers Centre set to begin at 7:07 PM (ET). Opposing Tanaka on the hill will be the oft-injured Dustin McGowan who is making his first start since late in the 2011 season.
Baseball betting numbers for the contest opened with the Yankees priced at -133 on the moneyline with the total at 8 runs. SBR's live MLB odds are now showing New York in the upper-130s to low-140s while the scoreboard tally has drifted up to 8.5 at many betting outlets.
The Yankees have dominated this series over the past three seasons, winning 36 of 55 encounters and going 14-5 vs. the Jays a year ago. Toronto did grab four of the final six meetings in 2013, all at home with four of those contests failing to reach the total along with a push.
Yanks Avoid Brooms In
New York (1-2, -2.0 units) began 2014 where last year left off, in Houston after the Yankees swept the beleaguered Astros to end the '13 schedule. The tables were almost turned this time, however, as Houston won the first two before New York picked up a 4-2 victory on Thursday.
Numerous storylines surround this year's version of the Bronx Bombers, beginning with Derek Jeter making his farewell tour along with Alex Rodriguez serving a full-season suspension for his role in the Biogenesis scandal. New York is currently the third choice on the MLB futures odds to win the AL East at 11/4, behind both Boston and Tampa Bay who check in around 5/2.
Tanaka's MLB debut comes after spending the previous seven seasons pitching in Japan for Rakuten, helping the Golden Eagles to the 2013 championship. The 25-year-old righthander won 99 games with a 2.30 ERA over the course of 1,315 innings, and punctuated his career with a perfect 24-0 record last season while posting a 1.27 ERA. Including his work in the playoffs, Tanaka was 30-0 in 2013, ending his career on that side of the Pacific with a string of 34 consecutive wins dating to the 2012 campaign.
Yankees signed him to a 7-year, $155 million contract in January, on top of the $20 million posting fee. Tanaka made five spring appearances, three of them starts, and posted a 2.14 ERA along with a 26/3 strikeout to walk ratio in 21 innings.
Jays Open 6-Game Homestand With Visit From Yanks
Toronto (2-2, +2.0) started the campaign by splitting a 4-game set in Tampa Bay, winning the two middle games while lopsided losses bookended the series. The Blue Jays finished in the cellar of the AL East last season, the only team in the group with a losing record, and are currently 6/1 to capture the division and return to the playoffs for the first time since winning back-to-back World Series titles in 1992-93.
Injuries have kept McGowan from ever realizing the potential that made him a 1st-round pick in 2000. He missed three full seasons (2009-10, 2012), along with portions of two more years, thanks to three surgeries on his right shoulder.
McGowan pitched out of the bullpen last season after spending the first two months of the schedule rehabbing from his most recent trip to the surgeon's table. He faced New York once in 2013, tossing a scoreless frame. His last starting assignment vs. the Yankees came in Sept. 2011 when he earned a no-decision in a 5-4 Blue Jays victory, working five innings and surrendering three of New York's runs. Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira and Brett Gardner are the only pinstripers remaining from that lineup.
Chilly and wet is the forecast for Toronto on Friday, with snow in the forecast for Saturday, so expect the roof to be shut the entire weekend. I also don't expect Toronto's bats to help warm the crowd up in the series opener, which is why I'm backing Tanaka with a free MLB pick.
My pick: Yankees -135Season: 3-3 (-0.10)