MLB Odds and Predictions: Yankees at Rays Series Odds and Picks
by Alan Matthews - 4/5/2012
There are only two series on baseball’s opening weekend that feature matchups of 2011 playoff teams: Yankees at Rays and Cardinals at Brewers. But the Yanks and Rays appear much more likely to return to the postseason than perhaps the Cards and Brewers, who lost Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, respectively. Although, to be fair, the AL East is way stronger than the NL Central, so maybe it’s a crapshoot – plus that extra Wild Card in each league changes things. But regardless, let’s take a look at the Yankees-Rays series.
New York and Tampa Bay have alternated AL East titles since 2008, with the Yankees winning the division by six games over the Rays a season ago. Of course, Tampa Bay was the beneficiary of that epic Boston collapse last September as the Rays won the wild card on the season’s final night when Evan Longoria hit a walk-off home run against the Yankees – the Rays swept New York in that final series -- literally within seconds of the Red Sox gagging in Baltimore. It had to be the best single day in baseball history when you also include Atlanta losing a late lead against the Phillies and the Cardinals stealing the NL Wild Card from the Braves that same night.
Yankees at Rays Betting Story Lines
Tampa Bay will be far from whole for this series. Kyle Farnsworth became the latest closer in MLB to go down injured as he has elbow soreness. An MRI showed only a strain but he’s going to miss some time (not on the DL as of this writing, but that’s expected to be a formality). Farnsworth saved 25 games in 31 chances last season with a 2.18 ERA. He also experienced some elbow trouble last September and missed the ALDS loss to Texas.
Until Farnsworth is able to return, it will be closer-by-committee with Fernando Rodney, Joel Peralta and possibly J. P. Howell likely sharing the duties. It’s possible that starter Wade Davis, who lost out in the battle for the No. 5 spot in the rotation to Jeff Niemann, could be converted to closer quickly. I would guess Rodney would be the guy most nights – he saved 37 games for the Tigers in 2009. Peralta was 4-for-4 in saves last year when Farnsworth went down.
The Rays also will start the season without center fielder B.J. Upton (23 homers and 36 steals last year), fellow outfielder Sam Fuld (more of a platoon guy) and backup catcher Robinson Chirinos. Upton would like to return some time during the Rays’ first road trip, which begins April 10 and ends April 19.
Tampa Bay’s only real competition in camp other than for that No. 5 spot in the rotation was at shortstop, where Sean Rodriguez won the job. The Rays also have two new faces in the lineup in first baseman Carlos Pena, Tampa Bay’s all-time homers leader who spent one season with the Cubs, and DH Luke Scott. The Rays finished last in homers a year ago but should improve on that with Pena and Scott replacing Casey Kotchman and Johnny Damon, respectively.
New York is projected at Bovada to lead the American League in wins just as it did a season ago. The Yanks’ stellar offense is essentially the same, with the only new face being DH Raul Ibanez, who will platoon with Andruw Jones – the left-handed hitting Ibanez will play against righty starters. The Yanks’ big offseason moves were in the rotation, trading for Michael Pineda (for young stud catcher/DH prospect Jesus Montero, and his loss necessitated the need for Ibanez) and signing former Dodgers right-handed starter Hiroki Kuroda. Pineda, however, will start the season on the DL with tendinits in his right shoulder. That has to make New York nervous.
Yankees at Rays Probable Starting Pitchers
Friday: Yankees LHP CC Sabathia vs. Rays RHP James Shields – Couldn’t ask for a better matchup as Sabathia finished fourth in the AL Cy Young voting a season ago and Shields was third. Sabathia is always good for a ton of innings, 3.50 ERA or lower, and around 20 wins. He came to camp lighter after fading down the stretch in 2011 (4.06 ERA in final 10 starts). Shields blew up last year with a 2.82 ERA and a whopping 11 complete games, the most in the majors by far. Sabathia was 1-2 with a 2.51 ERA vs. Tampa Bay in four starts last year. Shields was 2-3 with a 2.33 ERA in five starts vs. the Yanks.
Saturday: Yankees RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. Rays LHP David Price – Kuroda makes his Yankee debut after a season in which he established career highs in wins, ERA, starts, innings, and strikeouts with the Dodgers. He didn’t face Tampa Bay last season. Price finished second in the AL Cy Young in 2010 and wasn’t quite as good last year, going 12-13 with a 3.49 ERA. But he’s among the Cy Young favorites in 2012. Price was 1-1 with a 5.22 ERA in five starts vs. New York last season.
Sunday: Yankees RHP Phil Hughes vs. Rays RHP Jeremy Hellickson -- Hughes, who was plagued by injuries last year, had to win his spot in the rotation this spring and will need to pitch well to keep it once Pineda gets back and whenever Andy Pettitte is ready (probably not until May). Hughes pitched 8.2 innings vs. Tampa Bay last year (one start, two relief appearances), allowing two runs and five hits. Hellickson was the 2011 AL Rookie of the Year after going 13-10 with a 2.95 ERA. He was 1-1 with a 4.07 ERA in four starts vs. New York.
Yankees at Rays Betting Odds and Trends
Tampa Bay will open as the -120 favorite on the series line, with the Yanks at -110. For Friday’s opener, New York is a -130 favorite with the total at seven runs. Bovada offered a season series line with the Yanks as -140 favorites – the teams split 18 meetings in 2011.
The ‘under’ is 5-0 in Shields’ last five starts against the Yankees. The under is 4-0 in Sabathia’s past four starts vs. Tampa Bay. The under was 9-3 in the final 12 meetings overall between these teams last year. New York is 0-4 in its past four games at Tropicana Field.
Yankees at Rays Betting Predictions and Picks
I love the Yankees to win this series, especially with Tampa Bay missing Upton. I think Shields’ 2011 season was a bit of a mirage and New York takes Game 1. Tampa Bay certainly will be favored in Game 2 behind Price, but the Yanks hit him hard last year. Plus, the Rays won’t have seen Kuroda before. I have little faith in Hughes for the finale, so I could see the Rays avoiding a sweep on Sunday.
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