Sunday MLB Preview – Yankees at Rays

The first two games of the series have been decided by a single run, as the teams are separated by two games in the AL East pennant race.

New York Yankees at Tampa Bay Rays

New York pushed its divisional lead to two games with Saturday’s 5-4 road victory over the Rays at Tropicana Field.  Both games in the series have been decided by a single run, with Tampa winning 3-2 on Friday night.  “It feels like a playoff,” said second baseman Robinson Cano.  “The fans get excited when they get an out and they’re in every pitch.”  Newly acquired Lance Berkman went 0-for-4 in his debut with the Bronx Bombers, as he got his first taste of a pennant race this year.  “It was definitely sore of a playoff-type atmosphere,” said Berkman.  The Yankees own the best record in baseball at 66-37 (+760) and the total is 52-47 O/U in all games.  The lines maker has placed them as a road favorite of -125 to -150 this afternoon, with the team tallying a 10-6 record in that situation in 2010 (+210) and compiling a 31-28 mark the last three years (-720).

Yankees starting pitcher C.C. Sabathia is 13-4 with a 3.15 ERA in 22 starts this season and is coming off a rare loss last time out.  He fell 4-1 in defeat in Cleveland, allowing four runs (two earned) and nine hits over seven innings.  The left-hander is 6-4 with a 3.56 ERA in 12 road starts this season.  In 17 career starts against the Rays, Sabathia is 8-3 with a 3.03 ERA, including leading the team to a 5-4 home win on July 16.  He failed to earn a decision in that outing, giving up four runs (three earned) and eight hits over seven innings.  In 10 daytime outings this year, he stands at 5-2 with a 3.18 ERA, allowing opponents to hit for a .196 combined average.

Tampa Bay dropped the second game of this series and another loss today would give the team back-to-back defeats for the first time since June 27 and 29.  The Rays had won seven straight and finished the month with a 19-7 record, which tied the Yankees for the major’s best mark in July.  “From our perspective, we’re good right now,” said manager Joe Maddon.  The season series is evened up at five games apiece and the club is 25-14 against divisional opponents overall (+940).  Tampa Bay is 9-7 when playing on Sunday in 2010 and 32-40 on this day the last three seasons (-2,020).  The bullpen has played a critical role in the Rays’ success this year, currently ranking third in the majors with a 3.18 ERA, behind only the Padres (2.68) and Twins (3.15).

Rays starting pitcher James Shields is an even 9-9 with a 4.79 ERA in 22 outings (21 starts) this season, picking up back-to-back victories in his last two appearances.  In those starts, he has allowed six runs and 17 hits in 13 innings of work against the Orioles and Tigers.  The right-hander is a disappointing 2-5 with a 5.29 ERA in 10 home starts, surrendering 12 home runs in 63 innings of work.  This afternoon will be his eighth daytime start, posting a 2-3 record and 4.91 ERA, while walking just eight batters and striking out 31 in 44 frames.  In 12 lifetime outings against the Yankees, Shields brings a 2-7 record and 5.45 ERA.  He faced off against the Bronx Bombers at Yankee Stadium three starts back, giving up three runs on four hits in six innings in a 5-4 loss.

Bettors will definitely be aware that the Yankees are 34-22 the last three years in August (+340), but the Rays are even more impressive with a 36-19 mark during the same span (+1,160).

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