Saturday MLB Preview – Yankees at Rays

The Rays have a chance of evening the AL East race and capture their eighth straight win in the process.

New York Yankees at Tampa Bay Rays

New York has acquired Astros first baseman Lance Berkman for the playoff push, but it’s unclear if he will be available for tonight’s contest.  “That’s great,” said first baseman Mark Teixeira.  “It’s going to be good for the clubhouse.”  The Yankees may have started feeling the pressure of the race, as tonight’s opponent is just a game behind them.  The club still owns the best record in baseball, but dropped to 31-21 on the road this season with least night’s loss (+210).  New York has been a road underdog of +100 to +125 just seven times this season (+180), with the total being 4-3 O/U in those games.  The Bronx Bombers are an even 8-8 when playing on Saturdays (-520), while sporting a healthy 22-13 mark against the division (+440).  The Yankees are 4-5 versus the Rays this season, but have won 26 of the last 43 meetings.

Yankees starting pitcher Javier Vazquez is 9-7 with a 4.54 ERA in 19 appearances (18 starts) this season and has proven victorious in his last two outings.  In those starts, he has allowed seven runs and 14 hits in 12 innings of work, while receiving 13 runs of support.  The right-hander is 5-4 with a 4.34 ERA in 11 road starts this season, allowing opposing hitters to hit for a combined .215 average.  Vazquez has made four starts this month, posting a perfect 3-0 mark and 2.77 ERA.  In 13 lifetime outings versus the Rays, he is an even 5-5 with a 4.94 ERA, including a 3-3 record and 5.36 ERA in eight starts at Tropicana Field.  He dropped a 9-3 decision in his season opener in Tampa, allowing eight runs and eight hits over 5.2 innings.

Tampa Bay hasn’t won eight in a row since a 12-game winning streak in 2004, but have the chance to accomplish the feat tonight.  The Rays moved to 64-38 on the season with Friday night’s 3-2 win, as both sides played well.  “Both sides pitched well tonight.  Hughes was really good,” manage Joe Maddon said.  “That’s as good as I think I’ve ever seen him.”  The club has won 20 of its last 26 games since June 30 and are 11-1 at home this month.  Look for first baseman Carlos Pena to lead tonight’s offensive charge, as he’s hit more home runs (19) than any player against the Yankees since the start of the 2007 season.  The Rays are playing just their second game at home with a money line of -100 to -125 this season (-120).

Rays starting pitcher Matt Garza is 11-5 with a 4.06 ERA in 21 games (20 starts) this season and will be making his first appearance since tossing the franchise’s first no-hitter.  The right-hander is 6-2 with a 3.61 ERA in 11 home outings (10 starts), managing to strikeout 50 batters and issue 22 walks in 62.1 frames.  The Rays have won six of his last seven starts overall.  He is a perfect 2-0 with a 3.96 ERA in five outings this month, after going 4-1 with a 6.83 ERA in five July starts.  In nine career appearances (eight starts) against the Yankees, he stands at 1-3 with a 3.26 ERA, including a 0-1 mark and 2.08 ERA in four starts against them last year.

Bettors will find it hard to resist playing the Yankees with an 11-2 record on the road when the total is 8 to 8.5 this season (+900).  The Bronx Bombers are also a stout 18-7 in July with the total being an even 12-12 O/U in those contests.  Tampa is no slouch this month, compiling an outstanding 19-6 mark (+1,090), including a 9-2 record against winning opponents in that span.

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