MLB Match-up of the Day: Tampa Bay Rays at New York Yankees

The New York Yankees (71-46) and the Tampa Bay Rays (64-54) meet Saturday afternoon for Game 2 of a 3-game series at Yankee Stadium. Tampa Bay comes off an amazing 5 solo home run performance last night in a 5-1 defeat of C.C. Sabathia, handing the Yankee’s ace his second straight loss while Tampa’s David Price pitched an absolute gem going 8 innings of 6-hit ball, earning the Rays their 5th win in a row and building their confidence for Game 2 today.

Scheduled starting pitchers are Jeremy Hellickson (10-5, 3.07 ERA) and Phil Hughes (2-4, 7.11 ERA). The rookie Hellickson looks set up in a perfect position to issue the Yankees another loss today, coming off three straight victories and posting a solid last outing against New York, going 7 innings while allowing only 2 runs on 5 hits in a 3-2 win.

Hughes on the other hand is on the ropes with Yankee skipper Joe Girardi, as New York plans on going back to a 5-man starting rotation, with Hughes the first likely cut to be made. While Hughes has seen some improvement of late, going 6 innings in each of his last two outings with just one run allowed, overall opponents are hitting .329 against him, and he’s given up 30 runs over the 38 innings of work he’s put in this season (in comparison, Hellickson has given up just 44 runs in 130 innings of work this year). Hughes is 2-3 with a 4.55 ERA in 5 starts against Tampa Bay in his career.

Betting lines at Bodog Sportsbook for New York vs. Tampa Bay:

Phil Hughes and the New York Yankees are -152 favorites on the money line, while Jeremy Hellickson and the Tampa Bay Rays are +137 underdogs. The Yankees give up 1.5 runs at +125, with the Rays get +1.5 runs at -145. The over/under on today’s game stands at 9 1/2 runs.
Our Pick: With Phil Hughes sporting an 0-2 record at home with a 9.16 ERA in four starts this year, odds are not good that he fares any better than Yankees’ ace C.C. Sabathia did last night. With Tampa riding a hot streak and looking for a season-high 6th consecutive win, Hellickson and the +137 odds on Tampa Bay look to be a tasty option we’ll bite into at Bodog Sportsbook.

Players to Watch, New York:

Mark Teixeira, 1B – He’s been non-existent versus Tampa Bay this year, going 8 for 35 with only 1 RBI. Coming off a terrible week hitting .167 (4 for 24), with only 1 solo home run, Teixeira will need to be one to step up today if the Yankees want to prevail against the confident Tampa Bay pitching staff.

Brett Gardner, LF – Gardner has been as successful as anyone against Tampa Bay this year, posting a .379 average (11 for 29). He’ll be key to run scoring if he can continue hitting and getting on base in front of guys like Teixeira, Robinson Cano, and Curtis Granderson.

Players to Watch, Tampa Bay:

Evan Longoria, 3B – Longoria came alive yesterday going 2 for 5 with a home run. He’s hitting .321 over the past week with 3 homers and 8 RBIs, and could use another solid game against the Yankees to boost his mediocre stats against them this season (.243, 2 homers, 5 RBI).

Casey Kotchman, 1B – Dude is on FIRE right now. Hitting .439 (18 for 41) in August thus far, and going 2 for 4 last night with a home run, he’s got to be licking his chops for a chance to finally get at Hughes, who he’s yet to get a hit off of in his career (0 for 7).

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