Although the New York Yankees (93-60) have all but wrapped up the American League East, the Tampa Bay Rays (85-68) are desperate to pick up wins today in the double header scheduled at Yankee Stadium, in the hopes of overcoming the Boston Red Sox in the race for the AL Wild Card. Sitting just two games back of the Sox entering today, Tampa Bay badly needs to pick up wins this afternoon and evening, but will get a tough challenge as the Yankees also seek to clinch a playoff berth with a win in either game. With two consecutive wins and a Boston loss tonight against Baltimore, the Rays could even the season series with New York at 7 games apiece, and move within a half game of the Wild Card race heading into the final 9 games of their season.
Tampa Bay’s hopes in the first game this afternoon look good from the get-go. James Shields (15-11, 2.78 ERA) seeks to help the Rays rebound from a tough 5-0 loss yesterday, whereby the Yankees distributed 14 hits while Ivan Nova blanked the Rays and earned the longest Yankees winning streak (12) since Rogers Clemens in 2001. Shields has a much better chance of victory tonight however, facing the shaky Phil Hughes (5-5, 6.00 ERA), who returns to the rotation after missing time due to back spasms. It’s still a question mark whether Hughes even starts today, so be prepared to see either Hector Noesi, Aaron Laffey or newcomer Dellin Betances making a start. Though he’s been pretty good in his last few starts, and had a solid outing August 13th against the Rays (6 innings, 2 earned runs, 9-2 win), it’s time for Shields to get some run support of his own after he’s pitched very well against New York with a 1.92 ERA in three starts but just a 1-2 record to show for it.
In the second game scheduled for this double header, the Rays run into a big, big problem with C.C. Sabathia (19-8, 3.01 ERA) taking the mound and looking for his 20th win on the season. He’s hoping that the third time’s the charm for 20 wins tonight, but should get a solid challenge as youngster Jeremy Hellickson (13-10, 2.91 ERA) has been outstanding this season though needs to improve against the Yankees (6 runs allowed in just 11 1/3 innings). Once again it may be up to the Tampa Bay bats to be on point today, as they’ve had plenty of success against Sabathia, pushing him to a 1-2 season record against the Rays while getting pounded with 6 home runs over 25 2/3 innings of work. Hellickson meanwhile will try to bounce back from his 4 1/3 inning, 4 runs allowed performance against Phil Hughes in August, when he was chased from the game early after surrendering 8 hits and a homer that knocked him out.
Betting Lines for New York vs. Tampa Bay Double Header:
Checking in to the TopBet Sportsbook (<a href=”http://www.casinoreview.org/sports_betting/topbet.html”>read the review of TopBet.com</a>), Game 1 of Wednesday’s double header, TopBet has the odds swinging in Tampa Bay’s favor, getting -140 odds to win behind James Shields against Hector Noesi (who TopBet seems assured will make the start in place of Hughes after all). The Yankees are a +120 underdog today against Shields, and with a 9 run over/under, the bookmakers appear to be giving plenty of leeway for the possibility of Tampa Bay jumping on a committee of Yankees youngsters today.
For the second game, the roles are reversed, as New York is the favorite to win behind C.C. Sabathia, who gives New York -185 odds while Tampa Bay is a +165 underdog. The conditions do seem ripe for Sabathia to earn his 20th win on his third attempt, at home against a Tampa pitcher who struggled in his last outing against them, but with such odds on New York, the best look for online sports betting here may be to take the Yankees to cover the points spread, posted at 1.5 runs at +105 odds.
Our Picks to Win:
In the first game, Shields has to be the hands down favorite, as he’s a true elite pitcher and is clutch when he needs to be. Against whatever the Yankees bullpen decides to throw his way, look for Shields to keep the runs down and squeeze out a win in Game 1, 4-2. The second game becomes a bit more of a toss-up, only because Sabathia hasn’t been able to get over the 20 game hump. If you pick an underdog in this double header, it might be worth shooting for Tampa with Hellickson on the mound, who’s likely to have a much better start this time around against New York, but we’re backing the Yankees as a more secure wager to win 7-4 in the evening game.
Players to Watch, New York:
Curtis Granderson, CF – No stranger to the PTW, Granderson is coming out of a cold streak (4-for-30), but enters this match-up going 7-for-12 with 2 homers and 8 RBIs in his last three games. While the Yankees line-up continues just simply putter along, look for Granderson to provide some pop in either or both of the two games today.
Derek Jeter, SS – While his overall production has been down, Jeter continues to get on base, as evidenced by his .296 season average, .300 for September, and .304 in the past week. He’s had good success against James Shields as well, hitting .311, but with no runs scored and only 1 homer and 5 RBIs in 61 at-bats against him, he’ll want to see some offensive numbers come into play to go along with his good hitting.
Players to Watch, Tampa Bay:
Evan Longoria, 3B – hitting .304 for September with 4 homers and 15 RBIs, Longoria’s production has come around just when needed most. He’s also 10-for-28 with 4 home runs against Sabathia, so look for him to especially stand out in Game 2 today.
B.J. Upton, CF – Upton is batting .340 in the past two weeks, and .308 for September. Getting Upton on the base paths today will be crucial to a Tampa Bay victory, as the speedy Upton can make things happen in the small-ball game.