The New York Yankees have rolled through most of the 2020 campaign, but their toughest adversary to date pays a visit on Tuesday, the AL East rival Tampa Bay Rays.
These two disparate franchises shouldn't be on the same competitive plane, yet the Rays (14-9) have found a way to hang with the historic Yankees (16-6) while sharing a division with Boston, too. Can Tampa be just the second team to win in Yankee Stadium this year?
Keep reading for more in abe Insights' preview, where you'll find analysis of the primary lines, the best odds across the major sportsbooks, advanced stats and more to aid your betting game plan.
Date: Tuesday, August 18
Time: 7 p.m. ET
Implied Probabilities: Rays 54%; Yankees 48%
Spread: TB -1.5 (+160); NYY +1.5 (-160)
Moneyline: TB -120; NYY +110
Tampa Bay will send Blake Snell to the mound to face the Bronx Bombers, while the home team trots out Masahiro Tanaka as Tuesday's starting pitcher. Both Snell (2.08 ERA in four starts) and Tanaka (2.31 ERA in three starts) have been brilliant, which should make for a tightly contested affair.
Injuries unfortunately continue to plague Yankees superstars Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, who are on the IL with calf and hamstring injuries respectively. Stanton played only 18 games in 2019, and Judge missed 54, so it's a discouraging trend for the Pinstripes.
11.8 vs. 10.4: The Rays' batters rank second in percentage of walks drawn, whereas New York takes more of a risk-reward philosophy to the plate, ranking 10th in walk percentage. This could result in Tampa Bay manufacturing runs more easily than the Yanks due to the latter's key absences.
.358 vs. .334: Although Tampa Bay also ranks in the top five in weighted on-base average, no one is better than the Yanks in this category. However, not having dynamic hitters like Judge and Stanton in the lineup is going to hurt the hosts' cause.
4.19 vs. 3.57: New York's relievers have the 12th-best total in Expected Fielding Independent Pitching, which is the first figure here. However, the Rays bullpen is even better, ranking fourth in MLB. How pitchers fare in later innings could swing this ball game.
Yankees reliever Zack Britton spoke to ESPN.com's Marly Rivera about how key his unit and that of the Rays will be key in this three-game series:
"A lot is decided by what bullpen's going to be sharper that day...Just the quality of the arms that they're running out there you from top to bottom. A lot of different arm angles too, but just high-quality arms and very similar to our bullpen."
Britton enters Tuesday's tilt leading MLB with eight saves, as he filled the closer role while typical door slammer Aroldis Chapman was recovering from COVID-19. Tanaka and Snell should provide quality starts, so it's up to Britton and Co. to keep New York close, which is easier said than done.
The last time these clubs met was August 7 through 9, and the Rays clearly got the better of it, claiming the series 3-1. To show how close these teams are, though — and just how vital middle- and late-relief figure to be — those victories came by a combined four runs.
Nevertheless, a win is a win, and Tampa has been rolling of late, going 9-2 in its last 11. Since its underwhelming performance versus the Rays, New York has been able to get off the mat in impressive fashion, however, and is in the midst of six consecutive wins.
More often it's the Yanks who have superior star power, but without Judge and Stanton, and given how the last series went, New York has a chip on its shoulder. Or, the Rays could use that notion as motivation to cling to their underdog identity, despite being slight favorites, and beat the Yankees yet again to move within 1.5 games of the division lead.
TeamRankings.com shows the Rays and Yankees rank sixth and ninth among MLB's most frequent in hitting the Over. Hard to argue with those trends and numbers, which are easier to take at face value with this sample size due to the truncated season.
In addition to the betting majority placing wagers to reflect this being a high-scoring affair, the Pinstripes' popularity, near-perfect 10-1 record at Yankee Stadium and depth should push more bets on the Yanks' moneyline and spread.
Note: Odds current as of 10:45 a.m. ET on Tuesday, August 18.
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