New York Yankees vs. Tampa Bay Rays Preview and Pick – Mussina vs. Garza

New York Yankees (73-64) +105, 8 1/2 at Tampa Bay Rays (84-51), 7:10 pm Eastern Tuesday
by Zman of

The New York Yankees continue their fight to keep that long string of playoff appearances alive when they begin a three-game series with the amazin’ Tampa Bay Rays Tuesday night in St. Petersburg.

Oddsmaker is listing the Rays and starting pitcher Matt Garza (11-7, 3.53, 1.23 WHIP) as 115 home favorites for Tuesday’s game, with a total of 8 1/2, while the Yankees and Mike Mussina (16-7, 3.41, 1.20) are getting +105 as road underdogs.

Yanks had to stop in Detroit on their way down to Tampa for a Monday make-up game with the Tigers. And New York made the trip worthwhile with a 13-9 win over the Kitties.

Meanwhile, Tampa just swept three games from Baltimore over the weekend, outscoring the O’s 34-16. The Rays have now won five games in a row, and 10 straight series!

Going into Tuesday’s play, New York is in third place in the AL East, 12 games back of first-place Tampa, which owns a 5-game cushion over the second-place Boston Red Sox.

And the Yanks sit seven games back of the first-place Sox in the AL wild-card race.

New York is 33-33 on the road this year, 13-19 as underdogs, and 58-78 vs. the run line.

Meanwhile, TB is a ML-best 52-19 at home this season, 61-27 as favorites, and 71-64 vs. the run line.

The Yankees have taken seven of 12 games from the Rays so far this season, with the totals going 2-10, as the games have averaged just 7.3 total runs per.

Over his last three starts, including a good showing vs. Boston last Thursday, Mussina has allowed nine ER and 22 baserunners (hits + walks) in 19 IP. New York is 19-9 in Mussina’s starts this year, the totals 11-17.

Mussina has started four games vs. the Rays the last two seasons, giving up 11 ER and 32 BR in 23 IP. The Yanks won three of those games, with the totals going 2-2.

Over his last three starts, including a scoreless 7 2/3 innings vs. Toronto last Wednesday, Garza has given up four ER and 24 BR in 23 1/3 IP. Tampa is 13-12 in Garza’s starts this year, the totals 9-16.

Garza, whose ERA is two runs lower at home than on the road this season, has started once this year vs. the Yankees, holding them scoreless on six hits through seven innings of a 7-1 Tampa win back in May.

Offensively, New York ranks 7th in the majors this season in team BA at .274, 5th in team OBP at .344 , 11th in team slugging at .427, and is averaging 4.8 runs per game.

Tampa ranks 19th in batting at .261, 10th in OBP at .339, 13th in slugging at .422, and is averaging 4.7 RPG.

Over the last five games, the NY bullpen has allowed four ER and 19 BR in 16 2/3 IP.

Over its’ last five games, the TB pen has given up eight ER and 16 BR in 14 2/3 IP.

On the injury/personnel front, TB has continued to play great ball even without OF Carl Crawford, 3B Evan Longoria and closer Troy Percival, who are all still on the DL with various ailments.

The totals are 58-75 in Yanks games this year, 58-75 in Rays games, and 31-39 in games played at Tropicana Field, which are averaging 8.35 total runs this season, 5th-fewest among all ML ballparks.

Zman’s Pick: I like the Yanks in this spot!