NEW YORK YANKEES (76-58)
at TAMPA BAY RAYS (74-61)
First pitch: Tuesday, 7:10 p.m. EDT
Line: Tampa Bay -125, New York +115, Total: 8½
With three teams separated by 2½ games in the AL East, the Rays will try to inch closer to the Yankees on Tuesday, one day beating them 4-3.
The first-place Yankees enter this game with significant questions in their lineup as Robinson Cano (hip) is questionable for action while Mark Teixeira remains sidelined with a calf injury. Alex Cobb takes the hill for the Rays to battle the depleted New York lineup, sporting a 4.39 ERA, 1.32 WHIP and 8-8 record in 2012. He is much better at home, however, where he has a 3.44 ERA. Cobb has also been the beneficiary of strong run support lately, with the Rays winning his past six starts, a span in which he has a 3.38 ERA. He faces Freddy Garcia, who has not made it out of the fifth inning in his past two starts, giving him a 5.66 ERA and 1.48 WHIP as a starter in 2012. And the Rays are surprisingly small favorites here, considering their domination of the Yankees at home this season (6-1) and their 17-8 mark (.680) over the past three seasons. Take TAMPA BAY to win this one.
This rare four-star FoxSheets trend favors the Rays:
Play On - All favorites with a money line of -125 to -175 (TAMPA BAY) - hot hitting team - batting .333 or better over their last 3 games, in September games. (56-13 over the last 5 seasons.) (81.2%, +37.2 units. Rating = 4*).
With Cano and Teixeira all possibly out, the Yankees will need Alex Rodriguez to step up, returning for action in the first game of the series after missing over a month. While Garcia has struggled mightily in 2012, he will be happy to see the Rays, against whom he is 2-1 with a 1.89 ERA in his past three starts. In his career, he owns a 9-2 mark (team 11-6) versus Tampa Bay with a 3.33 ERA and 1.18 WHIP. Considering he averages just 5.1 innings per start this year, a lot of this game will fall on the Yankees bullpen that has an impressive 2.96 road ERA this year.
Cobb has started against the Yankees twice in his career, pitching respectably each time for a 3.46 ERA and 1.00 WHIP despite the Rays not pulling out either one of those games. Like Garcia, Cobb also does not go deep into games, averaging 5.8 innings per start. However, the Tampa Bay bullpen has been absolutely filthy at home with a 2.18 ERA and 0.98 WHIP, converting on 23 of 27 (85%) save opportunities. On the season, they have 43 saves. And with the Rays the winner of three straight, Cobb will be riding a hot team against a weak lineup. The Yankees, on the other hand, have lost four of their past five contests, shrinking their division lead over Baltimore to just one game.