NEW YORK YANKEES (97-62)
at TAMPA BAY RAYS (88-71)
First pitch: Monday, 7:05 p.m. EDT
Line: Tampa Bay -215, New York +195, Total: 8.5
The Rays remarkable September playoff push will come down to this three-game series against the division rival New York Yankees. Tampa was nine games back on September 4, and now finds itself one game back of the Wild Card-leading Red Sox with three games remaining.
The Yankees will send Hector Noesi (2-1, 4.14 ERA) to the mound on Monday night. Noesi made his first major-league start on Wednesday in which he threw 2.2 innings and allowed two runs on four hits. The youngster has appeared in four games against the Rays and holds an impressive 2.08 ERA against them. On the hill for the Rays is right-hander James Shields (15-12, 2.84 ERA). Despite Shields’ 1-3 record against the Yanks in 2011, he has been very effective, posting a 2.40 ERA and striking out 27 Yankees in 30 innings. Tampa has won 20 of its past 28 home games, and the Yankees are only 53-50 in night games. With the Yankees having nothing to play for and the Rays having everything in the world to play for, expect a solid start from James Shields and TAMPA BAY to get the home victory on Monday night.
The FoxSheets show another trend backing the Rays:
Home teams (TAMPA BAY) - AL team with a low on-base percentage (<=.320) against a team with a good bullpen (WHIP <=1.350), with a starting pitcher whose strikes out 5 or more batters per start. (145-80 over the last 5 seasons.) (64.4%, +47.5 units. Rating = 2*).
The young Dominican right-hander, Hector Noesi, has been a spot reliever all year, but will be asked to make his second start of his career on Monday night because Phil Hughes is still experiencing back problems. The Yankees have secured home field advantage through the ALCS and now will play the role of spoiler. With the division series opener beginning on Friday, it won’t be surprising if New York rests some of its key players. The Yankees have won six of eight and would love to keep that momentum going into the playoffs.
Shields will face the Yankees for his second consecutive start. He threw 7.1 innings on Wednesday, allowing four runs on six hits in a 4-2 loss to New York. Shields pitched well in the defeat, but was unable to get the run support he needed. The Rays have had their chances to overtake the Red Sox and finishing up against a Yankees team that has nothing to play for might be just what they need.