Tampa Bay Rays’ Austin Meadows rounds third after hitting home run in the seventh inning of a baseball game against the Miami Marlins, Friday, April 2, 2021, in Miami. (AP Photo/Gaston De Cardenas)
- The New York Yankees (5-7) welcome the Tampa Bay Rays (5-8) to the Bronx for the first game of a three-game series Friday (April 16th, 7:05 pm ET)
- Nick Nelson will open with Michael King relieving, while Michael Wacha seeks his first victory in a Tampa uniform in the first game of a five-game homestand for the Pinstripes
- Read below for a preview and betting prediction for the game
The New York Yankees will try to even their season record to 2-2 against the struggling Tampa Bay Rays Friday as the Pinstripes welcome their AL East division foes into the Bronx. The three-game set begins Friday with a pitching matchup featuring new Ray Michael Wacha and Nick Nelson for the home team.
Rays vs Yankees Odds
|Team||Moneyline||Runline||Total at FanDuel|
|Tampa Bay Rays||+130||+1.5 (-150)||Over 9.5 (-107)|
|New York Yankees||-152||-1.5 (+123)||Under 9.5 )-114)|
Odds as of April 16th.
The defending AL champions have lost eight of 11 following a 2-0 start and were defeated 6-4 in 10 innings by the Rangers Thursday. Kevin Cash’s club went 3-for-13 with runners in scoring position and stranded 12 runners overall against Texas. Meantime, New York got a pair of home runs from Aaron Judge Wednesday in its last game, but lost 5-4 to Toronto in walk-off fashion thanks to Bo Bichette’s second long ball of the game. Aaron Boone’s club has now lost three of its first four series played in 2021. Nevertheless, Judge and Co. enter as slight favorites against Tampa in the Rays vs. Yankees odds.
The Pinstripes will face former Cardinal hurler Michael Wacha in the series opener. The 29-year-old, who went 1-4 with the Mets last season over seven starts, owns an 0-1 career mark against the Yankees in three starts with a 5.85 ERA in 20 innings and 22 strikeouts.
Simply put, Boone’s club has been disappointing out of the gate. Judge has been solid, leading the team with a .308 batting average to go along with club-high four home runs and seven runs batted in. But fellow slugger Giancarlo Stanton has limped out of the gate, delivering just two extra-base hits in 43 plate appearances. Then, there’s the starting pitching.
After Gerrit Cole, the Yankee rotation has a combined 1-4 record, allowing 28 runs and 48 hits over 36.2 innings in nine outings. Cole is 2-0 in three starts, giving up three runs and 12 hits in 18.1 innings. He goes Sunday.
Now, Nelson gets the start Friday.
Rays’ Career Stats vs Nelson
World Series Hangover?
Whatever momentum Cash’s club hoped to carry into the 2021 season off the Rays’ Fall Classic appearance appears to have evaporated.
Both Willy Adames (.195) and Yoshi Tsutsugo (.154) got a mental health day due to cold starts Thursday. Meanwhile, veteran outfielder Kevin Kiermaier has yet to play a game while nursing a left quadriceps strain. Breakout star Randy Arozarena has been decent — posting a .265 batting average with a pair of home runs and five runs batted in. But he’s only slugging .408 and is nowhere near the type of player he was last October — when he was a postseason revelation.
Maybe facing the combination of Nelson, who is slated to open the game, then King will serve this Rays’ lineup well.
The 25-year-old has appeared in three games this season, going all of four innings and posted a 9.00 ERA. He’s faced the Rays four times in his career, striking out five over four innings. King has fared much better in 2021, going six innings of long relief, allowing only one hit against the Blue Jays on April 4.
The Rays have scored only 50 runs in 13 games — and judging by what the Yankees have been able to do against Wacha over his career, all Nelson and King (and the rest of Boone’s pen) need to do is keep it close.
Yankees’ Career Stats vs Wacha
As noted above, Judge has carried the Bronx Bombers’ offense early on. But his .308/.386/.615 slash line hasn’t translated to a much team success. That could all very well change this weekend.
DJ LeMahieu has raked Wacha to the tune of a .462 batting over in 13 career at-bats against the veteran pitcher. And three batters that could appear in New York’s lineup Friday — none of them named Judge or Stanton — have taken Wacha deep in their career. That list includes Clint Frazier, who has launched a three-run jack against the Rays starter in two career ABs against him.
With Boone having several options in his lineup and pitching deployment in the first game of this series, I’m fading Tampa in this spot.
The pick: Yankees ML (-152)
Blair Johnson is a veteran journalist and seasoned sports content creator. He has been writing and producing content as long as he can remember, with such familiar names as CNN, NFL Media and Yahoo. Blair currently lives and works in the greater Los Angeles area.