Find predictions and odds for Saturday afternoon’s showdown between the 30-10 Tampa Bay Rays and 22-18 New York Yankees.
Despite drastically different starts to the season, the first few meetings between the AL East rival Yankees and Rays have been largely competitive with 4 out of the 5 being decided by just a run. Saturday will feature an excellent pitching matchup, so let’s dig into this huge early divisional clash, where my prediction is for under 8 runs to hit and the Rays to hit their -130 moneyline.
Rays Vs. Yankees Prediction
The early matchups between the first and last place teams in baseball’s toughest division have been filled with just about everything. Huge comebacks and collapses, offensive fireworks, pitching and defensive theatrics- it’s been excellent television, and has had the feel of competition that happens much later in the year than early May.
If Saturday’s game is half the clash Friday’s was, we’re in for a treat- and there’s no indication that these teams will do anything other than push the intensity even higher. Randy Arozarena kicked things off in the top of the first with yet another monster shot. After that, there were 5 more lead changes or ties, two of which happened in the eighth inning where the Rays rallied to take the lead and the Yanks answered right back with Anthony Rizzo’s second homer of the day.
Both of these teams can clearly hit, but there are two tough starting pitchers ready to go in the Bronx, both of whom are lefties interestingly enough. Tampa’s Shane McClanahan has been otherworldly to start the year, sporting an ERA of 1.76 and a wild 7-0 record, while Nestor Cortes started strong but has struggled of late. Still, I don’t think anyone’s underestimating the crafty journeyman at this point, and he will pose a serious challenge for Tampa’s top-tier offense.
Considering how close these games have been to start the year, I wouldn’t touch their run-line, but Tampa’s moneyline is excellent value. They may not be at home, but they do have the better starter and better lineup, which features enough lefties to take advantage of the infamous short porch, probably even more so than the Yanks’ own group.
For the run line, it’s a tough call as these games have featured a bunch of runs, but I’m going to put some faith in both starters to chew up innings and bridge the gap to the high-leverage relievers. This could be a real sweat, and even end up as a push, but I’m siding with the under in this one.
Rays Vs. Yankees Prediction: Rays ML (-130), u8 (-115)
Rays Vs. Yankees Odds
The Rays are -130 road favorites, while the Yanks are +110 to win. For a run scoring line of 8, the over is -105 while the under is -115.
Rays Vs. Yankees Key Matchups
Shane McClanahan Vs. Righty-Heavy Lineup
All year, really for the past several years, the Yankees lineup has been outrageously right-handed. This year, the only true lefty is Anthony Rizzo, who has some reverse splits, while there are switch-hitters mixed in but all are better from the right side.
McClanahan doesn’t really have platoon splits, but the Yanks do- as tough as the Rays’ southpaw can be, it’ll be interesting to see how the Bombers’ righty bats perform against him. The biggest name in that group is of course Aaron Judge, who hasn’t been up to his own lofty standard this year, but is obviously still extremely dangerous.
DJ LeMahieu is in the middle of a nice bounce-back season after a couple of tough ones in a row, as he finally looks healthy enough to contribute positively to the team. Gleyber Torres has been a bit up-and-down this year but he generally does very well against lefties and could be in for a big game.
Down the lineup, there’s x-factor bats like the electrifying Harrison Bader, who has been on fire since coming off of the IL a couple of weeks ago, and promising rookie Anthony Volpe, who cracked a homer and RBI single in Friday’s comeback, as he has begun to emerge from a rough patch. This isn’t the best Yankees offense in recent memory, but they still have a bunch of ways to score runs up and down the lineup.
Nestor Cortes Vs. Rays Power Hitters
Nestor isn’t afraid to pitch to contact, and it’s worked out pretty well for him in recent years- 2022 was his second straight year with an ERA under 3.00, he notched a WHIP under 1.00, and earned his first All-Star selection.
This year things aren’t going as well, as his ERA is approaching 5.00, and his HR/9 is up by 50%. Against a team like Tampa, that hits the ball well, often out of the park, the contact-heavy approach could be suboptimal. The Rays lead baseball in homers, batting average, OPS, and runs scored, just to name a few, and they lead some of those categories by a wide margin- they flat out destroy the ball.
Tampa has one player with 10 homers, one with 9, and two with 6, 7, and 8 as well; they’re not top-heavy, there’s threats all across the lineup. That being said, the man in the 3-spot continues to be the biggest threat. That’s Randy Arozarena, the owner of those 10 long balls. He specifically loves to hit against the Yankees, as he always seems to have a big swing or two whenever these two teams clash.
Fellow outfielder Josh Lowe has had the hottest start on the team, with an OPS north of 1.000 despite a low walk rate; he’s hitting the ball a ton, and doing so with some power. Yandy Diaz, Harold Ramirez, and Wander Franco join Lowe and Arozarena to comprise an incredible total of 5 Rays with an OPS above .925, and an average over .310.
Obviously this start isn’t sustainable; several, if not all of those hot-starters will fall off of their dramatic pace. Regardless, there’s boundless offensive talent in this lineup, and everyone is clicking right now. I believe in Nestor’s ability to get back on track, but Tampa’s lineup depth is the biggest reason I have them hitting that -130 moneyline in my Rays vs. Yankees Prediction.
Rays Vs. Yankees Starting Lineups
Rays Starting Lineup
1B Y. Diaz R
SS W. Franco S
LF R. Arozarena R
2B B. Lowe L
DH H. Ramirez R
3B I. Paredes R
RF J. Lowe L
C C. Bethancourt R
CF J. Siri R
Yankees Starting Lineup
DH G. Torres R
RF A. Judge R
1B A. Rizzo L
3B D. LeMahieu R
CF H. Bader R
LF I. Kiner-Falefa L
SS A. Volpe R
C J. Trevino R
2B O. Cabrera S