The Yankees and the Rays kick off their final series of the season on Friday night at Tampa’s Tropicana Field. It should be an old-fashioned pitcher’s duel with Gerrit Cole taking the mound for the Yankees against the Rays’ Zach Eflin.
With Cole on the mound, the Yankees are the betting favorites on the road with -142 moneyline odds, while the over/under is set at a meager 7 runs. The prediction here is that the Rays win and the over hits.
Yankees vs. Rays Prediction
Starting pitchers: RHP Gerrit Cole (10-4, 3.03 ERA) vs. RHP Zach Eflin (13-7, 3.58 ERA)
Gerrit Cole and Zach Eflin have been two of the very best pitchers in baseball this season.
Cole is currently 4th in ERA while Eflin is 23rd, but Eflin has the superior FIP at 3.17 (7th) and xFIP at 3.27 (5th) compared to Cole’s 3.44 FIP (12th) and 3.73 xFIP (21st). Both pitchers are in the top 7 in WHIP, with Eflin 2nd at 1.03 and Cole 7th at 1.07.
Both pitchers are also in the top 7 in wOBA allowed, with Cole 4th at .274 and Eflin 7th at .279. (wOBA, or weighted on-base average, is an advanced catch-all statistic that measures the value each of offensive outcome rather than treating all hits or times on base as equal).
Any way you slice it, both Cole and Eflin have been mostly dominant this season, which is why the total in this game is set so low at 7 runs. Cole is the bigger name with the longer track record, but Eflin has arguably been better this season.
Cole has faced the Rays three times this season, with his most recent outing on August 2 being his best – 2 earned runs on 4 hits with 8 strikeouts over 7 innings. In back-to-back starts against Tampa in May, he pitched 5 innings each time and allowed 6 runs (5 earned) then 2 runs.
Eflin has faced the Rays twice this season and also had his better performance most recently, when he pitched 6 shutout innings on August 1 and allowed just 3 hits and no walks. Back in May he pitched 6 innings and allowed 4 earned runs on 7 hits, including 2 home runs.
One big advantage the Rays have in this marquee pitching matchup is the Yankees’ struggles against righties. The Bronx Bombers have been anything but that against righties this season, as they are 27th in wOBA at .298 with no signs of improvement (.283 so far in August).
The Rays are not only much better against righties, but they have been the better team offensively all season and that has not changed recently. They have remained a top 10 offense in both runs and wOBA since the All-Star break, while the Yankees have remained one of the worst teams offensively.
Those are all good reasons to pick the Rays in this game, but that doesn’t even consider that they are home underdogs. Take the +120 moneyline odds on Tampa tonight and don’t think twice about it.
With these two pitchers on the mound, the natural inclination is to bet the under. But the line is so low at 7 runs that we have to take the over at -118 odds.
Yankees vs. Rays Prediction: Rays moneyline (+120), over 7 runs (-118)
Note: all metrics above taken before Thursday’s games
Yankees vs. Rays Odds
The Yankees are the betting favorites on the road with -142 moneyline odds, while the Rays are at +120 on the moneyline.
The Yankees are laying -1.5 runs on the spread at +136 odds, while the Rays are getting +1.5 runs at -162 odds.
The over/under in this game is set at 7 runs with -118 odds on the over and -104 odds on the under.
Yankees vs. Rays Key Matchups
Here are the key matchups that could decide Yankees vs. Rays.
Gerrit Cole vs. Yandy Díaz and Harold Ramírez
The Rays’ superior offense was one of the main reasons we took the Rays’ moneyline our Yankees vs. Rays prediction.
With Wander Franco still on administrative leave, the Rays’ two best hitters are Yandy Díaz and Harold Ramírez. They also happen to be the two hitters with the best career numbers against Gerrit Cole. Díaz is 13-for-41 (.317) lifetime against Cole while Ramírez is 6-for-11 (.545).
If Cole can limit the damage from these two big bats at the top of the Rays’ order, that will go a long way towards a potential Yankees victory.
With such a good starting pitching matchup, this game could come down to which bullpen is able to close things out late in the game. The Yankees have the edge in that department.
New York leads all of MLB in bullpen ERA at 3.20 and also has the best wOBA allowed at .290. They haven’t been quite as dominant in the second half, but they are still one of the best relief staffs in the league.
Tampa’s bullpen has been about average this season, ranking 15th in ERA at 3.99. Since the All-Star break that number is up to 4.55 (19th).
If both teams struggle to get much going offensively against these two starting pitchers, then one team will need to break through against a bullpen arm. That could be a recipe for the Yankees to pull off a W.
Yankees vs. Rays Starting Lineups (Projected)
Yankees Starting Lineup
2B Gleyber Torres (R)
RF Aaron Judge (R)
DH Giancarlo Stanton (R)
3B DJ LeMahieu (R)
1B Jake Bauers (L)
CF Harrison Bader (R)
LF Isiah Kiner-Falefa (R)
SS Anthony Volpe (R)
C Kyle Higashioka (R)
Rays Starting Lineup
1B Yandy Díaz (R)
2B Brandon Lowe (L)
LF Randy Arozarena (R)
DH Harold Ramírez (R)
CF Luke Raley (L)
3B Isaac Paredes (R)
RF Josh Lowe (R)
SS Osleivis Basabe (R)
C Christian Bethancourt (R)