MLB Betting Odds: Yankees and Rays close set

By: Jimmy Sirody | Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Phil Hughes

Phil Hughes gets the call Wednesday in the series finale at Tampa Bay.

All summer the Tampa Bay Rays have kept the heat on the New York Yankees, never letting them get far enough ahead to feel comfortable. And now, suddenly, the Yankees are showing sings of cracking.

New York lost 1-0 in extras to the Rays Monday night in the series opener. The Yankees have relinquished their hold on the best record in baseball. They are a half-game back in the American League East. They have lost four in a row for the first time this season. They only have one win in the last eight games.

The wild card offers a safety net that takes all the urgency out of what would otherwise be a classic race between the two best teams in baseball. And Monday night was more proof as Joe Girardi tried to get by with Chad Gaudin and Sergio Mitre rather than his two top right-handed relievers, and Mitre gave up a homer in the 11th.

Tampa Bay closed as 120 MLB money line favorites on Monday, with the final staying well below the 7½-run 'total.'

The Yankees gave away a game their ace pitched too well to lose. The intrigue in this series, which end Wednesday night at Tropicana Field, is how New York responds to its first real slump of the season.

Unlike Monday’s classic pitcher’s duel between C.C. Sabathia and David Price, arguably the two best pitchers in the American League, the series finale matches two hurlers struggling to regain their mojo.

The Yankees return Phil Hughes (16-7, 4.26) to the rotation after they skipped his last start, partly because the young right-hander was nearing a limit on his innings during the regular season and partly because he has been ineffective.

Hughes was an All-Star in the first half of the season, but is only 5-5 with a 5.37 ERA since the break.

Hughes has pitched well on the road, winning six of nine decisions with a 3.32 ERA while allowing just three homers in 62 1/3 innings. He has faced the Rays just once this season on July 30 in St. Pete, coming up on the short end of a 3-2 score despite allowing just four hits in six innings and whiffing six.

Rays manager Joe Maddon and pitching coach Jim Hickey spent part of Saturday morning behind closed doors with James Shields (13-12, 4.98), talking about getting the right-hander back on track.

Shields has allowed 32 homers in 180 2/3 innings pitched, ranking first in the AL and second in MLB (Rodrigo Lopez, 33) this season.

The Rays are 3-10 in Shields’ last 13 starts against the Yankees and 1-5 in his last six home starts against the defending champs. However he has fared well against New York this year in four previous starts, posting a 2-0 record and a 2.77 ERA and limiting the Yankees to a .206 batting average.

New York is 6-2 in Hughes’ last eight road starts versus teams on the plus side of the ledger.

Despite Monday’s low-scoring duel the teams have jumped the number in 10 of the past 13 meetings.

Lance Barksdale will be calling the balls and strikes Wednesday. The Yankees are 3-10 in their last 13 games with Barksdale behind the plate and the home team is 7-1.

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