New York Yankees -130 @ Tampa Bay Rays +120 (Total: 7)
C.C. Sabathia (14-4, 2.64) vs. James Shields (8-6, 2.60)
The Rays and Yankees saved their best for last in this four game series in the Bay, with both team’s sending their All-Star pitchers to the mound for the finale. Both may be All-Stars, however they have been heading in pretty opposite directions of late.
For the Yankees, CC Sabathia will be going for his eighth consecutive win and his league-leading 15th overall, while Rays hurler “Big Game” James Shields will try to snap a personal four game losing streak. The Rays certainly need him to rebound, and fast, because the AL East is quickly slipping a little too far into the rear view mirror. A loss tonight would leave them 8.5 back of the Red Sox and 7.5 back of the Yankees. I like a good underdog value wager, but I wouldn’t advise laying a dime on the Rays playing into October this season…
CC Sabathia is simply on fire. Pitching like a man who really wants that new contract offer this offseason, he has posted a skinny 1.68 ERA over his last seven starts and struck out 50 batters in just 39 2/3 innings. Shields on the other hand is just 3-10 with a 4.47 ERA against the Yankees, and he’s 1-5 with a 3.83 ERA in eight home outings in the series entering this rematch.
It all adds up to a pretty decent value pick to get the Yanks at just -130, and that’s where I’m heading tonight. You can play the under if you like; Sabathia has been a pretty safe bet, but Cano, Jeter and A-Rod all hit over .333 against Shields lifetime so a total of seven doesn’t seem so insurmountable. I’m playing the better odds and backing the Yanks.
Detroit Tigers -150 @ Minnesota Twins +140 (TOTAL: 7)
J. Verlander (12-5, 2.29) vs. C. Pavano (6-6, 4.08)
If it feels like Justin Verlander could throw a no-hitter every time he steps to the mound recently, there’s a reason why; he could. The hard throwing lefty has already recorded one this season and taken another into the seventh inning. His 2.29 ERA is second in the majors among starters and his 153 strikeouts and 0.90 WHIP are downright terrifying for opposing hitters.
Add in the fact that Verlander will have the added focus and incentive of rebounding from a rare tough outing, and it could spell a tough night at the dish for the Twins.
However, I think any of us who count out the Twins any season are bound for a heaping slice of humble pie; this year is just more of the same. Despite having the worst record in the league at the end of April, somehow, someway, through all the injuries and ailments, the Twins find themselves just four games behind Tigers and Indians for the AL Central lead.
The one thing that has been holding them back is their play against Detroit. Minnesota has lost 10 straight to the Tigers, their longest losing streak against them since moving to the Twin Cities in 1961. Ending a streak like that with Verlander on the hill is a pretty tall task – even for the logic-defying Twinkies.
I love Verlander tonight against the Twins, and have no objection to playing the -1.5 run line and getting even money (+100). My official play however is Detroit to WIN.