The July 31st trade deadline is fast approaching and that means we are just about half way through the 2010 Major League Baseball season. It’s been a week of mixed emotions starting with the passing of admired public address announcer Bob Sheppard, followed by the shocking news that baseball’s most verbose owner George Steinbrenner, died after suffering a heart attack in his Tampa home on the morning of the 81st All-Star Game. But in the tradition of baseball the game carried on and fans, players and owners celebrated as the National League recorded its first All-Star win since 1996.
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Despite being a somber All-Star week for the New York Yankees, the boys in pinstripes will carry on returning to Yankee Stadium to host division rival the Tampa Bay Devils for a three-game set the opens on Friday night in the Bronx.
Fans and critics alike can agree on one thing, Steinbrenner expected perfection, and that’s what he got as the dynasty he created currently have the best record in the majors, continuing their dominance in the AL East.
The Yankees (56-32) concluded their West Coast trip with a 6-1 record, giving them 13 wins in their last 17 road games.
The defending 2009 World Series champions will attempt to continue that excellence on strong starting pitching including Friday’s starter CC Sabathia (12-3, 3.09). As the first half came to a close the lefty might very well be the best starting pitcher in the AL. He has posted his eighth straight victory Sunday at Seattle, allowing one run on six hits with one walk and one strikeout in seven innings. That win made him the first Yankee to win eight straight starts since Roger Clemens in the 2001 season. After a slow start he has brought the heat giving him a good chance of competing for this year’s AL CY Young award. He is 1-2 with a 4.35 ERA in five starts against the Rays since joining the Yankees.
Although the passing of Steinbrenner eclipses the game, Tampa Bay (54-34) will show no sympathy as they try to claw their way back atop the division, as they currently trail New York by two games.
They are 3-2 against the Yanks, sweeping two road games May 19-20. The Rays have won seven of eight overall, and are 10-1 on the road against AL East foes.
James Shields (7-9, 4.87) will try to improve his 2-7 record in 11 career starts against the Yankees as he toes the rubber in the series opener. The right-hander has two career starts against the New York this year, and is 1-0 with a 3.55 ERA with 12 strikeouts in 12 2/3 innings.
The odds makers have the Yankees as –1-½ – favorites with a run total of 8 ½.
Yankees vs Rays Picks – Even thought the Rays are playing well and have the edge in previous meetings this season. I think the emotion of Yankees Stadium and the dynamic pitching arm of Sabathia will carry the Bronx Bombers to a befitting victory and the UNDER.
Meanwhile over in the National League, while they’re still celebrating this weeks All-Star win that will give the NL home field advantage in the World Series for the first time since 2001, the Florida Marlins are still trying to figure out if its a buyer or seller at baseball’s trade looming trade deadline.
The Marlins have struggled with attendance, but will l likely see a boost in ticket sales with Stephen Strasburg scheduled to start.
The Marlins will be are seeking their first win at home in nearly a month when they square off against the rookie phenom in the opener of a three-game series against the Washington Nationals on Friday night at Sun Life Stadium.
Florida (42-46) hasn’t won in Miami since beating Tampa Bay on June 20. They are coming off a 10-day road trip that started with a three-game series in Puerto Rico before finishing with a 2-0 victory over the Diamondbacks on Sunday. The Fish are 7-6 during that stretch.
Friday’s contest will be the first of a 10 game home stand for the Marlins who have played DC twice this season taking two of three at home and then dropping two of three one week a later at Nationals Park.
Washington (39-50) entered the All-Star break losers of three of four, falling to San Francisco 6-2 on Sunday. The club continues to struggle and is currently 11 games under .500, 14 games back of NL East leaders Atlanta and 10 games out of a wild card spot.
But despite their dreadful record, Nationals’ fans have been energized by rookie pitching sensation, Stephen Strasburg (3-2, 2.32), who for the most part, as lived up to the hype.
The baseball faithful thought they had witnessed the second coming as the hard-throwing right-hander clipped off two wins in his first two major league starts, but won for the first time in five decisions after, during Friday’s 8-1 victory over the Giants. The 21-year-old allowed one run and three hits with eight strikeouts in six innings for his first victory since June 13. This will be Strasburg’s first start against the Marlins.
In quest of winning five straight in as many starts for the first time in his career, will be the dangerous Ricky Nolasco (9-6, 4.55) who has posted a 3.54 ERA during his winning streak while striking out 34 over 28 innings. It looks like he’s finally starting to turn things around after putting up ERAs higher than five in both May and June. If Nolasco can out-duel Strasburg on Friday, he might become one of the most fearsome arms in baseball in the second half. He is 6-1 in his previous nine starts against Washington.
The odds makers have the Nationals as –1-½ – favorites with a run total of 7.
The Nationals’ Adam Dunn is 10 for 20 with five home runs and 10 RBIs in his last five games, but has struggled against Nolasco going 3 for 17 lifetime. Hanley Ramirez, who participated in this year’s home run derby, is second in HR’s for the Marlins including four in six appearances against the Nationals this season.
Nationals vs Marlins Picks – Despite having Stasburg on the mound, I just don’t think DC can scratch across enough runs against Nolasco to get the win. Take the Fish and the UNDER.