This week’s series between the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays is going to be highly consequential. With the Boston Red Sox in first place in the AL East with a 22-14 record, the Yankees and Rays are tied for second place and are only three games behind. That is part of the reason why Tuesday night’s game is nationally televised.
Despite being in second place, the Yankees are -112 favorites to win the AL East on DraftKings. The Rays have the second highest odds of +500. Despite winning the American league last season, and having a 40-20 regular season record, the betting markets do not respect the Devil Rays.
Each team has a different strength. The Rays have strong pitchers, but a weak lineup. The Yankees have a strong lineup, and unreliable starting pitchers outside of Gerrit Cole. The question for this week’s series is if having a better lineup is more important than having a better pitching staff.
New York Yankees vs. Tampa Bay Rays
● Yankees: Jordan Montgomery (1-1, 4.41 ERA)
● Rays: Luis Patino (1-0, 1.17 ERA)
In Tuesday’s game, it appears that Tampa Bay is relying on the opener strategy. For the opener strategy, a team uses a relief pitcher to start the game and then they pull that pitcher after only two to three innings. Opener teams than rely on their bullpen for the rest of the game.
There are many benefits to the opener system. When using an opener, opposing teams cannot prepare in advance as well. When a starting pitcher normally pitches, batters face that pitcher two to three times a game. When a lineup faces a team employing the opener strategy, they typically face a pitcher only once. The only downside to the opener strategy, is that some of the relievers may not be that good.
In Patino’s lone start this season, he pitched for only 2 2/3 innings. In his other relief appearances, Patino pitched for between two and three innings. Theoretically Patino could pitch for most of the game as his last appearance was a week ago but based on the Rays tendencies, I am doubtful.
Currently the Rays bullpen has an xFIP of 4.31 which is slightly higher than the median bullpen. Over the course of a full season the Tampa bullpen should have a lower xFIP, but they will have a tough time against a Yankees lineup that has been playing well recently. While New York’s lineup is averaging only 4.06 runs per game, over the course of a full season they should average 4.8 runs per game as every Yankees player is above-average offensively.
Opposing Patino and the Rays pitching staff is Jordan Montgomery for the Yankees. As a starting pitcher Montgomery is relatively unremarkable but he is not awful. This season Montgomery has a 4.41 ERA and a 3.97 xFIP. Additionally, he has a low strikeout rate and only averages around 5 1/3 innings per start. While Montgomery is not too noteworthy as a pitcher, the Yankees have the best bullpen in the league and the Rays should have trouble producing runs.
The Yankees should be slightly favored to beat the Rays on the road and the odds reflect that. Additionally, the Tampa lineup will have trouble against New York and that is why the total has been efficiently set. However, the team totals for the Yankees have been set too low based on their lineup being underestimated.
Even with the Yankees lineup struggling in the first few weeks of the season, they are still averaging 4.06 runs per game. With the Bronx Bombers expected to improve, betting on over 3.5 runs at -145 on DraftKings or over four runs at -106 on FanDuel are great bets to make. I believe that there is more value on over four runs for the Yankees team total and that is why I am recommending that bet over the other team total over option.
MLB Pick: New York Yankees Team Total Over 4 Runs -106 (FanDuel)