Rays vs Yankees Picks and Predictions: Southpaw Showdown Means Plenty of Fireworks in the Bronx

New York is in the drivers' seat for an AL Wild Card spot, but there's still work to do in tonight's series opener vs. the Rays. Tampa won't roll over, but it has nothing left to achieve right now, so the Yankees' desperation has us backing them tonight.

Last Updated: Oct 1, 2021 10:24 AM ET Read Time: 4 min
Aaron Judge Giancarlo Stanton New York Yankees MLB
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We’re playing baseball in October! The New York Yankees are already eliminated from winning the AL East but still have lots to play for over the weekend going against the actual AL East Champions in the Tampa Bay Rays.

The Yankees are two games clear of the first AL Wild Card spot with three more games to play. MLB betting odds have the Yankees as the favorite to clinch that first spot — and host the AL Wild Card game next week.

However, their work isn’t over: They likely need to win at least one game in Yankee Stadium this week before being able to celebrate a playoff spot.

Here are our best free Rays vs. Yankees MLB picks and predictions for Friday, October 1.

Rays vs Yankees odds

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Rays vs Yankees picks

Picks made on 10/1/2021 at 9:38 a.m. ET.
Click on each pick to jump to the full analysis.

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Rays vs Yankees game info

Location: Yankee Stadium, New York, NY
Date: Friday, October 1, 2021
Time: 7:05 p.m. ET

Rays vs Yankees betting preview

Starting pitchers

Shane McClanahan (10-6, 3.44 ERA): The Rays electric rookie is your typical five innings, one-run type of pitcher. He’ll go deeper at times, but with the Rays already locking up a divisional title, they’ll be careful with their prized southpaw. He’s allowed just two runs through his last 15 innings (three starts) and despite being inconsistent with his strikeouts, McClanahan has put away stuff and can keep any lineup off guard.

Nestor Cortes Jr. (2-2, 2.85 ERA): In many ways, Cortes has been the Yankees' savior. The 26-year-old lefty has found a spot in the rotation after being an afterthought to start the season. In his last two outings, he hasn’t been able to go a full five innings but he’s going to rack up some strikeouts every single time he’s sent out to the mound. He also does a great job of keeping the Yankees in games — Cortes allowed more than three runs in an outing just once this season.


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Key injuries

Rays: Nick Anderson RP (Out), Yandy Diaz 3B (Day-to-Day).
Yankees: D.J. LeMahieu 2B (Day-to-Day), Joey Gallo OF (Day-to-Day), Luke Voit 1B (Out).
Find our latest MLB injury reports.

Betting trend to know

Yankees are 4-0 in Nestor Cortes Jr.'s last four starts when it's Game 1 of a series. Find more MLB betting trends for Rays vs. Yankees.

Rays vs Yankees predictions

There’s something about Nestor Cortes opening a series as a starter. The Yankees are 4-0 when he takes the ball for the first game of a series — and he’s on the mound tonight in this series opener against the Rays.

Cortes has a 4.18 xFIP on the season, but over the last 30 days has struck out 32.1 percent of batters while walking just 5.7 percent of opposing hitters. Cortes doesn’t allow much hard contact either (31.8 percent rate) and has a 56.1-percent fly-ball rate.

The lefty has also been solid against righty-stacked lineups: In his last 94 plate appearances against righties, Cortes has allowed a .247 ISO but just a wOBA of .313. He’s not going to induce a high amount of grounders and a ball might get hit over the fence, but he’s been very solid at locating pitches and eating innings.

His solid success is important as the Rays will likely have at least six righties in the lineup tonight. Overall, there’s power in the Tampa Bay lineup and the Rays have some guys that have found success in limited appearances against him: The Rays roster collectively has a .992 OPS against Cortes in 42 at-bats, including home runs from Nelson Cruz, Yandy Diaz, and Brandon Lowe.

Meanwhile, Shane McClanahan will take the mound for the Rays. He’s been slightly better when it comes to xFIP, with a 3.94 mark in the last 30 days. However, McClanahan is giving up a 32.6 percent line-drive rate with 45.7 percent hard contact. The Yankees have a lineup filled with right-handed bats that have plenty of power, with Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton tearing the cover off the ball right now.

McClanahan has faced the Yankees twice this season, giving up seven earned runs on 14 hits across 9 1-3 innings. That includes a home run from Gio Urshela and six additional extra-base hits.

Tampa Bay isn't going to roll over in this game (or this series). But New York has more to play for and with a relatively even matchup otherwise, that added desperation is enough for us to lean with the home team tonight.

The Rays have close to a 1.000 OPS against Cortes while the Yankees an OPS north of 1.100 against McClanahan. Despite both of these pitchers having success this season, these lineups have found a way to scratch some runs across against them.

That should continue to be the case in this one. The Yankees bats are extremely hot with plenty of home run potential going up against McClanahan, who is allowing a lot of hard contact, plenty of line drives, and also facing an incredibly righty-heavy Yankees lineup.

Meanwhile, Cortes is also a southpaw that will be dealing with mostly righty sluggers as well. He's been solid all season but he has struggled when it comes to allowing power against righties — don’t be surprised to see Cortes give up a couple long balls as well.

We're expecting one team to plate at least 5-6 runs in this game, while the other team should score at least four. Give me the Over 8.5 in this matchup — and if you’re looking for souvenirs, be sure to head out to the Yankee Stadium bleachers.

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