The New York Yankees went into the final weekend of the regular season with a two-game cushion in the AL Wild Card race and needing one win to lock up a spot in the postseason prologue.
After dropping the first two to the Tampa Bay Rays, the Yankees are trying to not only avoid a sweep... but also avoid having to play in a game 163 and/or 164.
The Bronx Bombers are heavy MLB betting favorites today, but they've lost the first two games in that position — will Sunday mark three straight gut-wrenching failures?
Here are our best free MLB picks and predictions for Rays vs. Yankees on Sunday, October 3, with first pitch scheduled for 3:05 p.m. ET.
Rays vs Yankees odds
Odds via the Covers Line, an average comprised of odds from multiple sportsbooks.
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Rays vs Yankees picks
Picks made on 10/3/2021 at 11:21 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 City, NY
• Date: Sunday, October 3, 2021
• Time: 3:05 p.m. ET
• TV: Bally Sports Sun, YES
Rays vs Yankees betting preview
Michael Wacha (3-5, 5.26 ERA): It's been an up-and-down season for the Wacha, but the veteran righty has been rounding into form down the stretch. Wacha has given up two or fewer earned runs in five of his last six appearances and is fresh off of throwing five no-hit innings against Houston. Wacha has pitched 16 2-3 innings against the Yankees this season (four appearances) and has given up just eight hits with 23 strikeouts and a 2.16 ERA.
Jameson Taillon (8-6, 4.40 ERA): Taillon's comeback season hit a high point in July, when he was named the AL Pitcher of the Month, but he struggled mightily in August and then hit the IL in early September with a partially torn tendon in his ankle. The 29-year-old righty returned on September 28 but lasted just 2 1-3 innings against the Blue Jays before departing after reaggravating that ankle ailment — so it's hard to say how well (or how long) Taillon will pitch.
Be sure to monitor the gametime conditions with our MLB weather info.
Rays: Nick Anderson RP (Out).
Yankees: DJ LeMahieu 2B (Day-to-Day), Luke Voit 1B (Out).
Find our latest MLB injury reports.
Betting trend to know
The Rays are 7-2 in their last nine games in New York. Find more MLB betting trends for Rays vs. Yankees.
Rays vs Yankees predictions
Tampa Bay ML (+115)
The good news for the Yankees is regardless of how today's games unfold, there will be at least one more game for the Pinstripes.
That's about the only good thing, however, as this weekend has been nothing short of a disaster for New York. It held a two-game lead on the first Wild Card spot entering Friday's action but now are back in the thick mud of this postseason picture, courtesy of some lackluster losses through the first two games of this series.
The Yankees faced lefty starters on Friday and Saturday — which the team normally feasts on — and came up empty. They managed one run through eight innings Friday (not even getting a runner to second base in the 2nd through 8th innings) before falling short with a 9th-inning rally in a 4-3 defeat, while yesterday's failure was a 12-2 clowning where Jordan Montgomery was bad from the get-go and forced manager Aaron Boone to burn through a number of bullpen pieces... including key long relievers Lucas Luetge and Michael King.
That's especially damning considering today's starter, Jameson Taillon, is battling a partially torn ankle tendon that raises serious questions about how many innings he can log and how effective he can even be today — if he only lasts 2-3 innings (like he did when he removed himself after seven outs in his last start), Boone will be forced to send some of his lesser arms to the mound against the Rays.
The Rays officially had nothing to play for in this series... but fueled by the desire to continue its torment of the Yankees and an undying motivation to make their rivals' season as difficult as possible, Tampa Bay has attacked with a deep lineup — where anyone is capable of both a clutch bloop single or a soul-crushing home run — and its signature plethora of fireballing relievers to assert its dominance over New York and remind everyone why it has the AL's best record at 100-61.
The Rays lead the AL in runs scored and are sending out a righty in Michael Wacha who's pitching his best baseball of the season right now. And after him comes that seemingly endless barrage of untouchable relievers. And this team is getting plus money against a wonky-ankled Jameson Taillon?
Sign us up.
Over 9 (-105)
Our first reaction was to think this game goes Under, as we're not banking on the Yankees piling up runs on Wacha and the bullpen boys, nor do we see Tampa Bay hanging a terribly crooked number on New York's revitalized bullpen.
But here's the thing: Boone needs to get through five or six innings to use his best bullpen arms — which is a tall ask today, with Taillon such a question mark and Boone's two biggest bridge arms likely limited, if available at all.
And with the Yankees guaranteed another baseball game — be it the Wild Card Game or Game 163 — it's a safe bet that if this game gets out of reach, Boone will save his best bullets for a true do-or-die game and play out today's contest with the dregs of the bullpen, further weakening NY's run-prevention prowess.
It's hard to see the Rays not plating at least 4-5 runs, which means the Yankees either need to match that to win (sending us Over) or are trailing big and throw out some scrubs, which means more runs for the Rays.
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