Every time it looks like we're ready to call the time of death on the New York Yankees season, they find a way to fight back and still show a faint sign of a pulse.
That happened last night when the Yanks followed an ugly four-game series against Boston by winning the opener of a three-game road series against the Tampa Bay Rays.
New York will look to make it back-to-back wins at the Trop, but it will need to do so as the MLB betting underdog tonight.
Here are our best free MLB picks and predictions for Yankees vs. Rays on Wednesday, July 28, with first pitch set for 7:10 p.m. ET.
Yankees vs Rays game info
• Location: Tropicana Field, Tampa Bay, FL
• Date: Wednesday, July 28, 2021
• Time: 7:10 p.m. ET
• TV: ESPN
Yankees vs Rays odds
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Yankees vs Rays betting preview
Nestor Cortes Jr. (0-0. 1.95 ERA): The 26-year-old lefty has been efficient for New York since joining the bullpen in a bulk reliever role at the end of May, logging 34 strikeouts and a 1.01 WHIP in 27 2-3 innings across 10 appearances. Cortes is coming off his worst outing yet, giving up three runs on three hits (and his first HR allowed) in two innings against Boston, but that was his first appearance since coming off the IL — and prior to his injury, he had allowed one earned run in 17 1-3 innings.
Michael Wacha (2-2, 5.16 ERA): The good news is Wacha's ERA has improved by almost 1.5 runs compared to last year. The bad news is the 30-year-old righty was so bad last year that his "improvement" is still an ERA north of 5.00 and he's pitched at least five innings just three times in his last 12 appearances. The veteran predominantly uses a four-seam fastball and a cutter — which opponents are both hitting better than .300 against — along with a slightly more effective changeup, but it's been a struggle for Wacha this year, who has given up multiple home runs in three of his last four outings.
Be sure to monitor the gametime conditions with our MLB weather info.
Yankees: Miguel Andujar OF (Out), Clint Frazier OF (Out), Aaron Hicks OF (Out), Luke Voit 1B (Out), Chris Gittens 1B (Out).
Rays: Nick Anderson RP (Out).
Find our latest MLB injury reports.
Betting trend to know
The Yankees are 10-21 in the last 31 games against Tampa Bay. Find more MLB betting trends for Yankees vs. Rays.
Everybody say it together now: BULLPEN GAME!
That's what today's AL East matchup is shaping up to look like... but for different reasons between the two clubs.
Cortes has been solid for New York in a handful of appearances and spot-starts this year, but he's only pitched more than four innings once so far this year. The Yankees came away with a 4-3 win last night but had to expend all their high-leverage bullpen bullets, as Chad Green, Jonathan Loaisiga, Zack Britton, and Aroldis Chapman all pitched an inning.
Considering the Yanks had an off day on Monday, it's possible they could all pitch again on back-to-back days, but it's more likely that manager Aaron Boone uses one or two of them tonight. That means New York will have to reach deeper into a bullpen that has a 4.98 ERA and is tied for the most blown saves in the AL since June 1.
On the Tampa side, we expect this to be a bullpen game not because Wacha isn't capable of going five or six innings, but rather because we just don't see him lasting that long without getting shelled. The veteran righty has been downright dreadful recently, giving up 13 earned runs in his last 18 innings (four appearances) — including eight home runs. Eight dingers. In 18 innings. Woof.
The good news for the Rays is that once Wacha is out, New York will have to battle a deep bullpen full of fireballers that has the second-best ERA, third-fewest home runs allowed and most strikeouts among all relieving corps over the past two months.
Basically, the Yankees will score some runs against Wacha, then it will be a struggle for the third-worst offense in the AL. The Rays might not jump all over Cortes, but he won't last long and New York's bullpen is ripe for the plundering. That's enough for us to back the home team tonight.
PREDICTION: Rays (-130)
Last night's 4-3 game finished Under the 7.5 total, but that was with Jordan Montgomery and Shane McClanahan on the mound. Montgomery went five shutout innings before the bullpen (surprise!) coughed up some runs, while McClanahan gave up three runs before the Rays' bullpen surrendered just one hit (albeit it was a solo dinger) over three frames.
We're expecting a similar script tonight... just more extreme. New York would be over the moon if Cortes went five innings, but even if he does, getting through those frames unscathed is highly unlikely. And if the Yanks' bullpen struggled with their four best relievers, what's going to happen when they use the second (and third) tier arms over a longer stretch?
As for Wacha, well, we mentioned that he's been living in Taterville the last month or so, and he's facing a Yankees team that, for all its faults, does like to hit home runs and recently got back star hitters Gio Urshela and Aaron Judge.
The total for this game is just slightly higher than last night at 8.5, but considering the pitching is significantly worse, there's no way we can't go Over this number.
PREDICTION: Over 8.5 (-110)
Yankees vs Rays betting card
- Rays ML (-130)
- Over 8.5 (-110)
Picks made on 7/28/2021 at 10:43 a.m. ET
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