The New York Yankees (55-52) are in a tailspin while the Tampa Bay Rays (66-44) are going for a big road sweep as these two teams lock up one more time on Wednesday night in the Bronx. First pitch of the series finale from Yankee Stadium is set for 7:05 p.m. ET. It’ll be a battle of AL Cy Young contenders on the mound, as lefty Shane McClanahan (11-1, 3.00 ERA) goes for Tampa against New York ace Gerrit Cole (9-2, 2.64).
After a miserable July, Tampa Bay made a move for Guardians righty Aaron Civale at the trade deadline and has now won three in a row as the calendar flips to August. They retain a stranglehold on the top AL Wild Card spot, three back in the loss column of the Baltimore Orioles atop the AL East. The Rays will continue their road trip with a weekend set in Detroit against the Tigers.
The Yankees are fading fast, still just three games back of the Toronto Blue Jays for the third and final AL Wild Card spot but losers of three in a row and without any deadline reinforcements. The schedule won’t get any easier from here, as New York welcomes the Houston Astros to town for a four-game set to close the week.
The Yankees enter as narrow -120 favorites on the moneyline at DraftKings Sportsbook, with the Rays at +100. The run total is set at 7.5.
Rays-Yankees picks: Wednesday, August 2
Out: INF Taylor Walls (left oblique strain), C Francisco Mejia (left knee MCL sprain), RP Josh Fleming (left elbow inflammation), RP Andrew Kittredge (Tommy John surgery)
Out: 3B Josh Donaldson (calf), C Jose Trevino (wrist), SP Nestor Cortes (shoulder), SP Frankie Montas (shoulder), RP Jonathan Loaisiga (elbow), RP Luis Gil (elbow)
Shane McClanahan vs. Gerrit Cole
McClanahan was among the very best pitchers in baseball over the season’s first half, but he’s struggled of late, with a 6.65 ERA and 1.52 WHIP over his last five starts. Don’t worry, though: The lefty’s stuff is still as nasty as ever — he still earned a whopping 17 whiffs in his last outing — and he shouldn’t keep leaving breaking balls over the heart of the plate for long. It is worth noting that he struggled in his only outing against the Yankees this year, giving up four runs on five hits and four walks in four innings.
Cole has been just about the only thing going right for New York of late. The righty appears to be barreling toward his first-ever AL Cy Young award, with five straight quality starts in the month of July — including seven shutout innings on the road against the Baltimore Orioles his last time out. (In a game that the Yankees eventually lost, 1-0, because of course.) He may not be the dominant strikeout artist he was at his peak with the Astros, but the 32-year-old is as sturdy as they come.
The first two totals of this series were 6 and 7, respectively, and that was without a matchup of Cy Young contenders on the mound. The Yankees’ offense is in a very bad place right now, with Aaron Judge clearly gutting it out despite not being near 100%, and while they got to McClanahan back in June, the lefty should dominate on Wednesday if he finds his typical command. With Cole as good a bet to allow three or fewer runs as there is in the sport, I’m backing the under again.
Cole was sensational last time out, only for the Yankees to go scoreless through 10 innings and eventually lose on a walk-off homer. There’s just no way that this New York offense should be even a narrow favorite against a pitcher as good as McClanahan, and the Tampa offense is finally showing some signs of life after a rough July.