The New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays present us with an interesting opportunity tonight. These are two offenses that have the ability to score runs, although the former has significantly more ability than the latter.
We have an extremely low first-five total, though, with two elite arms on the mound. Shane McClanahan and Gerrit Cole will be facing off against the opposing offense for the third time this season.
Does the offense gain the edge now or will the pitchers continue to dominate?
He’s the best pitcher in baseball this season, and I’m not sure it’s overly close with Jacob deGrom yet to pitch. McClanahan boasts a 7-3 record with a 1.84 ERA through 13 starts. His ridiculous ERA is backed by an equally ridiculous 2.12 xFIP through 78.1 innings.
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He doesn’t offer free passes, posting a 5% walk rate this season. McClanahan has several ways to get out of trouble, though, including 35.2% strikeout and 48.3% ground ball rates. Overall, the left-handed Cy Young candidate enters this game with a .184 opponent batting average, 0.86 WHIP, and 1.15 HR/9.
McClanahan’s given up 3 or fewer earned runs in every start this season. He’s also held his opponents to 1 or fewer earned runs in eight of his 13 starts, including six of his last seven.
McClanahan is at his worst at home against right-handed batters, which initially suggests a problem against New York tonight. The Yankees are expected to utilize seven right-handed batters tonight.
McClanahan only owns a 2.38 xFIP in this specific situation, though. More importantly, his HR/9 dips to 1 in Tampa Bay, and I don’t expect New York to consistently find hits against them.
There’s no denying New York is one of the most dangerous offenses in MLB this season. They rank seventh in the league in OPS (.765) and second in ISO (.209). Those numbers dip to .721 and .191 on the road, but those are still well above average.
Simply put, I don’t believe this will matter. McClanahan has dominated New York twice this season, allowing 2 earned runs over 12 innings. Granted, the Yankees scored 5 total runs against him, although I’m not projecting unearned runs into this situation.
It wouldn’t be shocking if McClanahan throws another gem with 1 or fewer earned runs over the first five innings of this game.
On the other side, Gerrit Cole will take the mound. The popular opinion among MLB fans is that Cole’s been cooked since MLB banned any sticky substances for pitchers.
That isn’t the case, though. Cole enters this game with a 6-1 record and 3.33 ERA. He’s due for some positive regression, as he also boasts an elite 2.80 xFIP.
Similar to McClanahan, Cole doesn’t walk players (6.1% walk rate) all that often. He can also get strikeouts (30.6%) and ground balls (44.4%). He’s generally known for struggling with home runs, but that’s because it’s so difficult to score on him other ways.
Overall, he owns a 1.36 HR/9, which is bloated after a ridiculous 5-home-run game by the Minnesota Twins.
Cole’s allowed 3 or fewer earned runs in 11 of his 13 starts. He’s held his opponents to 1 or fewer earned runs in six of those 13 starts as well.
Cole has certainly a better pitcher at home, as his xFIP jumps to 3.40 on the road. With that being said, it ballooned from two starts, as he found success in his other road games.
A major key here is the handedness of the Tampa Bay batters. Cole boasts a 2.60 xFIP against right-handed batters this season. The Rays are currently projected to utilize six right-handed batters with the majority of their upside coming from that side of the plate.
Tampa Bay’s struggled against right-handed pitching this season, ranking 25th in the MLB in OPS (.662). They also rank 18th in the league in ISO (.145) against righties. Furthermore, the Rays have hit only 8 home runs over the last 14 days, which is one of the lowest totals in the league.
Cole’s held Tampa Bay to only 1 earned run over 12 innings this season. They don’t truly have the power or consistency to get to him, and he’ll benefit from throwing in an extremely pitcher-friendly stadium tonight.
Ultimately, I’m backing two of the best arms in the MLB here. If you want plus odds, you can grab under 2.5 F5 runs on FanDuel as an alt line.