Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:58 AM
Thursday's Best Bet
Thursday' MLB July 4 Best Bets
New York Yankees at Tampa Bay Rays, 5:10 p.m. ET
Happy 4th of July to all the MLB bettors out there as this holiday is always a great one to spend with family, friends and possibly some fireworks (in a safe fashion), while consuming a full day's worth of MLB action as well. It's not quite a full slate of July 4th games as it has been in the past, as there are a few teams in the rare position of having Thursday off, but the first game in the nation's capital gets going at 11:05 am EST, with the Padres and Dodgers ending the day with a 9:10 pm EST first pitch.
There are 10 other games in-between those two, but it's Game 1 of a four-game set for 1st place in the AL East that may arguably the most 'meaningful' game of the slate. The New York Yankees head down south to take on Tampa Bay this weekend with a 6.5-game lead in the AL East, and winning this series over the weekend could end up being what ultimately decides the division. You've got to figure that the Yankees with a 8+ game lead in the division will be extremely hard to catch in the division, given they are likely only going to get healthier as the season goes on.
Tampa has to realize that, and after coughing up a game late to Baltimore in what is always a bad loss, the Rays find themselves needing to push aside holiday thoughts and treat this final weekend series before the All-Star break as if it were early September and they absolutely needed this series.
So which team gets to celebrate July 4th win a win in their pocket?
MLB Odds: New York (-113) vs Tampa Bay (+103); Total set at 9
New York already took a big step ahead in the division race in the middle of June when they swept the Rays in New York, outscoring Tampa 21-4 in the three games. That series as basically utter domination by the Bronx Bombers, as they enter this weekend with a 7-2 SU edge in the season series. That difference is basically the difference between the teams in the standings right now, as it's all about getting over this hurdle that is the New York Yankees for this Tampa squad right now.
Seeing a four-game winning streak get snapped because you give up six runs in the 9th inning of a 3-3 game against Baltimore on Wednesday night was a tough pill to swallow for Tampa, and you can't help but wonder if they did get a caught looking ahead a little bit to this series. There is an argument to be made out there that this four-game set is potentially the Rays season in terms of competing for a division crown or simply being another Wild Card chaser, and for a team that's 13 games over .500, that's a tough realization to come to on July 4th.
Yet, the message defensively will be just as stern this time around, as they can't go around giving up easy yards and points like they did and expect to win too many games. But if we can use last year as any indication, we should expect the Riders defense to step up from here on out, because last season's visit to Ottawa in Week 2 was the only time all year Saskatchewan allowed more then 34 points against. Welcoming a Toronto team that looked awful last week for the home opener is a great situation for this Riders defense to get back on track, and it's hard to believe that they won't be able to to some degree.
Typically I like to take the approach of looking for supporting reasons behind backing a team that gets caught looking ahead to a big game/series when that contest finally arrives, but with the Yankees dominance over Tampa this year it's tough to find that supporting evidence. The Rays have been outscored by 27 runs total in their nine games with New York this year, and at an average of losing by three runs per game, it's hard to firmly get behind the Rays here. That -3/game run differential for Tampa isn't all conceptual either, as five of the seven Yankees wins in this season series have come by at least three runs, with three of the remaining four contests all being decided by a single run.
All of that stress on Tampa eventually takes it's toll, as they've got to scratch and claw just to make it close games with the Yankees it seems, and that's when you know and feel as an athlete that that player/team just simply has your number. I'm not saying that's the case with this Yankees/Rays rivalry this year, but if New York ends up dominating this series as well, you've got to figure that's what it will feel like when these two teams meet in their post All-Star break series.
So until Tampa can show me something against this Yankees squad, at a cheap price like a -115 road favorite, I believe you've got to lay it. New York is 6-1 SU in J.A Happ's last seven starts on the road, and put him against a division rival anywhere and it generally ends up as New York is 7-0 SU in Happ's last seven starts against AL East foes.
New York's bats are over the fatigue of the London excursion by now, and with the Rays just 1-5 SU in their last six series openers – the one win coming against Baltimore – we could very well see this game have that big brother beating up on little brother once again feel to it.
Best Bet: Yankees -113