The battle for this seasons’ AL East Division title kicks-off this Friday night when the New York Yankees open their 2012 regular season campaign against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. The first pitch is scheduled for 3:10 p.m. (ET) and the game will be broadcast nationally on the MLB Network.
Last season, New York won the division by a comfortable six games over the Rays but fully understands how important each and every game against them this season will be. The AL East is probably the most competitive division in MLB, so a fast start out of the gate could be crucial to the Yankees’ chances this year.
For the fourth year in-a-row, New York will look to C.C. Sabathia to help provide this fast start. The hard-throwing left-hander finished the 2011 season with an ERA of 3.00 and a 1.23 WHIP on his way to a 19-8 record in 33 starts. Against the Rays, Sabathia is 9-7 with a 3.10 ERA.
Tampa Bay still managed to win enough games last season to earn the Wildcard in the AL but made an early exit in the playoffs against Texas in the ALDS. It returns a good portion of last year’s roster and remains well-positioned to once again challenge New York for the division title.
The Rays will look to James Shields to help them draw first blood in this season’s series as their opening day starter. He is coming off his best year ever in the Majors with a record of 16-12 including 11 complete games in 33 starts. The right-hander ended the season with an ERA of 2.82 and a 1.04 WHIP. Shields has not always been at his best against the Yankees with a 5-11 record in 20 career starts and an inflated 4.14 ERA.
Last season’s series was evenly split with each team winning nine games. Tampa Bay went 6-3 at home including a crucial three-game sweep to close-out the year. The total stayed ‘under’ in five of the last seven games. Sabathia and Shields went head-to-head twice last year and while each team won at home, they combined for a total of four runs in the two games.
Look for another low-scoring affair on Friday afternoon with the Rays extending their home winning streak over New York to five games with the opening day victory. The Free MLB Pick: Tampa Bay 3 New York 2
DJ is a freelance writer that concentrates on his true passion in life; the world of sports. He produces a number of articles each week for BangTheBook.com as well as a select group of other websites that specialize in providing the most up-to-date information for the sports gaming industry. His goal is to write insightful articles on a wide variety of sporting topics that can provide an edge to today's sophisticated online player.