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Shrouded In Controversy, Yanks Host Rays

Alex Rodriguez continues to be a major headache for the New York Yankees.

Alex Rodriguez continues to be a major headache for the New York Yankees.

The New York Yankees welcome the Tampa Bay Rays to Yankee Stadium for a three-game set this weekend, but the club’s focus appears to be on something other than baseball right now.

20130725_AL_EastThe Yankees’ front office was once again forced to contend with the questionable antics of third baseman Alex Rodriguez this week, following the latest delay in his rehab from a second hip operation.

Rodriguez, who was scheduled to make his big league return tonight, was diagnosed with a quad strain earlier this week. However, the 38-year-old sought out a second opinion, believing the Yankees to be attempting to hinder his return. Cue much controversy over the credibility of the doctor that proclaimed his quad to be perfectly fine.

Rodriguez and Yankees’ GM Brian Cashman have subsequently come to an agreement that will see the 14-time All-Star make a rehab start for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on August 1.

Rodriguez’s rehab schedule isn’t the only shroud covering the Yankees at the moment. The third baseman is also at the center of the Biogenesis PED scandal that saw the Milwaukee Brewers’ Ryan Braun suspended for the rest of the season earlier this week.

Most commentators expect Rodriguez – who there is allegedly much more evidence against than Braun – to be handed down a hefty suspension within the next 10 days. Some have even thrown around the suggestion that he’ll receive a lifetime ban from baseball. Whilst this is all speculation at this time, it is speculation that serves to distract a Yankees side that has not had a home run from a right handed batter in 26 games.

Alfonso Soriano's return to New york appears imminent.

Alfonso Soriano’s return to New york appears imminent.

The latest reports suggest that help may soon be on its way for the injury-plagued Yankees. Derek Jeter is expected to make his (second) return from the disabled list sometime in the coming week, while a deal that would see Chicago Cubs outfielder Alfonso Soriano return to the club looks all but done. Soriano, who played for the Yankees between 1999 and 2003, was a late scratch in Thursday’s game against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Soriano could be a huge boost; he’s hit eight home runs in the month of July while the Yankees as a team have hit just seven.

But for the Yankees, help arriving soon might not be soon enough though.

The Rays are the hottest team in baseball right now having won 19 of their last 22 games, a streak that has put the side on the cusp of taking the division lead. Joe Maddon’s side was scheduled to play the Boston Red Sox on Thursday in a game that would have seen the victory hold the AL East top spot, but the rain put an end to that. The two clubs will meet in a make-up fixture this coming Monday. By then, the Rays could already be ahead of the Sox, who play the Baltimore Orioles this weekend.

New York (54-48, 28-23 home) will send C.C. Sabathia (9-8, 4.37 ERA) to the mound in the series opener. The left-hander is in the midst of what can best be described as a leather-tough season, having given up a career-high 23 home runs already.

Sabathia has lost his last two decisions, and three from the last four. Last time out (Sunday) he failed to record a decision, giving up seven earned runs on nine hits, including two homers, against the Red Sox at Fenway Park, a game the Yankees ultimately lost 8-7.

Sabathia is desperately in need of a win.

Sabathia is desperately in need of a win.

Getting back into a winning rhythm could be difficult for Sabathia, who is 1-2 in three starts against the Rays this season. He has allowed a total of 17 earned runs, including seven home runs, in that stretch. However, his sole win came the only time he faced the Rays at Yankee Stadium.

Jeremy Hellickson (9-3, 4.62 ERA) will toe the rubber for Tampa Bay (60-42, 26-23 road) having had Thursday’s start rained off.

Hellickson’s fortunes of late have been the mirror image of those of Sabathia. The right-hander has won seven of his last eight decisions (across a span of nine games), including five straight. In his last appearance, he yielded two runs on five hits against the Toronto Blue Jays.

The 2011 AL Rookie of the Year is 3-1 in six career starts against the Yankees. He threw 8 2/3 innings of shutout ball in his last appearance against the Bronx Bombers (Apr. 8, 2012), allowing just six hits and four walks. The Rays are 13-6 when Hellickson starts this season.

Tampa Bay Rays vs. New York Yankees odds for 7/26/13 are available now.

20130725_AL_WildcardNew York (-130) opened as a home favorite over Tampa Bay (+120) on the moneyline, but the difference has been shrinking as we approach game time.

The two clubs have evenly split 10 games this season, each going 5-5. The Yankees have a 2-1 edge in games played at Yankee Stadium.

The over/under opened at 8 1/2.

New York (41-53-8) has well-and-truly favored the under this season, unsurprising considering the club ranks 24th in the league or worse in batting average, hits, home runs, RBIs and OBP. Tampa Bay (47-48-7) meanwhile favors the under, just. During 10 meetings this season, the two clubs have seen the total go over four times and under five times with one push.

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