MLB Regular Season

Matchup: New York Yankees at Texas Rangers

Date/Time: July 27, 8:00 p.m. ET

Pitching Matchup: Ivan Nova (2-3, 3.34) vs. Matt Harrison (1-1, 5.40)

MLB Betting Odds From BetDSI Sportsbook

Moneyline: New York -110

Total: 9

Monday’s pitching matchup is a special one for the series opener between the New York Yankees and the Texas Rangers. Ivan Nova will make his sixth start of the season for the Yankees and Harrison will be taking the hill for the third time for the Rangers. Nova is on the comeback trail from Tommy John surgery. Harrison is returning from some serious back injuries. There are a lot of unknowns about both of these pitchers and those will be covered in this preview of the ESPN Monday Night Baseball matchup.

The New York Yankees and Texas Rangers are both in buy mode, but for completely different reasons. The Yankees are looking to buy this week because they are in first place in the AL East and should be looking at some October baseball. The Rangers are looking to buy because they want to acquire Cole Hamels. The Rangers have no postseason prospects in 2015, but they do want to look towards the future. Plus, they don’t have a whole lot of desirable commodities to be sellers on the trade market, with the exception of veteran Yovani Gallardo, who will probably be traded prior to July 31.

The Yankees are in the market for a starting pitcher because they have a ton of injury uncertainty in their rotation. One of those guys is Ivan Nova. Nova is eight starts into his return from Tommy John surgery, including three minor league starts, and his command and control are clearly a work in progress. Command is usually the last thing to return after Tommy John, unless you’re a freak like Jose Fernandez. Nova certainly fits that mold, as he has allowed four home runs in 29.2 innings of work.

Nova’s velocity is back, which is important going forward, but it’s only important in the present if it comes with control and command. Nova has a 15/10 K/BB ratio over his five starts, which isn’t going to cut it in the American League on a poor defensive team. Only the Phillies have been worse defensively as a team than the Yankees this season. That hurts a guy like Nova, who has never been a big strikeout guy and relies on ground balls to get outs. So far, batted ball luck has been on his side with a .253 BABIP against.

Matt Harrison’s career was on hold while he tried to return from some pretty serious back injuries. There was a chance that he would never pitch again, but the marvels of modern medicine continue to be a factor in sports. Harrison is not a particularly impressive pitcher, but he’s an easy guy to root for after what he has gone through. In his career, he possesses below average strikeout and walk rates, along with a 4.17 ERA, 4.32 FIP, and a 4.34 xFIP. Harrison had a great 2012 season with a 3.29 ERA, but his 4.03 FIP and 4.13 xFIP suggested that it was not going to be sustainable. Between average stuff and injuries, Harrison is now on the fringes of being a Major Leaguer.

The Rangers have been a poor offensive team for a good portion of the season and they have not been able to take advantage of the hitter-friendly conditions of Globe Life Park. The Yankees are six percent above league average offensively thanks to the power production of guys like Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira. The Rangers are six percent below league average. Outside of Rodriguez, the Yankee bats didn’t do a whole lot in Minnesota over the weekend, so this is an important series for them to get back on track against a lesser foe.

MLB Prediction: Texas Rangers

Sometimes betting lines provide context clues. Oddsmakers and bettors alike have been down on the Rangers for the last several weeks. Yet, they’re basically a pick ‘em against the AL East-leading Yankees? Something doesn’t smell right about that line, does it? Especially when you take into account that Harrison is making just his third start of the season and the way the Rangers have played recently.