MLB Regular Season

Matchup: Seattle Mariners at New York Yankees

Date/Time: July 17, 7:05 p.m. ET

Pitching Matchup: Mike Montgomery (4-3, 2.29) vs. Masahiro Tanaka (5-3, 3.63)

MLB Betting Odds From BetDSI Sportsbook

Moneyline: New York -160

Total: 7.5

The bigger surprise coming out of the All-Star Break isn’t that the New York Yankees are in first place, rather that the Seattle Mariners are nowhere near first place. Expected to contend in the American League West Division, the Mariners are just 41-48 on the year and trail by 7.5 games when they head to Yankee Stadium to open up the second half with a battle in the Bronx. The Yankees have a 3.5-game lead atop the American League East Division after entering the break with wins in seven of their last 10 games.

These teams were expected to have reversed roles this season. The Mariners had a young rotation full of upside and the Yankees had more questions than answers in the rotation that also doubled as an infirmary ward. One of the pitchers in question for the Yankees is Friday’s starter, Masahiro Tanaka. The other starter, Mike Montgomery, wasn’t even expected to be on Seattle’s radar this season, but injuries to James Paxton, a trade of Erasmo Ramirez, and an injury to Hisashi Iwakuma shuffled things for the Mariners.

Mike Montgomery’s story is very impressive. Drafted straight out of high school in the 2008 MLB Draft by the Kansas City Royals in the supplemental round, it was almost seven years to the day he was drafted that Montgomery made his Major League debut. Ironically, he faced the same Yankees lineup that he will face on Friday. Montgomery threw six quality innings of one-run ball, with four hits, four strikeouts, and a couple of walks. Two starts later, Montgomery got his first Major League win over the Houston Astros.

Montgomery starts the second half with a 2.29 ERA, a 3.66 FIP, and a 4.16 xFIP. He’s a pitch-to-contact left-hander that has induced a lot of weak contact over his first 55 Major League innings. His second start against the Yankees may not go as well as his first. The Yankees rank sixth in slugging percentage against left-handed pitching this season and Montgomery won’t have the safety net of Safeco Field. The Yankees have the third-best home wOBA in baseball at .355. Even with their home park factored in, the Yankees rank second in wRC+ at home.

Masahiro Tanaka was the prize of the 2014 free agent class. The Japanese right-hander was signed by the deep-pocketed Yankees, who were content to pay the lofty transfer fee and also gave Tanaka a seven-year deal worth $155 million. Tanaka can opt out after the 2017 season, but it would be in his best interest not to do that. Tanaka made 20 starts for the Yankees in 2014. He made 16 starts before going on the DL the first time for UCL trouble. Rather than go the surgical route, Tanaka opted for rest and rehab. He made two more starts to end the season and continued rehab in the offseason. The same elbow forced him on the DL four starts into the 2015 season, but he is back in the rotation now.

Tanaka has still shown the same sparkling control that he showed last season en route to a 3.63 ERA with a 3.60 FIP and a 3.01 xFIP. His command has not been nearly as pinpoint. After allowing 15 home runs in 136.1 innings last season, Tanaka has allowed 10 home runs in his 67 innings so far this season. Fortunately for Tanaka, the Mariners rank 24th in wOBA against right-handed pitching, which is a big reason why they have struggled this season.

Pick: New York Yankees

The park factor at Yankee Stadium doesn’t play up to the strengths of a guy like Mike Montgomery. Masahiro Tanaka still has some of the best stuff of any pitcher in baseball, even with the elbow troubles. The Yankees are a big favorite here, but this price may be worth paying. The biggest concern about the Yankees is their age and the four days off have helped.