Tampa Bay reached the All-Star break with a 54-34 record, which was the club’s best mark at the break in club history, but let one slip away to start the second half.  “We had plenty of chances to score more runs and that’s what it really comes down to,” manager Joe Maddon said in the team’s 5-4 walk-off loss.  The Rays have 73 games on the second-half schedule, with 38 of those coming against teams currently .500 or better.  The team also has more games against the Yankees (12) than versus any other team the rest of the way.  Tampa Bay is still 22-11 this season against AL East opponents (+900), the best inter-division record in the AL and only the Los Angeles Dodgers have a better mark in the majors (23-6).

Rays starting pitcher Jeff Niemann is 7-2 with a 2.77 ERA in 18 starts this season, with the club picking up three straight victories with him on the hill.  Over that span, he has allowed seven runs (six earned) and 16 hits over 17.2 innings.  He stands a perfect 4-0 with a 3.15 ERA in eight road starts this season, managing to strike out 38 batters and walk just 13 in 54.1 innings.  The right-hander has managed to make just three daytime starts, posting an even 1-1 mark and 5.00 ERA compared to a 6-1 record and 2.36 ERA at night.  Niemann is set to make his fourth career start against the Yankees, going 1-0 with a 2.93 ERA, with two of those starts here at Yankee Stadium (10.1IP/3ER).

New York picked up where it left off before the break, as the team went 6-1 on its seven-game road trip before winning last night’s contest.  The Yankees own the best record in baseball at 57-32 (+840) and its the best start for the franchise since the 2004 season.  The club posted a 65-25 record at the Old Yankee Stadium against the Rays, but are just 6-6 at the new one.  Dominance in July has been a common theme for the Yankees with a 43-21 record over the last three years, which has carried over to the team’s 10-2 mark thus far in 2010 (+710).  In the past seven games, New York is 6-1 (+480) and has averaged 5.0 runs while holding opponents to averaging just 2.1 runs and a .220 combined batting average.

Yankees starting pitcher A.J. Burnett is 7-7 with a 4.75 ERA in 18 starts this season and broke a five-game losing streak in his last outing.  He picked up a 6-2 road victory over the Athletics, allowing two runs and five hits over seven innings of work.  Burnett has allowed two runs in 13.2 innings over his last two starts.  “It always started upstairs,” Burnett said about his 0-5 mark in his previous six starts.  The right-hander is 12-5 with a 2.98 ERA in 23 starts against Tampa Bay, but suffered a 10-6 home loss to the Rays on May 19.  In five daytime starts, he has managed a 3-1 record and 2.56 ERA, which is much better than his 4-6 mark and 5.66 ERA at night.

With the even pitching matchup from a side standpoint, bettors may look at playing the total.  The Rays are 11-4 O/U on the road when the total is 9 to 9.5, while the over has cashed in 16 of 22 chances when the Yankees are at home with the same number.  The total is currently 9.5 at Bookmaker.com