For a series in late July, the stakes are high as the New York Yankees visit the Tampa Bay Rays.

  • New York Yankees (52-49)
  • Tampa Bay Rays (39-61)
  • American League, 7:10 pm ET, YES Network
  • Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, FL

It is not the opponent, but rather the scenario. The New York Yankees will face their most impactful series to date when they kick off a three-game set against the lowly Rays tonight.

With the trade deadline merely three days away, the Yankees need to decide whether the Aroldis Chapman move will be a one and done for 2016. However, if they take it to Tampa Bay, as they should, they will find themselves within real time striking distance of a playoff berth.

Why deal Carlos Beltran and Andrew Miller when you can live to see another day in October? Simply put: you do not.

Coming off a 7-3 stretch which featured series wins against three playoff-caliber teams (Orioles, Giants, Astros), the Yanks have the ability to prove their recent string of success is nothing to sneeze at. In a prime position to do so, it is a matter of execution at this point.

Pitching Matchup

Ivan Nova — the subject of recent trade rumors — will take the ball in what could quite possibly be his last start in a Yankee uniform. Sitting at 7-5 with an ERA of 4.65, an extremely rough stretch in the month of June marred his campaign. However, his last two starts, in which he has allowed two runs over 13 innings pitched, have sent him back in a positive direction.

The 29-year-old right-hander is 8-6 with a solid 3.66 ERA in 17 career appearances (15 starts) against the Rays.

Opposing him on the mound for the Rays will be Jake Odorizzi. The 26-year-old has been a rock for Tampa all year long and is coming off one of his best starts of the year against Oakland. In the outing, he allowed just five hits and struck out five over eight brilliant shutout frames.

In 10 career appearances (nine starts) against New York, he is 3-5 with a 4.75 ERA. Back on May 29 at Tropicana Field, he fired seven innings of one-hit ball against the Yanks, but it was that one hit which lost the game for him and the Rays. Stalin Castro’s go-ahead two-run homer dampened the mood on an otherwise masterful performance.

Lineups

Players To Watch

Brian McCann (NYY)

The Yankee catcher absolutely owns Odorizzi. In his career, he owns a .522 (12-23) batting average with three homers and 10 runs batted in against the Rays starter. If he wants to find a groove heading into the dog days of August, this is the guy to do it against.

Evan Longoria (TB)

Tampa Bay’s third baseman has launched three career homers against Ivan Nova. Currently having his best all-around season since an outstanding 2011 campaign, expect the superstar to make an impact tonight.

Bold Prediction

Brian McCann goes deep twice for New York to back Ivan Nova, who fires six quality innings in a winning effort. The Yankees move to within 2.5 games of a wild card spot with a 5-3 victory in the series opener.

NEXT: Carlos Beltran To The Indians Would Make Sense

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