The New York Yankees acted a lot like a softball team as they powered their way to a Game 1 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays in the American League Divisional Series. But the Rays came roaring back and over these last two games have played more like the team that won the AL East by seven games. So here we go in Game 4, as there is no tomorrow for the Yankees.

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You have to give all the credit in the world to Charlie Morton, who did his job – he kept his team very much in the game as the Game 3 starter for Tampa Bay, allowing just two runs in five innings. And the Rays played some long ball with them.

The Yankees had never allowed seven or more runs and three or more homers for the first time in the history of their franchise.

Luke Voit, the major league home run leader, who has been dealing with a foot injury, has come up relatively empty for the Bronx Bombers. He has just one hit in eleven at-bats and has left ten man standing on base. So if you’re looking for difference-makers, one of them is that he hasn’t made headlines for the right reasons.

In the MLB playoff betting odds posted on this game, the Yankees are the favorites as they attempt to stave off elimination:

New York Yankees -131
Tampa Bay Rays +121

Over 9 Runs -105
Under 9 Runs -115

You certainly can’t blame Giancarlo Stanton for the dire straits the Yankees are in. The slugger, who won a National League MVP with the Marlins but has had choppy results in pinstripes because of injuries and other factors, has dominated opposing pitching in the post-season. He has hit a homer in five consecutive games, bringing his playoff totals to six home runs and 13 RBI. Maybe the Yankees will need for him to explode yet again in order to keep their hopes alive.

But the Rays have their own powder keg. He’s rookie Randy Arozarena, who has now homered in all three games of this series and is 12-for-20 in the playoffs. The Cuban import had seven homers in 64 at-bats during the regular season, so he seems to be wired for round-trips.

Everyone recognizes the Yankee power, but for most people, there were questions as to whether their starting pitching could hold up beyond Gerrit Cole. It has indeed been a problem. In Game 2 they went with rookie Deivi Garcia, who lasted just 27 pitches. Then JA Happ came in and got hit hard – tagged for a couple of homers. And this is the kind of thing that, in a series where there are no off-days, puts the staff out of whack. Masahiro Tanaka was banged around in Game 3. So the team’s Achilles heel is bothering it.

Lefty Jordan Montgomery gets the call for Game 4 and will take the mound for the first time since September 24. He’s had a 5.11 ERA this season and has never pitched in the playoffs. He was also knocked out very early in a September 2 start against the Rays, getting only two men out as he surrendered four runs (with two dingers) before being yanked in the first inning.

You can imagine manager Aaron Boone won’t have much patience here, as he’ll have to have his staff on standby. That includes Garcia, Happ and even Game 1 starter Cole. After all, you have to win today to get to tomorrow.

The Rays will go with right-handed rookie Ryan Thompson, who will serve in the “opener” role. His WHIP (1.41) and ERA (4.44) don’t necessarily indicate that he is going to be a stopper. But Kevin Cash  is “bullpenning,” so there is no telling who the Yankees are going to face the second and third time around in the order. Speculation is that lefty Ryan Yarbrough will come in to relieve Thompson.

So will the Yankees be done in by the Ryans?

As they say, dunno.

Just like the pitching situation, the catching has put the Yankees in a precarious position. Gary Sanchez is the guy with a lot of power. But Kyle Higashioka is much more defensively than the inept Sanchez. However, Higgy is a career .186 hitter. Cole insists on him being behind the plate, and he caught Tanaka as well.

Despite all this, we like an OVER. There won’t be a pitcher from either side who’s going to step in an take things over; there could be some runs right from the jump, and bullpen arms get tired when they don’t have a chance to rest. Plus, the Yankees will be swinging for the fences in an effort to make the “big play,” and Stanton hasn’t been stopped yet.

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