New York Yankees host Chicago White Sox in 4-Game Series Opener

The New York Yankees (46-28, 23-14 home) might be on one of the hottest streaks in all of Major League Baseball, winning 15 of their last 18 games and 5 straight heading into tonight’s series opener against the Chicago White Sox (40-35, 21-14 away), however it hasn’t been all good news in the Bronx, with the Yankees learning that two very important keys to their success, starting pitchers C.C. Sabathia and Andy Pettitte, won’t be in the rotation for the foreseeable future.

The turn of bad luck started just over 24 hours ago, with Sabathia going to the 15-day disabled list with a strained groin muscle, and carried on into yesterday’s series finale with the Cleveland Indians, in which starting pitcher Andy Pettitte took a line drive off his leg, fracturing his fibula. Out 4 to 6 weeks, the veteran’s return to the Yankee pitching staff becomes a very short-lived one, and leaves manager Joe Girardi scrambling to find ways to fill in the blanks. Fortunately for him though, he still has one of the league’s top offensive units to back up any pitching selection he decides to promote, and for tonight’s opener, has one of the most fortunate Yankee pitchers taking the mound in Ivan Nova (9-2, 4.25 ERA). With Nova facing rookie Dylan Axelrod (0-1, 4.85 ERA), who continues to fill in for the White Sox’ injured starters John Danks and Phil Humber, the Yankees may find themselves with the upper hand and a shot at a 6th straight victory in tonight’s Game 1 match-up, with first pitch set for 7:05 PM ET from Yankee Stadium in New York City.

There’s just about no better pitcher to have on the mound for the Yankees as they look to pull their head up after suffering a few setbacks, as Ivan Nova has been steadily improving his form, and will seek a sixth straight win tonight. Nova has given up more than 1 run in just 1 of his last 4 starts (2 earned in this last weekend’s clash against the Mets), and has continued to whittle down his ERA while keeping base runners off the paths. Interestingly enough, it’s been at home where Nova hasn’t pitched very well, with a 5.35 ERA on the year and a 3-2 record in 6 starts there, allowing opponents to hit .290 off him. Fortunately, over the past couple of years he’s had plenty of success against the White Sox, who he is 2-0 with a 1.37 ERA in 3 starts dating back to 2009. With no slowdown in the Yankees’ batting order, Nova should find himself in good shape to make an improvement on his less-than-stellar home record and ERA, and could get a boost as the powerful Yankee bats take on a rookie pitcher who’s unproven in the big, bright lights of New York City.

We are always very wary of whenever a rookie pitcher faces a team he’s never seen previously, as often that pitcher will get shelled and knocked out of a game early, especially against the caliber of batsmen that New York has, but there’s always a chance that with a team not having any familiarity with a new hurler, that guy will find a distinct advantage as the batting order takes a few times through the line-up to become familiar with his style. There’s not too much history to go on around the White Sox’ Dylan Axelrod, but what may be a key issue for him tonight is the fact that through 13 innings of work this year, he’s already allowed 3 home runs, and has given up 7 runs in just 9 2/3 innings of work as a starter. He’s also required a ton of pitches in his two starts (103 and 99) despite not making it past the 5th inning. That could be a serious catch point to consider when wagering on tonight’s game, as if Axelrod is forced to throw a lot of pitches to a Yankees batting order that ranks near the top of the league in runs, on-base, and slugging percentage, we’re eventually going to see a deep ball go out of the park, and few pinstriped base runners come across the plate. For Axelrod to keep his White Sox in the ballgame, he’s going to have to focus on keeping the ball down, and protect against giving up the big inning to the powerful center of the Yankees order. This may be the toughest test for a rookie pitcher, to face the Yankees on their home turf, and in order to overcome them he’s going to have to work efficiently, keep the walks to a minimum, and pitch around guys like Robinson Cano especially. The White Sox don’t have a great record in the Bronx, losing 15 of their last 20 games there, but if they can get a surprise strong start from Axelrod, their own heavy hitters just may have a chance to keep them in the game against Ivan Nova, who has struggled this year on his own mound.

The player to watch out for in the Yankees’ lineup is the aforementioned Robinson Cano, who has simply been on a tear through the month of June posting a .345 batting average with 10 home runs and 18 RBIs. He’s been on base 42 times over 87 at-bats on the month, and has 3 multi-hit games in his last 4 outings. With 7 homers coming in the last 10 games, there is no question Cano will be a guy to watch out for at the plate, and someone who very well may get an early tee-off against the rookie Dylan Axelrod. Another player who may be making a jump towards more production is Alex Rodriguez, who despite struggling for the month now has 3 homers in his last 6 games, and has hit safely in 5 out of his last 6 games. A veteran hitter loves a rookie pitcher, and while struggling on the road this year, A-Rod is hitting .305 at home, and could be a major factor tonight. One more Yankee hitter to watch for this evening is Nick Swisher who should be in line to bounce back from an 0-for-4 night yesterday, hitting safely in 8 of his previous 9 games before that. Batting .320 for the month with 4 homers and 14 RBI, Swisher has 2 homers in his last 4 games, and could be one to watch out for.

On the White Sox side of the hitting spectrum, they certainly aren’t slouches at the plate themselves, especially after adding Kevin Youkilis to the order. Since coming over from Boston, Youk has picked up his slumping season to go 5-for-12 (.417) for his new team in 3 games played. Adam Dunn, the White Sox home-run leader with 24 on the year, also finally broke out of a nasty 3-for-26 slump with no homers in 10 games, going 3-for-5 last night with a homer and 4 runs batted in. There would be no better time for the off-and-on slugger to have a repeat performance than right now. Another slumping hitter, Paul Konerko, may be a factor in tonight’s game as well, as he’s coming of a day of rest getting benched after going hitless in his last 3 contests. Despite a 1-for-17 stretch, Konerko likes the road, hitting .342 this year away from home, and has a .350 average against the Yankees over the past 4 years. Though he hasn’t produced much against Nova, he’s 4-for-8 lifetime against him, which could bode well for him returning to form in tonight’s Game 1 match-up. One player on the Sox who hasn’t fared well against Nova, but is tearing through June is Alex Rios, who is hitting .340 for the month with 6 homers and 15 RBIs. He also has 4 multi-hit games in his last 5 outings, and has brought his season batting average up 10 points in the last 4 games alone. He could be a major factor amongst a White Sox hitting group that has tinged Nova for a .309 combined lifetime average (albeit with a small sample of 55 combined at-bats), but it’s for certain that if Chicago is to walk away with a win over the toughest Yankee pitcher to beat, they’ll need all their top hitters clicking on all cylinders in what should be a game with lots of potential for scoring.

Betting lines for the New York Yankees vs. Chicago White Sox at Oddsmaker Sportsbook.

With Ivan Nova on the mound, and at home, the Yankees sit as the favorite on the money line at Oddsmaker today, getting -200 odds to win straight up. The White Sox, who have actually played very well away from home (21-14), sit as +170 underdogs, mostly due to the presence of an unproven rookie pitcher. With Nova helping the Yankees to win 6 straight games when he’s taken the mound, the safest wager takes the Bronx Bombers straight up here tonight.

For Against the Spread picks, the price is even for either side you choose, with the Yankees needing to beat out the 1 ½ runs their given as favorites (-110) odds, and the White Sox getting a 1 ½ run cushion to play with for underdog spread pickers (-110 odds as well). Since we’re not sold on tonight’s rookie starter for the White Sox, especially in the face of one of the most potent offenses in the league, taking the Yankees to cover the points against the spread is our pick of the day here.

Lastly for the total runs, the over/under sits at 10 runs, with the over bet giving -115 odds, and the under wager -105 odds. With so many talented bats on both sides of the line-up, and both the rookie Axelrod and Nova both showing weaknesses heading into tonight’s match-up, there is plenty of reason to chase the over wager on the total runs line tonight. We’re going to make it exciting and bank on some deep balls to help both teams accumulate 10 runs on the evening, but are expecting Robinson Cano and the Yankee bats to lead the way in scoring, and take a high-output Game 1 tonight.

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