It was a great day of baseball yesterday, even though my text and email was full of nothing but “Brandon Phillips butt tag” comments… The Rangers finally snapped their slide and beat to Rays to move back into a tie for the first wildcard spot, while in the National League the Cardinals won while the Pirates lost to once again move a game ahead in the Central (and quietly, the Reds have won a pair and are still creeping within striking distance). It’s going to be an awesome final ten days of the baseball season with so many wildcard scenarios still in play.
Tonight’s pick is going to focus in on the most prominent game in the wildcard race, game three of the Rays and Rangers series down in Tampa Bay.
Today’s Free Pick:
Texas Rangers +118 at Tampa Bay Rays -128 (Total: 7)
Derek Holland (9-9, 3.49 ERA) vs. Chris Archer (9-7, 3.03 ERA)
The first two games of this series have been lopsided affairs, with the Rays taking the opener 6-2 and dropping last night’s game 7-1. I am expecting a little more competitive game this evening as things level out a bit.
Derek Holland has been an absolute disaster (like many of the Rangers pitchers) in the last several weeks. He has a 0-3 record and a 10.12 ERA and 2.18 WHIP over his last three starts. He has given up six runs in each of his last two starts and hasn’t earned a win or pitched past the sixth inning since August 2nd. It is a little beguiling, as he had been having a pretty solid season prior to this skid. It seems to me another example of a pitcher fatiguing down the stretch as his work load hits the 160-170 inning mark.
Tampa Bay will counter with Chris Archer, who has also had some struggles of late. He is 1-2 with a 4.62 ERA in his last three outings and two outings ago lasted less than four innings. His most recent performance was a good one, throwing six shutout innings against the A’s, but his innings pitched dropoff this month is a bit of a red flag for me. The Rays appear to be backing him off significantly in his first full season in the big leagues.
The Rangers offense has gaudy season statistics, though the makeup of their lineup has changed a bit since the suspension to Nelson Cruz. They are manufacturing runs with speed more than they are slugging the ball out of the park, but I like them to be able to keep scoring some runs tonight.
Meanwhile, the Rays get to face a reeling starting pitcher, and interestingly, they hit nearly 20 points better as a team against left-handed pitching (Holland is a southpaw). I like them to be able to score some runs tonight as well.
I figured the over for this game would be 8, or at least 7 ½. I’ve got it right now at 7, and I like the OVER. I’ve seen one book that still has it listed at 6 ½. If you can get that extra half run, I like the OVER even more. Either way, I like some offense tonight at the Trop.
Free Pick: Run TOTAL OVER 7