Rays at Marlins – Free Pick for June 8th

Tampa Bay Rays +105 at Miami Marlins -115

Jeremy Hellickson (4-2, 2.67 ERA) vs. Ricky Nolasco (6-3, 4.35 ERA)

This “rivalry” may not have the cache of Mets v. Yankees or Sox v. Cubs, but this in-state matchup should provide a weekend of fantastic baseball and a couple of good pitching matchups.  Both teams are right in the thick of their respective division races, and both teams have plenty of company in that mix, playing in the ultra-deep and competitive East Divisions.

The Marlins had a disastrous start to the season, but put together the best May in MLB to get back on track.  As a matter of fact, things were looking great until this week’s visit from the Braves.  The Marlins dropped all three games and looked pretty terrible in the process.  They were outscored by a combined 21-3 in the three game sweep.  Things don’t get any easier tonight when the reigning AL Rookie of the Year, Jeremy Hellickson, takes the mound.

Hellickson has been good again this season, and has been sharp in his last three starts  despite his 0-2 record.  His 2.49 ERA and 1.06 WHIP have been good enough to notch a few wins, but the Rays offense has been erratic, especially with the injuries to Longoria and Jennings (and to a lesser extent, Jeff Keppinger).   In his last three starts he has gotten next to no run support.  Over the last week the Rays average close to four runs per game, but had a shutout and two games scoring just one run in the mix.  It makes them a little tricky to wager on; the feast-or-famine nature of their offense, bt at least it helps keep the money line odds closer to flat and provides some good values.

I like the Rays tonight at plus-money, especially given their distinct pitching advantage.   Despite some of the Rays offensive woes, they still average more than a quarter of a run more per contest than the Fish, and are only hitting .011 less than Miami.  When facing mediocre pitching, the Rays have tended to hit well.  When facing a front line starter (or Andy Pettitte…) they seem to be completely handcuffed.

The Rays and Marlins have nearly the same record, but looked at “expected wins” which is a measure of run differential; the Rays have been a much better team this season.  In short, it is no surprise the Rays are tied for first, but it says, despite some big-name acquisitions, the Marlins are relatively fortunate to be sitting on as solid of a record as they are.

The Rays have won three straight against the Marlins, and I think they’ll make it four tonight.

Free Pick:  Tampa Rays to WIN +105