Rays at Nationals – Free Pick June 21st


Tampa Bay Rays at Washington Nationals   (Total: 7)

Matt Moore (4-5, 4.16 ERA) vs. Gio Gonzalez (8-3, 2.52 ERA)

This series got a heck of a lot more interesting after Nationals manager Davey Johnson sent the umpires to the mound to check the glove of former National-turned-Ray reliever for a “banned foreign substance” and low and behold – they found one!  How would Davey Johnson know such a thing before a pitch was even thrown?  BECAUSE HE USED TO CHEAT FOR THE NATIONALS!

The move led Ray manager Joe Maddon to go one of my favorite rants in years, calling Davey Johnson many names, including the p-word twice!  You don’t get THAT every day my friends.  Seriously good stuff.

The fireworks ended with the post-game news conference as the two teams played a civil, if contentious, 3-2 affair yesterday that went the way of the Nationals and Steven Strausburg, who moved to 9-1 on the season.  So, today’s rubber match will be replete of any curricular activites, but is still one heck of a pitching matchup.

The Rays send young fireballer Matt Moore to the hill.  Moore struggled early in the season and this season numbers of 4-5 with a 4.16 ERA reflect that sluggish start.  However in his last three outings he looks like the young stud who took the hill in the postseason as a rookie last year, going a perfect 3-0 with a 2.37 ERA in June.  He looks to continue his hot streak against a rather average Nats lineup tonight.

Gio Gonzalez was one of the surprises of the early season, going toe-to-toe with Strausburg for the mantle of staff ace.  However, he has hit a bit of a rough patch lately and might be regressing back to the norm.  He is 1-2 with a 4.34 ERA in his last three outings.

The Rays, like much of the AL East, have fared well in Interleague play.  They have won 8 of 9 IL games, and have won 5 of 6 against left-handed starters.  The Rays are 4-1 in Matt Moore’s last five starts, and they are also 4-1 in Moore’s last five starts against pitchers with a winning record.  That tells me that not only is he keeping them in games and giving the Rays a chance to win, he is holding teams to two or three runs most night, if not less, and allowing his team to beat good pitching from the opponent.  I expect him to pitch well tonight against a Nats lineup that is hitting just .236 as a team and averaging less than four runs per nine innings.

The Nats meanwhile have struggled at home against AL opponents, as are just 1-7 in their last 8 home games against teams with a winning record.  I’ll take the great value pick of the plus-money and go with the Rays on the road tonight and their red-hot starting pitcher.

Free Pick:  Tampa Bay Rays to WIN +126