Tampa Bay Rays -182 at Minnesota Twins +172 (Total: 8.5)
David Price (14-4, 2.49 ERA) vs. Nick Blackburn (4-7, 7.42)
Stop if you’ve heard this story before: a team with a languishing offense drifting outside of the playoff picture gets hot late, begins reeling off fantastic winning streaks and edges into the post-season in dramatic fashion. It seems that is the Rays annual narrative, and it seems like it beginning to unfold yet again.
Tampa Bay has reeled off four straight wins, not coincidentally matching up with the return of Evan Longoria to the lineup, and will look to make it five straight with Cy Young candidate David Price on the hill. Their long-troubled offense no longer seems so inferior with the addition of their best hitter, and they have scored 26 runs (an average of 6.5 per game) in the four games since his return.
Meanwhile, the Twins, well out of the playoff picture, will counter with Nick Blackburn, who hasn’t won a game since June 22nd. Not that a winless streak should be particularly surprising for a pitcher with an ERA of 7.42 and a WHIP of 1.66. It sounds like a perfect recipe for the Rays to continue to build up their confidence in their finally-complete offense.
The Rays are 7-3 this season against the Twins, and have won three of their last four against them. They have also won four games straight overall and seven of their last eight. Minnesota has been playing better since the All-Star break, winning back to back series against the Red Sox and Indians before dropping the opener of this series to Tampa Bay.
Minnesota has been solid offensively in 2012. In fact, their .259 team batting average puts them ahead of more than a few playoff-bound teams (Cincinnati, San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Washington, and maybe Baltimore). However, their pitching has been awful. Their staff ERA of 4.83 is the worst in the American League. Their starting pitchers ERA is a combined 5.37 – which is also on the bottom of the league.
The reason that stat is important, is the old adage, “good pitching beats good hitting.” Tonight, the Rays are throwing a great pitcher. Banking on Price to neutralize a decent Twin lineup, and you are left with a colossal mismatch with a pitcher toting a 7+ ERA trying to out-duel one of the three front-runners for the American League Cy Young Award. There isn’t a ton of value in the Rays at -182 (though I am making a small play on it), but there is good value in the Rays on the -1.5 runline at even money.
Free Pick: Tampa Rays to WIN -182 & Tampa Bay -1.5 (-100)