Red Sox at Rays – Free Pick July 14th

Boston Red Sox +142 vs. Tampa Bay Rays -152 (Total: 7.5)

Clay Bucholtz (8-2, 5.59 ERA) vs. David Price (11-4, 2.82 ERA)

The Boston Red Sox will be an interesting team the second half of this season.  Perhaps no team in major league baseball has been more left for dead prematurely than the Red Sox.  They currently sit one game over .500 and just one and a half games out of the wildcard race, yet most pundits and fans have buried this team.  I’d caution both wagerers and fans to pump their brakes a little bit; this team still has a ton of talent, and IF (and I agree it is a big IF) their vaunted starting rotation can begin to resemble their expected form, this is a formidable team to be reckoned with.

In fact, I’d say, on paper, this team has the down-the-stretch edge over tonight’s opponent, the Tampa Bay Rays.  Offensively, the Rays are pretty weak, even when Longoria returns shortly.  The Rays possess a +2 run differential for the season, while Boston is a whopping +45.  Not only are these teams closer than many fans realize, the “better” team most of this season has actually been Boston.

The Red Sox are third in the AL with a .268 team average.  The Rays are twelfth, at a dismal .232.  The Red Sox have scored 435 runs, which trails only the Texas Rangers.  Tampa Bay has scored 364, good for ninth.  Granted, the Rays have been missing Longoria, but the Sox have been playing without Pedroia and Ellsbury for long stretches.

The difference, or more like the Achilles Heel for the Red Sox, has been their terrible starting pitching.  Their starters ERA ranked 27th in MLB, and has been the biggest cause for their struggles.  However, things might be looking up.  Tonight’s starter Clay Bucholtz has had his struggles in 2012, with a 5.53 ERA.  However, in his last three starts leading up to the break, he was 3-0 with a 2.26 ERA and looked dominant in the process.  I expect him to pitch well tonight against a pedestrian Rays lineup and put his team in good position to win.

David Price at home is always a formidable opponent, hence the reason you have to pay money and a half (-152) to back to Rays tonight.  He was on the short list of potential starters for the All Star Game, but has had his fair share of struggles against the Red Sox, with just a 6-4 record and an ERA in the mid threes.

Tampa Bay is obviously the favorite tonight, but this is a pretty even matchup, and one that favors the Sox even if they get the Clay Bucholtz who has been pitching eight innings and only allowing two runs the last month.  For that reason, I like the VALUE of the Red Sox tonight at +142.  That’s my official pick tonight.

Free Pick: Boston Red Sox to WIN +142