I sound like a broken record this week with all the late game collapses, but it happened to us again last night. We backed the Philadelphia Phillies as road underdogs against the Chicago Cubs. I was shocked to see Phillies ace Aaron Nola as an underdog and jumped all over it. Nola wasn’t as sharp as he has been recently, he pitched six innings of three-run ball. But the Phillies were in a great position to win the game as they hit the bottom of the ninth inning leading 5-3.
Then disaster struck. The Cubs loaded up the bases in the bottom of the ninth with two outs, still trailing by two runs. Then Jason Heyward decided to bust out his boomstick and blasted a game winning, walk-off, grand slam home run. It was a surprising end to a really exciting game as Hayward has certainly not been known for his power in his career. What can you do, we were one out away from a nice underdog win and missed, we will shake it off and find more value today. For today’s pick, I will look at the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays.
The first place Seattle Mariners will head to Tampa Bay Thursday for game one of a four-game set with the Rays. Both of these teams are seemingly overachieving this season as they are both right in the thick of the playoff race in the American League. The Mariners had won fourteen of their previous seventeen games before dropping the series finale to the Houston Astros last night and have climbed all the way up to first place in the AL West Division. Tampa was left for dead early in the season as much of their talent had either left in free agency or been traded away, yet here they are, fighting for the second wild card in the American League.
Starting tonight for the hometown Rays is Ryne Stanek (1-1 3.65 ERA), and for the Mariners, it is Mike Leake (5-3 4.71 ER). The Mariners are small road favorites at -115. The game total over-under is set at eight runs. First pitch is scheduled for 4:10 PM PST from Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg.
The Seattle Mariners are winning a lot of games this year. And it is kind of hard to see why. Their starting rotation is rough outside of James Paxton. Their lineup is strong and hits for a great average, but they really don’t score all that many runs. Entering play tonight, the Mariners are fourteenth in the majors in runs scored. They are just decent at everything, and that has been a recipe for success this year as they have the third most wins in the America League so far this season and find themselves in first place, ahead of the defending champion, Houston Astros in the AL West.
Starting tonight for the Mariners is Mike Leake. Leake was a castoff from Cincinnati as the Mariners picked him up for next to nothing late last season. He has enjoyed his time with Seattle and has really been pitching well over the last six weeks or so. Leake had a slow start to the season as he got pummeled in April to the tune of a 6.48 ERA. That has been cut in half though in May and June as Leake has settled in.
The Mariners have won his last five starts, and he has pitched very well. In his last three starts, he has pitched twenty-one and two-thirds of an inning and allowed just four earned runs. His last start was against this very same Tampa Bay team, and Leake pitched great. He threw seven innings of two-run ball and struck out eight in a Mariners win. Leake isn’t an elite top of rotation guy, but he gives his team a chance to win games every time out, and he has been really good recently.
The Rays will counter with rookie Ryne Stanek. The big leagues have not been overly kind to Stanek just yet. He is making his second ever start after spending most of the season in the bullpen this year for Tampa Bay. The Rays are doing this bullpen by committee as a starter thing this year, and Stanek is only expected to pitch an inning or two. Stanek has been mostly used for mop-up work as the Rays have lost eight out of the ten games he has pitched in this season. It will be curious to see how well he reacts to being the star of the show on the mound tonight.
I hate what Tampa Bay is doing with their rotation this year. Having a “bullpen” day where they don’t have a starter just doesn’t work. If it did, more teams would do it. Not only is it bad for that one game, but you are also draining your entire bullpen for the rest of the series as several arms must be used to get through the game. I guess the Rays don’t have much of a choice as they just don’t have the arms available. To make matters worse for Tampa, they just sent the one decent arm they did have, Chris Archer, to the DL.
The Seattle Mariners are playing as well as any team in baseball over the last three weeks. They are winning games and playing with confidence. The Rays? They have lost six straight games, including getting swept by this Mariners team last week in Seattle. My heart tells me to jump on the run line for this game. A solid starter going against a bullpen by committee starter? A red-hot team that is winning games at a high rate right now, versus a team that can’t buy a win?
But when you look at this Seattle team, they are winning a ton of one-run games this season. They are 19-8 in one-run games, and it is a big reason why their record is as good as it is right now. So, while I love the idea of getting a jumbo payout in a game that could be a blowout, I will stay away from it tonight and lay just a bit of wood on Seattle in this one. Give me the Seattle Mariners as small road favorites at -115 tonight in game one!