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Tigers at Rays – Free Pick June 29th

Detroit Tigers -119 at Tampa Bay Rays +109 (Total: 6.5)

Justin Verlander (10-6, 2.52 ERA) vs. David Price (10-5, 2.96 ERA)

It doesn’t get too much better than David Price and Justin Verlander squaring off on a Friday night.  Two of the top pitchers in baseball will kick off an interesting series between two contender-hopefuls who are in desperate need of a winning streak to keep touch with a division rival.  For Tampa, the Yankees have put some distance between themselves and the AL East field, and suddenly the Rays find themselves 6 ½ games back and in fourth place.  Meanwhile, in the AL Central, the Tigers were everyone’s preseason pick but find themselves chasing the White Sox futilely, and that was BEFORE the Chi Sox picked up Kevin Youkalis.

So who has the advantage tonight, and more importantly, which team is a better play?   Let’s take a peek inside the numbers and find tonight’s winning edge.

Verlander had a slow start (for him) to the 2012 season, though following up last year’s alltime classic season would be difficult for any mortal.  However, over the last month of so he’s looked like the Verlander everyone expects.  He already has a no-hitter and one-hitter this season, and is beginning to get the feel that he could throw a no-no any single night.  He is 3-0 with a 1.88 ERA and a ridiculous 0.83 WHIP in his last three starts.  That is filthy and unhittable.

Meanwhile, Price has had some struggles.  He is 2-1 in his three most recent outings, however his 5.21 ERA is cause for some concern tonight in a game where allowing two or three runs could very well mean taking the loss.

Detroit is a sleeping giant.  Their offense is too good for them to not eventually pull away and win the AL Central… you just keep waiting for WHEN it is finally going to happen.  I’m not sure tonight is the start of that trend, but I do feel pretty good about them getting a win with Verlander on the hill.  A meager -119 to back the best pitcher on the planet facing a relatively light-hitting lineup feels a little too good to be true.

The Tigers are 4-0 in Verlander’s last four starts and are 9-2 in the last 11 games with Verlander on the hill where they are a favorite of between -110 and -150.  It may seem like an obscure stat, but what it tells me is that when facing another good starting pitcher, Verlander and the Tigers usually outduel them.  I think that will be the case tonight in Tampa Bay.

Free Pick:  Detroit Tigers to WIN -119