MLB Betting: Series Opener Trends Favor A's & Under When Facing Rays

Sonny Gray

Thursday, July 21, 2016 2:34 PM GMT

It's two of the worst teams in the American League facing off Thursday night as Tampa Bay opens a series in Oakland. But this game itself could matter due to the pitchers. The A's are -136 MLB odds with a total of 8.

Tampa Bay Rays vs Oakland Athletics
Tampa Bay is last in the AL East and is going to finish there. Oakland is battling the L.A. Angels to stay out of the basement in the AL West, and I expect the A's to finish at the bottom. But what Tampa Bay and Oakland both have are valuable trade assets ahead of the Aug. 1 non-waiver trade deadline. And both starting pitchers in Thursday's game are coveted around baseball.

The Rays are stacked with good young pitching so it's all but a lock they are going to deal at least one of them by Aug. 1 for a young bat because Tampa Bay just doesn't have that type of hitter in its system. Oakland has starting pitching, relievers and potentially outfielders to trade.

What the Rays and A's have in common is that they are both small-market teams playing in the two worst stadiums in the majors (while not drawing well in them) and that's not even close -- trust me, I've been to both Tropicana Field and the O.co Coliseum. So both franchises need to beef up the farm system when possible because they aren't going to be hugely active in free agency, at least at the top.

Oakland took two of three at Tampa Bay from May 13. The A's took Game 1 6-3 behind two home runs from Danny Valencia. The two starting pitchers in that game, Rich Hill for the A's and Jake Odorizzi for the Rays, are both very much on the trade market and it would be a huge surprise if Hill isn't traded. In Game 2, the Rays won 6-0 behind a complete-game two-hitter from Matt Andriese, his first career shutout. Andriese is now in the bullpen. And then in the finale, the A's won 7-6. Valencia went yard three times in that one, so I'm guessing the Rays pitchers might be careful with him this time. There's talk that Valencia could also be traded as the journeyman third baseman is having a career season, batting .298 with 12 homers and 34 RBIs.

Probable Pitchers
It's lefty Matt Moore (5-7, 4.33) on the mound for the Rays, so there will be plenty of scouts in attendance to see him. Most expect either he or Odorizzi to be traded. The Texas Rangers and Pittsburgh Pirates have been largely linked to Moore. He comes off a strong outing vs. Baltimore on Saturday, allowing two runs and five hits over 7.1 innings, but once again the Rays didn't score much for Moore and he lost. It was his fourth straight start going at least six innings and allowing two earned runs or fewer. So his value is high. The under is 5-0 on MLB odds in Moore's past five starts.

Moore took a no-decision vs. Oakland in Tampa's 7-6 loss on May 15, allowing four runs and seven hits over five innings. Valencia is 5-for-11 career off him with two doubles, two homers and three RBIs. Billy Butler is 3-for-9 with a double and two RBIs. Coco Crisp is 2-for-6.

Scouts also will be looking at Oakland's Sonny Gray, the team's presumed ace and one of the AL's best pitchers the past couple of years. However, Gray is just 4-8 with a 5.12 ERA this year and thus I doubt he's traded until next year when Gray re-establishes his value. But if A's GM Billy Beane is overwhelmed, then Gray could go. And he's pitching better of late with four quality starts in his past five. Gray faced Toronto on Saturday and got the win, allowing three runs and six hits over six innings -- his sixth straight start lasting exactly six innings. The A's are still just 2-7 on MLB picks in Gray's past nine starts.

Gray was opposite Moore that May 15 game in St. Petersburg and Gray took a no-decision as well, allowing six runs (three earned) and six hits over 5.2 innings. Brandon Guyer is 2-for-4 career off him with two homers and five RBIs. Logan Forsythe is 2-for-5 with a homer. Evan Longoria is 5-for-17 with a double and homer. Steve Pearce, activated off the DL earlier this week, is 0-for-5 with three strikeouts against Gray.

Oakland is 4-0 in its past four series openers. The Rays are 2-12 in Moore's past 14 road starts. The 'under' is 5-2-2 in Moore's past nine on the road.

Free MLB Picks: A's -117 and Under 8 +103
Best Line Offered: A's -117 at BetCris and Under 8 +103 at Pinnacle

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