Thus far in the series it is dead even at 1-1 and the Rays could be 2-0 except for a bullpen meltdown Thursday. Here are situations to consider tonight.
Tampa Bay in Search of Answers
As we head into the second half of May, normally by now the Rays are making their move up the standings in the AL East and positioning themselves as a prime contender.
This has not happened in 2014, with Tampa Bay in last place in what appears to be a pretty run of the mill division. This is not to say manager Joe Maddon will not find a way to have his team raise its level of play, but if this team would vault to first place, the skipper could change his name to Merlin (like in magician).
The season got off to a bad start, losing three starting pitchers, which directly impacted the bullpen. Maddon has been a master in manipulating a pen seemingly out of thin air, but as MLB baseball handicappers know, this is when his starting pitchers were going at least six innings or deeper. That has not been the case and the bullpen has been unsettled all year. At least Alex Cobb is close to returning.
With the lack of overall pitching this would suggest a need for more offense, which has not occurred. At this time, the Rays are at 4.1 runs per game, compared to last year’s 94-win team which averaged 4.3 RPG. While that does not sound like much, when you go from +0.2 run differential to -0.3, for this Tampa team this means being 20 games over .500 to having a record under .500.
Angels Moving up, has to be Better at Home
All season, Los Angeles have been one of the top offensive teams in the American League and that for the most part has been true home and away.
While most team play better at home compared to be being away, this has not been the case for L.A.A, who is 9-11 (-5.4 units) due to their pitching.
On the road, the Halos pitching staff is heavenly, permitting a baseball-best 3.0 RPG. Yet in a pitcher’s park like the Big A, they are being tagged for 5.4 RPG, which is nearly the exact opposite in ranking 29th among home teams.
With the offense manager Mike Scioscia has at his disposal, if the hurlers start throwing like they do on the road, everybody will jump on the Angels bandwagon for sports picks.
Pitching Matchup for Saturday
Cesar Ramos (1-2, 3.71 ERA, 1.38 WHIP) has never been a regular starter in the big leagues like he was in the minors. However, out of necessity, Tampa Bay has been forced to use the left-hander to fill one its five starting rotation spots. Why Ramos has never been able to stick with a team long term is his lack of control and this season has been no different with 25 strikeouts and 18 walks in 34 innings.
After three good starts C.J. Wilson (4-3, 3.69, 1.17) was ineffective last Monday at Toronto in taking the loss. The port-sider allowed two home runs and will seek to bounce back and is known for a low 90’s fastball, though his slider has been more inconsistent this season. Thus far, Wilson is not seeing many left-handed batters since they are batting a miserable .170 against him.
Among the reasons why Tampa Bay has not been able to beat the betting odds with any regularity this season is the bullpen. Normally a strength of the Rays, the Thursday opener was a prime example of its failures, surrendering four runs, which included Mike Trout’s three-run jack in a 6-5 loss. Their ERA (4.44) is only good enough for 12th in the AL and only the White Sox have a poor K-to-W ratio in their league.
The Los Angeles bullpen is not exactly locking up opposing hitters with a 4.35 ERA. Collectively they have been better of late, particularly Michael Kohn and now closer Joe Smith. To achieve more success, the entire contingent has to stronger which includes Kevin Jepsen (5.02) and former closer Ernesto Frieri (5.19).
Head to Head Combat and Betting Odds
For those making MLB picks, this has been an odd series in Anaheim with Angles having lost 16 of the past 21 at the Big A to the Rays. Tampa Bay is a +150 underdog with a total of 8.5 according to the sportsbooks.
Totals bettors might have some interest since the Rays are 19-9 OVER against starting pitchers who average 6.5 or more innings and the Halos Wilson is 14-3 OVER if his club is off a loss.
The Winner Is…
After being shut out last night, look for the Angels to rebound offensively and Wilson to be sharper than his previous outing. Also understand Tampa Bay is 3-16 as a road underdog of +125 to +175 the last two seasons and Wilson is his career is 42-17 as a favorite of -125 to -175. (Team's Record)
MLB Free Picks – Los Angeles of Anaheim wins