It is the middle contest of a three-game series between division rivals Baltimore and Tampa Bay. Sportsbooks had low expectations for both teams coming into the year with lower season win totals.
However, especially for the Orioles, they truly feel they have something to prove coming off a 96-win season and being the defending AL East champions for the first time in 17 years. Baltimore understands they lost a couple big bats, but feels they can offset this with shared responsibility.
The Rays situation is more complex with a new manager, several different players in the starting lineup and seeking a new identity. One aspect we know for certain, Tampa Bay will no longer be overvalued like they were last season against the betting odds by numerous MLB handicappers.
Baltimore Manager Buck Showwalter Doesn’t Expect Anyone to Feel Sorry for His Team
Many including this scribe seriously wondered how the O’s would have a consistent offense this season with departed free agents Nelson Cruz (40 home runs) and Nick Markakis (2nd in team hits) playing elsewhere and catcher Matt Wieters and shortstop J.J. Hardy still injured.
At least for a day those questions were answered with RF Travis Snider 3 for 4 with two RBI’s and he threw out a runner at the plate in a 6-2 victory in St. Petersburg on Monday. In addition, the Birds who led the majors in home runs last season with 211, showed why they can possibly beat the MLB odds again and be worthy of sports picks with three home runs (Alejandro De Aza, Steve Pearce and Ryan Flaherty).
Tampa Bay Hurting in More Ways than One
Rookie Rays manager Kevin Cash believed the strength of his teams was its starting pitching, but with Alex Cobb, Matt Moore and Drew Smyly sidelined by injuries, Nathan Karns will make his sixth career start on the second day of the season.
Tampa Bay was last in runs scored in the American League in 2014 and the fact they have Adrusal Cabrera batting third in the opene, tells anyone making MLB picks, the Rays batting order at least to start the season will have much to be desired.
Pitching Matchup – Chen vs. Karns
Taking the hill for Baltimore will be left-hander Wei-Yin Chen (13-10, 3.86 ERA, 1.27 WHIP) and the scouting report on him is 90-94 fastball with good movement, that he can sink or ride up on opposing batters. Chen mixes in two breaking pitches and a changeup which he can fade to right- hand hitters. Chen is 3-4 with a 3.26 ERA in 13 career starts versus Tampa Bay.
Karns has three good pitches, a quality 93 MPH fastball, a power curve and changeup that will sink. At 27 years old, the reason he’s never stuck in the big leagues is because his command in irregular and he lacks mound presences. (What scouts call head-case in a suitcase) Karns has one no-decision against Baltimore from 2013, pitching 4 1/3 innings, allowing three runs on five hits (2 HR’s).
Manny Machado went 0-3 yesterday but is well regarded for hitting left and right-handed pitching well and he actually had better power numbers against righties last season. If Karns makes mistake, Machado can go yard.
Chris Davis will probably be in the lineup for Baltimore since he’s 2 for 2 against Karns with a home run.
Evan Longoria was the line bright spot in the Tampa Bay offense with a dinger on Monday and last year had a .376 OBP and .824 OPS versus lefty pitchers.
Odds and Outcome
The opening line saw the Rays at -100 and they have been flipped around to +100 or higher, with the total sinking from 7.5 (-110) to same number juiced to -125.
Even with the injuries, the Orioles have the better club and when the total is 7.5, Chen and the Birds are 45-25. With Karns susceptible to the long ball or at least making miscues, the O’s still have enough offense to take advantage of this situation and they move to 11-10 at the Top the past three years.
MLB Pick – Baltimore (Parlay Potential – Consider Under also)