The Tampa Bay Rays (55-41) went 14-2 in their last 16 contests before the All-Star break, pulling to within 2½ games behind the Boston Red Sox (58-39) for the American League East’s lead. MLB odds makers list Boston as a 4/5 favorite to capture the group’s title, while the Rays follow at 5/2.
Boston has notched a 9-3 mark in its 12 battles with Tampa Bay, including a 4-2 mark over a pair of road sets. The Red Sox and Rays meet for a pivotal four-game set at Fenway Park this coming Monday, while not seeing each other again until September.
Red Sox mates David Ortiz (.317 BA) and Dustin Pedroia (.316 BA) are among the American League’s top five hitters, with Ortiz leading the club with 19 homers and 65 RBIs. Boston’s John Lackey has been its tightest starter, with a 7-6 mark and 2.78 ERA.
Tampa Bay has notched 4.7 RPG, ranking sixth in MLB, with outfielder Desmond Jennings having one of its hottest bats. The Alabama native has hit 18-for-50 over his last 12 games, including a pair of homers and three doubles.
Orioles, Yankees, Jays – The longer shots
The division’s trio of higher-priced hopefuls will have their work cut out for them down the stretch. MLB betting odds list the Baltimore Orioles (53-43) and New York Yankees (51-44) at 5/1 and 7/1, respectively, while the Toronto Blue Jays (45-49) are distant outsiders with a 22/1 tag.
Baltimore picked up some steam with a 4-1 run in its five latest affairs, but faces a seven-game road trip out of the second half’s gate. Orioles first baseman Chris Davis has cracked 37 homers, including one each in the club’s last four outings, while closer Jim Johnson leads the American League with 33 saves.
New York has not found enough consistency thanks to its injuries, including a subpar 2-4 mark in its six home dates against Boston. The Yankees have nine of their remaining 13 matchups taking place at Fenway Park, including this weekend’s set following the All-Star break.
Toronto’s 11-game winning streak during June’s action is long gone at this point, with John Gibbons’ club going 7-13 since the surge. The Blue Jays have gotten their share of runs on the board, but the pitching staff’s sizable 4.18 ERA has resulted in enough setbacks to stay out of contention.
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For my MLB futures picks, I am adding a ticket on Boston to hold on and win the division, despite the odds-on premium.
The Red Sox have 13 of its next 16 games at home, while August’s first road trip comes against three subpar clubs in Houston, Kansas City, and Toronto. Ortiz and Co. should be able to distance themselves from the Rays and Orioles over the next month, leaving some slack for tougher spots late in the year.
Tampa Bay and Baltimore may only seem behind by a handful of games, but it is a long distance given the division’s setup. The duo has enough favorable matchups in September for either to make a final surge, but look for Boston to hold serve.
MLB Pick: Boston Red Sox +110 at William Hill
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