It is too early to draw any conclusions about sports picks against the MLB odds, yet the Orioles are making their case in the first series of the season they might be tougher than presumed.
Baltimore has won their first two games in west Florida, thanks in part to the hot start from journeyman Steve Pearce, who has homered in each of the first two games. The Orioles had a 6-0 lead and held on to win 6-5 and go for the sweep before having their home opener on Friday against Toronto.
Underdog Orioles Seek 3-0 Sweep
Thus far there has been a carryover effect from last season’s 96-win campaign for manager Buck Showalter, with a pair of victories. Baltimore has won 11 of last 21 at Tropicana Field and is after first sweep since 2011 in this building.
Pearce has been an early season catalyst for the Orioles and prior to last season, he never had more than 165 at bats in a single season in the big leagues. But last year Pearce made 338 plate appearances and led the O’s in on-base percentage (.373), slugging (.556) and OPS (.930). Showwalter also enjoys his flexibility, being able to play first base, left or right field and DH when necessary.
Travis Snider has been a factor also, with four hits in five at-bats, plus three walks and wisely Showalter saw how these two players finished the spring and has them in the heart of the batting order, which is something sharp MLB baseball handicappers look for, managers who alter their lineup to match players to situations.
Tampa Bay Need Better Pitching and More Contact
At least the Rays did not rollover after trailing 6-0 and made a game of it in falling by a run. While anyone generating MLB picks knows Baltimore is still a power-laden club, Tampa Bay pitchers have already been taken yard four times in this series (that is 324 homers allowed at this pace for the season, just sayin’) and tonight’s starter Jake Odorizzi not only has to pitch well to avoid the sweep, but keep they the ball where his fielder can catch it.
Though the game of baseball has changed in recent years because of the number of hurlers throwing in the 90’s and becoming quite skilled at secondary pitches, hitter’s have to create a plan of attack. Tampa Bay was the worst offensive team in the AL last year and with what appears to be a weaker lineup, it would make sense for new manager Kevin Cash to stress making contact, yet after two contests the Rays have piled up 19 strikeouts. This is not acceptable anyways, but when you lack power hitters, this news is even worse and it will not let them compete in the American League East.
Starting Pitching Matchup – Gonzalez vs. Odorizzi
Miguel Gonzalez is 3-1 with a 2.64 ERA in five starts against Tampa Bay. The right-hander has a good feel for his variety of breaking pitches, with a diving cutter, curveball, slider and split-change that can roll off the table. His fastball tops out at 91 MPH most nights. Though he won twice last year against the Rays, Gonzalez allowed a ton of runners with 19 hits - including four homers - and nine walks in 14 2/3 innings.
The right-hander Odorizzi has a slow windup and accelerates once ready to throw and had above average command on two and four-seam low 90’s fastballs he can work both sides of the plate. He mixes in breaking pitches and changeup that runs and sinks. This fly-ball pitcher is 0-2 with a hefty 6.52 ERA in four starts versus Baltimore.
Pearce is 14 for 35 with five homers, three doubles and nine RBI’s in last 11 games at Tropicana Field. He has hit eight of his 40 career homers against Tampa Bay and it might not be a coincidence he is from nearby Lakeland, Fl.
O’s centerfielder Adam Jones is 8 for 12 with a home run against Odorizzi last season.
Odds and Outcome
Sportsbooks sent out Tampa Bay as -125 money line favorite with a total of 7.5. As of late this morning, the MLB odds had changed to the Rays under -120 and the total was at 7.
Though road sweeps are infrequent, Baltimore has taken eight of the past 11 at the Trop, has the better offense presently and is facing a fly-ball pitcher in Odorizzi, who if he makes a mistake, is facing a lineup which can take hit out of the park. No question the Rays will be motivated for first win but I’ll back the underdog Orioles to sweep Tampa Bay.
MLB Free Picks: Baltimore +107 at BetOnline