The Tampa Bay Rays make their first ever trip to Dodger Stadium for a crucial weekend interleague series, and SBR will follow the set with previews and free MLB pick.
World Series preview, anyone? One of the benefits of having interleague series going on throughout a season is matchups like this weekend's clash in Los Angeles between the Dodgers and Tampa Bay Rays during the actual pennant race, instead of seeing them only in the first half.
Sunday's Game Three
By: Willie Bee
The Tampa Bay Rays had no answers for Zack Greinke and the Los Angeles Dodgers bullpen on Saturday, and now have to take out the ace of the LA staff if they want to avoid being swept on their first trip to Chavez Ravine.
ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball (8 PM ET) will carry the game that finds the Dodgers prohibitive favorites behind Clayton Kershaw. MLB betting odds opened with Los Angeles at -190 and there has been very little movement on that moneyline. Jeremy Hellickson gets the ball for the Rays with a 6.5 run total that is going to cost UNDER bettors an extra 30¢ at many locales.
About the only thing Tampa Bay got right in Game 2 was pulling off a hidden ball trick to catch Dodgers 3B Juan Uribe napping on the basepaths. Adrian Gonzalez's 1st-inning homer provided all the runs that Greinke and a pair of relievers needed in the 5-0 decision, LA's fourth consecutive win and TB's fourth straight defeat.
Hellickson will undoubtedly be happy not to see the Diamondbacks in the other dugout when he takes the mound Sunday. Each of his last two outings came against the Snakes, most recently this past Tuesday in Arizona, and both ended in defeat while Hellickson surrendered nine runs in nine innings between the two contests. Those assignments stopped a string of seven consecutive wins for the Rays with him on the hill.
Getting knocked around by NL clubs has been the norm for Hellickson in 2013. He faced the Marlins and Padres earlier this year, allowing 11 runs in 12 frames against those clubs, though Tampa Bay did manage to win the starts.
The Dodgers have also dropped each of Kershaw's last two starts, though it wasn't because of his pitching. A lack of run support when the lefty is on the hill has been a running theme for LA as evidenced by his sub-2.00 ERA and the team managing to only win 13 of his 24 assignments. Kershaw is working on a string of 22.2 IP without allowing a homer.
Umpire Doug Eddings brings a fairly level 13-11 O/U mark into the series finale. His only appearance behind the plate at Dodger Stadium in April went OVER. It should be a most pleasant afternoon and early evening for the game; clear skies and temps in the mid-to-upper 70s are in store for the five o'clock local start, a gentle 5-10 mph WSW blow possibly giving fly balls headed to right field a little extra push.
Nothing seems to be going right for the Rays while the Dodgers can't do any wrong right now. That pedestrian 13-11 record with Kershaw on the bump scares me a bit, but I'm still going to close the set with a second straight run line play on LA for my free pick.
My pick: Dodgers -1.5 (+110) at Bet365
Saturday's Game Two
By: Willie Bee
The Los Angeles police report they have no leads in the mysterious disappearance of the Tampa Bay Rays bullpen that went missing in the eighth inning of last night's loss to the Dodgers. So far, they have questioned LA manager Don Mattingly who has an airtight alibi, while Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon was said to be inconsolable following the game.
Maddon is very likely going to need his bullpen Saturday afternoon when the Rays and Dodgers continue their series in one of the contests FOX is featuring with regional coverage (4 PM ET). The Rays are sending Roberto Hernandez to the hill at Chavez Ravine opposite LA's Zack Greinke who is the $1.50 favorite. MLB odds for the contest are also showing a 7 run total.
Tampa Bay relievers entered Friday's match with the AL's third-lowest blown save mark and fourth in the WHIP column, but couldn't maintain a 5-run lead the club built behind ace David Price. The Dodgers, who fell behind Price 6-0, came all the way back and pulled out an 7-6 walk-off with four runs in the ninth off TB closer Fernando Rodney.
Hernandez has been remarkably consistent the last six weeks or so, allowing three runs in six of his seven starts and two in the other at the end of July when he tossed a complete game vs. the Diamondbacks. He didn't manage to make it through the fifth against the Giants last Sunday, however, but the Rays still got the victory, their fourth in Hernandez's last five outings.
Saturday will be the first time he has faced the Dodgers in his career, and Hernandez has struggled on the road all but one start in Miami on May 29. The Rays have won just one of his other eight assignments away from Tropicana Field while Hernandez posted a 6.85 ERA in those tilts.
Greinke does have some experience vs. the Rays going back to his days with the Royals, Brewers and Angels, but only has a 2-6 lifetime record against Tampa Bay despite a decent 3.70 ERA. He saw them twice in 2012 after being dealt from Milwaukee to Anaheim, and each start ended in a Halos defeat. The Dodgers are 8-1 in Greinke's last nine assignments, and 8-1 in his home starts (2.56 ERA at Dodger Stadium).
Paul Nauert (11-12-2) should call the balls and strikes today and is working on a string of three consecutive UNDERS. Mostly clear skies, temps in the mid-to-upper 70s and a light SSW breeze (out to right-center) make up the forecast.
We know the Dodgers are going to plate at least three runs off Hernandez, and I'm expecting some good carryover mojo from last night's rally to play a key role in a comfortable win this afternoon. LA on the run line will be my free pick.
My pick: Dodgers -1.5 (+150) at Bet365
Friday's Series Opener
By: Willie Bee
Tampa Bay's first trip ever to Dodger Stadium includes a dandy clash for Game 1 between a pair of southpaws who have been on their game recently, David Price and Chris Capuano. MLB odds for Friday's opener started with the Rays tagged as -125 favorites and a 6.5 run total that cost a little more for OVER wagers. Overnight action on Tampa Bay has pushed the line up to -130 at most top sportsbooks.
Both teams traveled into LA on Thursday, the Rays enjoying the day off and taking the short flight from Arizona where they began this 5-game trip while the Dodgers finished up a series in St. Louis to complete an 8-game roadie. It has been a little more than six years since the clubs last met, and both previous series (2002 and 2006) took place at Tropicana Field in St. Pete. For what it's worth, the clubs split the previous six games, with the same true for the totals.
Price Has Definitely Been Right For The Ray
Tampa Bay dropped the two games in Phoenix to the D-Backs earlier this week to fall a couple of games off the pace in the AL East behind the Red Sox. As if seeing six double plays turned against them in Wednesday's 9-8 loss wasn't bad enough for the Rays, the team also watched talented rookie Chris Archer leave the game early due to a right forearm injury.
In addition to Archer, the Rays reach Tinseltown minus centerfielder Desmond Jennings (broken finger) along with two-fifths of their Opening Day rotation, Matt Moore (elbow) and Alex Cobb (concussion). Moore and Cobb could return as soon as next weekend when the club is home against the Blue Jays, but Jennings likely won't be back until the following weekend at the earliest.
Price has been nothing short of phenomenal since returning from the DL in early July. Tampa Bay is 6-1 in his seven assignments, the only loss a 2-1 defeat to the Astros, and Price has managed to get in nine innings of work in four of the starts thanks to efficiency on the mound.
He beat the Red Sox twice in six days at Fenway to close July and comes off a no-decision vs. the Giants last Saturday that went extra before the Rays prevailed 2-1. Even more remarkable than his low pitch count during the stretch is Price's 40/1 K:BB ratio in the seven starts.
Capuano Out To Extend Scoreless String
The Dodgers return to LA after a successful 7-1 road trip through Chicago and St. Louis helped them increase the NL West lead to 5.5 games over Arizona. The one injury concern for this series is Hanley Ramirez who is day-to-day with a strained right shoulder that had him on the pine for the entire 4-game set at the Cardinals.
Capuano is working on a 13-inning scoreless string and has brought his ERA down almost a full run during his last four trips to the mound, all LA victories. The home run bug bit him in Toronto just after the All-Star break, but then, Rogers Centre has been known to do that to a lot of hurlers. Outside that start in the current stretch, Capuano has done nothing but put zeroes on the scoreboard. A few players on the Rays' current roster have seen him before, but none have ever taken him deep.
A clear evening with temps in the upper-60s is your Friday forecast, and that should hold for the next two days as well. Any dramatic changes to that will be noted in our subsequent previews for the games on Saturday and Sunday.
Both clubs have performed pretty well against southpaws, and I like Price and Capuano to each perform well themselves this evening. I am offering the UNDER 6.5 as my free MLB pick for Game 1.My pick: Rays-Dodgers Under 6.5 (+100) at Bet365