Despite neither the Rays nor the Orioles having a shot to win the AL East, this matchup on Tuesday is still bursting with betting value. Find out how you can pad your pockets with our MLB Picks.
What You Need To Know
Tampa Bay entered Monday's opener 4.5 games out of the second wild-card spot with the Orioles 5.5 back. So those clubs not only have to try and catch Texas, which holds down that spot, but also the Minnesota Twins and Los Angeles Angels are ahead of Tampa and Baltimore. So it doesn't look promising. I'm rather surprised the Rays are even hanging around considering all the pitching injuries they have suffered and the loss of Manager Joe Maddon, who is now working his magic on the North Side of Chicago. The Rays remain without injured outfielders Desmond Jennings and Steven Souza.
The Orioles are the defending AL East champs, but I fully expected them to slide back this season after losing Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis as free agents and really adding no one of note. The Birds haven't finished with a losing record since 2011. Baltimore has been a very good club at home but is 16 games under .500 on the road. And the team is just 17-24 in one-run games and 9-50 when scoring three runs or fewer (both entering Monday). The Orioles have been without shortstop J.J. Hardy since Aug. 23 due to a groin injury, and he won't play in this series. Not much of a loss considering Hardy was hitting just .222 with seven homers, 32 RBIs and a putrid .253 on-base percentage in 93 games.
Remember that big-league rosters expand on Sept. 1. They jump from the 25-man active roster to the entire 40-man roster. Starting Tuesday then, any player on the 40-man roster can play for the big-league team. According to the Tampa Bay Times, the Rays are likely to call up infielders Richie Shaffer and Nick Franklin as well as catcher Luke Maile. Also possibilities are outfielder Mikie Mahtook and at least one pitcher from the group of Andrew Bellatti, C.J. Riefenhauser, Kirby Yates and Matt Moore. Top prospect Blake Snell, a lefty pitcher, will get the call at some point but not Tuesday. The Oriole are expected to recall pitcher Steve Johnson on Tuesday. I'm sure there will be others.
Keep an eye on where the Orioles use Manny Machado on Tuesday. He made his first big-league start at shortstop in Monday's opener. That's where he was groomed to play while in the minors but was moved to third base upon being called up in August 2012. Ryan Flaherty played third Monday.
Tuesday's Probable Pitchers
Chris Tillman (9-9, 4.58) was supposed to be Baltimore's ace but hasn't pitched like one all that often in 2015. He gets the call here. The Orioles have lost three of his past four outings. He was touched up for four runs and nine hits over six innings last time out in Kansas City. Tillman has started four times against the Rays this season and is 1-2 with a 3.20 ERA in 25.1 innings. Rays batters are hitting .207 off him with 22 strikeouts and only two homers. Evan Longoria is 16-for-43 career off Tillman with six homers, four doubles and nine RBIs. James Loney is just 4-for-30 off Tillman. Kevin Kiermaier is 2-for-14. The Orioles are 6-1 in Tillman's past seven starts as a sportsbooks favorite.
Left-hander Drew Smyly (1-2, 3.82) starts for Tampa, priced as favorites in current MLB odds He has been limited to six starts this year because of an arm injury that was originally expected to keep him out the entire season. He went out in early May and only returned on Aug. 16. He hasn't faced the Orioles this season and is 1-2 with a 3.32 ERA in four road starts. The Rays are 6-1 in his past seven starts against AL East teams. Adam Jones is 2-for-12 with a solo homer career off Smyly. Chris Davis is 2-for-11 with two homers. Machado is 1-for-4.
The 'under' is 8-0 in Smyly's past eight on the road and 5-0 in Tillman's past five at home. Baltimore is 2-5 in Tillman's past seven at home vs. Tampa but I still like the O's for my MLB picks on Tuesday.
MLB Free Picks: Lean Orioles and 'under' at Bookmaker