Rays Almost No-Hit Again!

HANDICAPPING NOTEBOOK

BRANDON MORROW K'S 17,
LOSES NO-HITTER IN 9TH

by Mathew Hurley, Managing Editor

Man...there are days where the Tampa Bay Rays just go up to the plate HACKING away like they've got a plane to catch.

And, it often comes on days when they've got a plane to catch!

The Rays have become notorious for going long stretches of time without getting a hit. Sunday afternoon, the slumping team made Brandon Morrow of Toronto look like Nolan Ryan. Morrow finished the day with a stunning 17 strikeouts and a one-hit shutout. Tampa Bay spoiled the no-hitter in the 9th inning, but couldn't manufacture the tying run they needed to avoid a three-game sweep.

Of note:

*It was a getaway game. Tampa Bay is among a group of teams that seem to lose offensive discipline when they don't bring 100% focus.

*The roof was shut in Toronto, and that becomes a good strikeout park that way because their indoor lighting is much worse than the bright sunshine.

*The Rays seem to consistently getting into hitting ruts like this when things are going well, more than any other top contender.

It was a perfect storm that played right into the hands of Morrow.

After catching the Yankees for first place in the AL East earlier in the week, the Rays are now back in second place thanks to a five game losing streak. They lost the last two games of the Twins series at home, then failed to break through once in the Great White North.

Let's crunch the numbers from that game, and the rest of Sunday's busy MLB card as we get caught back up with the pennant races...

TORONTO 1, TAMPA BAY 0
Total Bases + Walks: Tampa Bay 3, Toronto 11
Starting Pitchers: Sonnanstine 5.1 IP, 1 ER, Morrow, 9 IP, 0 ER
Vegas Odds: Toronto -125, total of 10
NOTEBOOK: Toronto shouldn't have had to sweat the 9th inning to that degree. They could only create one run out of 11 offensive bases. Look to go against Morrow the next time out. He threw 137 pitches in trying to make a run at history. He's definitely due to fall back to earth in a big way. No way he breaks 120 pitches if not for carrying the no-hitter so deep in the game. We already mentioned the five-game losing streak for the Rays. Toronto has won 8 of 11, and has thus far avoided their traditional late season swoon. No shot for the playoffs barring a few miracles. But, Toronto looks to be a value team at value prices at the moment.

We continue with the rest of the American League in rotation order...

DETROIT 9, LA ANGELS 4
Total Bases + Walks: Angels 14, Detroit 21
Starting Pitchers: Bell 5.1 IP, 4 ER, Porcello, 6 IP, 2 ER
Vegas Odds: Detroit -130, total of 10
NOTEBOOK: Neither team has been in good form of late. The Angels had won a couple of games, but only because they were playing Detroit! Bell seems to be in way over his head at this level thus far in limited action. Porcello has been a disaster this season, but did manage a quality start here. The Tigers move back with nine games of first place Chicago with the win. They're still three games below .500 though, and a longshot to reach the postseason. The Halos fall back below .500 with the loss, and haven't had the look of a contender for several weeks now.

MINNESOTA 5, CLEVELAND 4
Total Bases + Walks: Minnesota 14, Cleveland 14
Starting Pitchers: Duensing 7.1 IP, 3 ER, Huff, 4.1 IP, 5 ER
Vegas Odds: Minnesota -160, total of 9.5
NOTEBOOK: Duensing had been holding his own as a starter, and was very expensive here. A shaky start dug a 4-0 hole for the Twinkies, but they rallied for five off Huff in the fifth to surge ahead. The raw stats show a dead heat. Superior teams find away to get more out of their stats in nailbiter games like this. Minnesota is now within a half a game of the Sox at the top of the AL Central. Cleveland has been treading water for awhile, which will make you money as big underdogs. We'll keep looking to pick our spots with the Tribe, particularly when the struggling Huff ISN'T pitching. Minnesota has to be very pleased that Duensing has been such a pleasant surprise.

BALTIMORE 4, CHICAGO WHITE SOX 3
Total Bases + Walks: CWS 14, Baltimore 19
Starting Pitchers: Beurhle 7 IP, 3 ER, Guthrie, 8 IP, 1 ER
Vegas Odds: CWS -125, total of 8.5
NOTEBOOK: What a difference a manager makes. Baltimore is now 5-1 since Buck Showalter took over. You saw a clean win here offensively and with the starting pitcher. Though, the O's did have to sweat the 9th inning after blowing most of a 4-1 lead. Still, this is a team you definitely have to consider at value prices, particularly if the markets are going to be THIS slow acknowledging the managerial change. The White Sox caught some bad luck drawing the Orioles when they weren't doormats any more. They still lead the AL Central...with one fewer loss than the Twinkies. A big series between Chicago and Minnesota starts Tuesday. The Sox actually have one more game in Baltimore Monday Night.

OAKLAND 3, TEXAS 2
Total Bases + Walks: Texas 8, Oakland 13
Starting Pitchers: Lewis 6 IP, 1 ER, Cahill, 8 IP, 0 ER
Vegas Odds: Oakland -115, total of 7
NOTEBOOK: It was a must-win game for Oakland...and win they did! The victory trims the Texas lead in the AL West to 7.5 games. That's still a lot to make up. But, there's only one team to catch and that one team could start to feel collars tightening down the stretch...or could fade out from heat exhaustion. That being said, Texas did enough on the road trip to maintain a relatively safe lead as their home/road split started to even out. We'd mentioned in earlier articles that Texas had a HUGE split in their favor. It's down to 57-54 now...which now confirms their lead is mostly reality and only a little bit illusion. A lead of 7.5 is what you get when one team is 17 games over .500, and the opponent chasing them is two games over .500. That makes it sound safer for the Rangers, doesn't it? If Texas plays .500 ball the rest of the way, they're pretty much in the playoffs.

SEATTLE 3, KANSAS CITY 2
Total Bases + Walks: Kansas City 15, Seattle 10
Starting Pitchers: Davies 6 IP, 2 ER, Vargas, 6 IP, 1 ER
Vegas Odds: Seattle -135, total of 9
NOTEBOOK: A fortunate win for the Mariners, who should have lost by a score of about 4 to 2.5 based on the offensive basis. Not that it matters with these teams about 40 games out of first place combined. Not going to dwell much on the meaningless games today with so many big ones on the schedule.

Sunday in the National League

(Note that the top game on the schedule, St. Louis at Florida, was rained out)

PHILADELPHIA 6, NY METS 5
Total Bases + Walks: Mets 15, Philaelphia 21
Starting Pitchers: Dickey 3 IP, 4 ER, Halladay, 7 IP, 5 ER
Vegas Odds: Philadelphia -230, total of 6.5
NOTEBOOK: Halladay seemed pretty comfortable with a 6-2 lead in the third inning. He would give most of that back before leaving the game after seven innings and 10 strikeouts. The win moved his record to 14-8, which isn't exactly Cy Young material, but isn't too far off what the team could have hoped for mathematically. The Phils recent surge has them back in the NL East race. The Mets are way off the pace, and have fallen back below .500 again with this loss. We're always emphasizing how hard it is to make a run at the playoffs from the .500 mark. If you're sitting there in early August, you're probably out of luck. ESPN won't tell you this because they're trying to hype games involving big market teams. We thought you should know the truth!

COLORADO 8, PITTSBURGH 4
Total Bases + Walks: Colorado 31, Pittsburgh 15
Starting Pitchers: Rogers 6 IP, 3 ER, Maholm, 2.2 IP, 6 ER
Vegas Odds: Pick-em, total of 8.5
NOTEBOOK: The Rockies salvage a split, but that's still a bit of a disaster when you're facing a team that's only won 39 games all season. The Rockies are right on the fringe of the NL West race because they need BOTH San Diego and San Francisco to go into slumps to have a chance. And, for that matter, they have to start stringing together road wins too. Colorado is just 22-34 on the road with this victory, suggesting this is a team taking advantage of their familiarity with altitude more than anything else.

ATLANTA 6, SAN FRANCISCO 3
Total Bases + Walks: San Francisco 15, Atlanta 23
Starting Pitchers: Sanchez 4 IP, 4 ER, Lowe, 5.1 IP, 2 ER
Vegas Odds: Atlanta -130, total of 7.5
NOTEBOOK: Atlanta takes three of four in this huge series, and establishes themselves at least as a team that's going to be tough to take out in Georgia. Atlanta is now 39-15 at home this year. They have a real shot to earn home field through the NL playoffs too. Sanchez didn't have his best stuff today. Lowe wasn't on fire, but made it long enough to get his 11th victory on the season. Atlanta stays 1.5 games ahead of the Phils. They're now 1.5 games ahead of San Francisco in the race for a Wildcard spot should the Phils run past the Braves. We're in for a great race in the coming weeks. Will give us something to talk about on weekdays in September during football season!

MILWAUKEE 11, HOUSTON 6
Total Bases + Walks: Houston 17, Milwaukee 24
Starting Pitchers: Wright 2.1 IP, 7 ER, Gallardo, 6 IP, 4 ER
Vegas Odds: Milwaukee -240, total of 8
NOTEBOOK: Vegas anticipated a blowout with this pitching matchup, and got it. A very warm day in Milwaukee made for ideal scoring conditions with the roof open. Houston has now lost four in a row after that mini-hot streak that started after the Oswalt and Berkman trades. Milwaukee sweeps the series, and is now just six games below .500. The Brewers have a knack for trending toward mediocrity late in the year, no matter whether things started very well or very poorly. Houston stays ahead of the Cubs in the race to stay out of fifth place.

CINCINNATI 11, CHICAGO CUBS 4
Total Bases + Walks: Cincinnati 28, Cubs 11
Starting Pitchers: Wood 6.1 IP, 3 ER, Diamond, 3 IP, 5 ER
Vegas Odds: Cincinnati -135, total of 11
NOTEBOOK: The wind was blowing out, as you could guess by the Vegas total. And, as is normally the case, they didn't jack it up high enough. Nice battle within nature between Wood and Diamond. Was it somebody's anniversary? The Reds sweep the series and move to two games ahead of the Cardinals (who got rained out). Chicago has lost 10 of 11. We told you at the time Lou Piniella's announcement just set up a lame duck end to the season. What's the point of flushing two months down the toilet. Bring in Ryne Sandberg now and act like you care!

The Reds & Cardinals gear up for a big showdown in the NL Central that starts tonight! Click here to get the winner. Or click here and get the rest of the baseball season, with the NFL Pre-Season as a free bonus!

 

LA DODGERS 8, WASHINGTON 3
Total Bases + Walks: Washington 14, Dodgers 17
Starting Pitchers: Marquis 4 IP, 2 ER, Lilly, 6 IP, 3 ER
Vegas Odds: LA Dodgers -200, total of 7.5
NOTEBOOK: The Dodgers exploded for some superfluous runs in the 8th inning. The differential in offensive bases suggests a much closer game. There's really not much separating these two teams in recent weeks. Washington actually has the better record over the last 11 games. The Dodgers do take the series two games to one, maintaining their limited hopes to get back into the playoff picture. They've played a lot more home games than road games...and need to get hot on the road to have any chance. A trip to Philly will provide a serious challenge starting this Tuesday.

SAN DIEGO 10, ARIZONA 1
Total Bases + Walks: San Diego 24, Arizona 10
Starting Pitchers: Latos 6 IP, 0 ER, Saunders, 6 IP, 5 ER
Vegas Odds: San Diego -150, total of 8.5
NOTEBOOK: Joe Saunders probably isn't going to like pitching for Arizona very much. It's a tough park for pitchers, and the Diamondbacks are a pretty bad team. They did end up winning this series two games to one though. San Diego needed to get back in form quickly in a tight race, and did so today with an offensive explosion. The Padres lengthen their lead in the West back to two games. Both the Padres and Giants will be home this week facing opponents they should beat.

That wraps up our look at Sunday baseball. Back tomorrow with more notes from the world of sports. Our next NFL Divisional preview will be Thursday here in the NOTEBOOK. We'll study the AFC East to get you ready for New England/New Orleans that night on TV. The NFC South will follow on Friday, and we'll continue a gauntlet through the next several days to stay in synch with the NFL Preseason slate.

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Through the chase for the pennant...and the race for the Super Bowl...make your home JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK!

This article is part of the VSM MASTERS SERIES presented by VegasSportsMasters.com and JimHurley.com. For more information on JIM HURLEY'S handicapping packages, call 1-800-323-4453.

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