Friday's Baseball Recaps - Rays Stun Yankeees

YANKEES, RIVERA STUNNED IN NINTH - TEXAS TOPS WHITE SOX

With one of the most boring opening days in the history of Major League Baseball in the rearview mirror, the sport was hoping that the 2012 debuts of the New York Yankees, Tampa  Bay Rays, and Texas Rangers would bring some buzz back to the sport.

The Yanks/Rays season opener in Tampa sure did the trick with an early fireworks show and some late drama. Texas started the season off in winning fashion as they hope to earn a once-thought-impossible three-peat in the American League.

Let's crunch some numbers from those games and the rest of the Friday afternoon ticket. The only way to get up to speed in baseball after being buried in March Madness research is to jump in and swim!

TAMPA BAY 7, NY YANKEES 6
Total Bases + Walks: New York 20, Tampa Bay 27
Starters:
Sabathia:  6 IP, 5 ER, 7 K, 3 BB
Shields:  5 IP, 6 ER, 3 K, 3 BB
Vegas Line: NY Yankees -125, total of 7

This was our first Underdog of the Week, and we got the win in the bottom of the ninth!

The first truly WILD game of the new season. In the past we've mentioned that Total Bases + Walks turns a baseball score into a football score. This was like a 27-20 thriller where the winning touchdown came in the final seconds.

The scoring started early when Tampa Bay notched four runs in the bottom of the first inning off Sabathia thanks to a grand slam from Carlos Pena. They were already trailing by the top of the third! Raul Ibanez had a three-run shot for the Yanks in the top of the third. Some pitcher's duel between Sabathia and Shields. Scoring calmed down from 6-5 in the bottom of the third all the way to 6-5 in the bottom of the 9th. You figure Mariano Rivera is going to come in to nail down the save. WRONG! Ben Zobrist tied the game with an RBI triple. The bases were soon loaded with nobody out...then Pena provided the big hit bookend to a great day with the walk off game winning single.

Nice to have a reminder of why fans love baseball so much! The elite teams in the AL are likely to put on a show when playing each other. Given the bats on these teams, some Overs maybe in order except when the weather is dodgy (not an issue indoors here). Both the Yankees and Red Sox start the season with a loss. Tampa Bay joins Toronto and Baltimore atop the East Division standings at least for a day.

TEXAS 3, CHICAGO WHITE SOX 2
Total Bases + Walks: CWS 13, Texas 10
Starters:
Danks:  6 IP, 3 ER, 6 K, 0 BB
Lewis:  6 IP, 2 ER, 9 K, 1 BB
Vegas Line: Texas -180, total of 9.5

The White Sox got more people on base...but they kept striking out all day instead of driving people in. Texas pitchers combined to throw 13 strikeouts vs. only one walk. Big and enthusiastic crowd, as the city and state try to put the blown World Series behind them. This obviously wasn't a dominating win for one of the league favorites vs. a projected also-ran. But, it was the right way to start the season if you're a Rangers fan.

The Rangers/Angels race is going to be fascinating to watch in the AL West. ESPN is still going to focus on the AL East because of geographic proximity. Be sure you're focusing on EVERYONE who matters in the American League!

Oh, everyone's looking forward to the US debut of Yu Darvish Monday against Seattle. Another new Ranger you may want to pay attention to...Joe Nathan...picked up the save here with a spotless ninth. Remember him?

BALTIMORE 4, MINNESOTA 2
Total Bases + Walks: Minnesota 13, Baltimore 15
Starters:
Pavano:  7 IP, 4 ER, 1 K, 2 BB
Arrieta:  7 IP, 0 ER, 4 K, 2 BB
Vegas Line: Baltimore -115, total of 9

This was basically a replay of Toronto/Cleveland yesterday, except Minnesota didn't have any runs until the ninth inning, and then scored only two instead of forcing seven extra innings. Not much offense. The pitchers weren't particularly overpowering (Pavano only had one strikeout in seven innings!). But, it was hard to string together hits with temps in the high 50's and the game plodded along. Baltimore has no chance to contend in the AL East this year. They have to try to win the games they can like this to have a shot at 75 victories. Minnesota is hoping to bounce back after an injury-riddled disaster in 2011. It's depressing to see so quickly that a few teams in the AL are going to matter a lot, while so many others are just out there filling uniforms. It will be important for handicappers to recognize early if any of those "also-rans" are capable of getting hot and making Vegas money over the first couple of months this season.

Over in the National League Friday afternoon...

ST. LOUIS 11, MILWAUKEE 5
Total Bases + Walks: St. Louis 39, Milwaukee 18
Starters:
Garcia:  6 IP, 2 ER, 3 K, 2 BB
Gallardo:  3.2 IP, 6 ER, 3 K, 5 BB
Vegas Line: Milwaukee -130, total of 7.5

Albert who? The Cardinals knocked four home runs off Gallardo to secure a big early lead...then became the first team to win two games in the young season. The offensive bases stat shows a football blowout thanks to all the dingers. Three of the four blasts off Gallardo were solo shots, but the Cards still surged to double digits in runs because the merry-go-round wouldn't stop. By the far the biggest stat blowout of the young season, and not the kind of game you typically see when the top of the rotation squares off.

Great sign for the Cardinals that they're playing with such enthusiasm, and winning ROAD games instead of just coasting at home. Do you think these guys got tired of Pujols and former manager Tony LaRussa getting all the credit for a team championship?  It's way too early to draw conclusions about what could be an interesting if not exactly star-studded NL East race. But, you look for signs early...and the Cardinals are playing like a team that's going to matter. No shell shock at all from playing without Pujols in the lineup and LaRussa in the dugout.

That wraps up our stat briefs for early Friday action. Our next report will focus on Sunday basketball in the NBA. Be sure you log on to this website all weekend for the best plays on the board in both the baskets and the bases. There's plenty of DAY action in the bases all weekend, so be sure you take care of business early. If you have any questions, call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453.

Big MLB TV games this weekend:

Saturday
FOX: Regional coverage of Boston/Detroit, Kansas City/LAA, St. Louis/Milwaukee, and San Francisco/Arizona.

Sunday
TBS: NY Yankees at Tampa Bay
ESPN: Chicago White Sox at Texas

We may not be playing the TV games because we try to find you the best plays on the board whether they're on a network or not. Our SCOUTS and SOURCES are on top of every behind-the-scenes development (particularly with the teams who changed managers). Our STAT HANDICAPPERS know exactly how indicators change in the first week of the regular season. Our COMPUTER PROGRAMMERS are running simulations around the clock. And, our WISE GUY CONNECTIONS are letting us know what the smart money is doing...though we're not afraid to go against the Wise Guys early in April because our information is often better than theirs!

Please check ads every game day at the website for the latest news about big play offers. Then make a few clicks and have your credit card handy.

Spring has sprung...and Vegas gets stung thanks to JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK!

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