Red Sox & Rays Open Crucial Series

RED SOX AND RAYS OPEN CRUCIAL SERIES IN AL EAST RACE MONDAY NIGHT

We've talked about the strength of the AL East a few times in recent days. Monday Night brings a great series featuring the current leaders (the Boston Red Sox) and a contending opponent that's well suited to make a run from this point forward (the Tampa Bay Rays)

WON-LOST RECORDS
Boston: 39-25
Tampa Bay: 34-28 pending Baltimore (4 games back)

Tampa Bay has the better record over the past month. And, the fact that they've played fewer home games than Boston (30 home games for the Rays, 35 home games for Boston) means they're probably closer to the top than the full season numbers would suggest. This three-game set will give the Rays a chance to chase down the Red Sox from behind as that number of home games starts to equalize.

It's also worth noting that Tampa Bay is in the race even without vintage David Price! He struggled this year before hitting the Disabled List. If he can come back anywhere near his typical form (which is Cy Young caliber form!), then Tampa Bay could turn out to be the team to beat in this division in the second half of the season.

Of course...the YANKEES are thinking the same thing. The ORIOLES may not be going anywhere with their potent offense. This is going to be some race...and this week's Red Sox/Rays series will give us a taste of what's ahead.

Here are the probable pitching matchups for the three game set...

MONDAY'S PITCHERS
Boston... Lackey: 3-5, 2.79 ERA, 1.14 WHIP
Tampa Bay...Cobb: 6-2, 2.39 ERA, 1.06 WHIP

John Lackey would be a huge story this year if he hadn't gotten so little run support. He's posted ace caliber numbers even though he plays his home games in a hitter's park. How can he get so little run support in a hitter's park?! The laws of math are bound to catch up with him soon...meaning the Red Sox will string together some wins if he keeps pitching at this very high level.

Those laws of math may not help much when he's facing another pitcher who's throwing so well. You can see Lackey's bad luck by comparing his stats to Cobb's. Both guys should have great won-lost records throwing in front of those quality teams. Worth thinking about the Under in the series opener given those pitching stats, Boston's travel, and the relatively quiet home crowds on Monday Nights.

TUESDAY'S PITCHERS
Boston ... Lester: 6-2, 3.60 ERA, 1.19 WHIP
Tampa Bay ...Hernandez: 3-6, 5.04 ERA, 1.34 WHIP

Lester's pitched in good luck this year, which is why he has such a great record with overall numbers that are worse than Lackey's. It's worth noting that his luck may have started to run out. He's been mostly ineffective in his last four outings (ERA of 5.68)...and what started as a 6-0 season has fallen to 6-2. Trending badly compared to his overall numbers.

Hernandez has been feast or famine this year, with more famine's than feast if you're a Rays fan. He did throw a gem against the Marlins, allowing 0 earned runs on 3 hits while pitching into the ninth. Everyone's beating the Marlins! Think about how bad his ERA is for the year if you don't count the Marlins game? The Over will deserve consideration here given Lester's recent slump and the general unreliableness of Hernandez. High scoring potential.

WEDNESDAY'S PITCHERS
Boston ...Undecided
Tampa Bay ... Archer: 1-1, 4.91 ERA, 1.27 WHIP

Chris Archer has only started two games for the Rays. He got rocked by Cleveland, but then bounced back well and shut down Baltimore. Still too early to have a very good read on him. Boston had a rainout vs. the LA Angels over the weekend that messed up the rotation a bit. They will likely start a pitcher who's vulnerable to getting hit by this improved Rays offense. You can't make a pick without knowing one of the pitchers! Tampa Bay could offer value here if Archer's performance vs. Baltimore was the real deal.

JIM HURLEY is likely to have at least one release in one of these games the next few days. But, there are other marquee matchups as well:

Cleveland at Texas
LA Angels at Baltimore
NY Yankees at Oakland (starts Tuesday)
San Francisco at Pittsburgh (starts Tuesday)

Baseball goes up every day...and NBA Playoff action will join the fun Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday this week. You can purchase top plays here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions about service, call us in the office during regular business hours at 1-800-323-4453.

We'll be back with you Tuesday to preview Game Three of the Heat/Spurs Championship showdown as the series moves to Texas for the first time. Don't make a move in that critical game until you hear what JIM HURLEY has to say! And, make sure you GET THE MONEY seven days a week by pounding the baseball along with the baskets. THE SUMMER IS GOING TO SIZZLE!

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