Rays-Cards Series Preview

TAMPA BAY RAYS SUDDENLY PLAYING GREAT, AS THEY VISIT ST. LOUIS IN MIDWEEK MATINEE

One of the biggest surprises in Major League Baseball through the first half of the 2014 season was how lousy the AL East had become amidst disappointing campaigns from the Tampa Bay Rays and Boston Red Sox. Both have been red hot since the All-Star Break, and are now dangerous teams who could at least play spoiler from this point forward…with an outside shot of contending if Baltimore falls apart.

Tampa Bay will get a quick two-game chance to play spoiler when they visit the St. Louis Cardinals of the NL Central Tuesday and Wednesday nights in Interleague action. St. Louis dropped their most recent game Sunday Night on ESPN to fall back into a tie (at the time) with Milwaukee, while sitting precariously in what’s now a FOUR-team divisional race that also includes Pittsburgh and Cincinnati.

Big two-game set for St. Louis…and possibly a continuing launch of Tampa Bay back into 2014 relevancy! A showcase series deserves showcase attention!

OFFENSE
Tampa Bay: 3.93 runs per game, .326 on-base, .384 slugging
St. Louis: 3.74 runs per game, .318 on-base, .373 slugging

Both offenses have been disappointments this season. And, once you adjust for Tampa Bay getting to use a Designated Hitter rather than batting a pitcher at the bottom of the order, they’ve been virtually identical disappointments. They could trade offenses and nobody would notice on the scoreboard. No edge in this category.

TUESDAY’S PITCHERS
Jake Odorizzi: 4.01 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 10.3 K-Rate
Adam Wainwright: 1.83 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 7.5 K-Rate

Odorizzi has knocked about 1.3 runs off his ERA over the last month and a half, and is now about 50/50 to throw a quality start. That’s a big improvement over his very shaky start. But, he still has issues with pitch counts because of his high K-Rate and walk tendency. He did shut down St. Louis earlier this season, allowing only one earned run in 7.1 innings back on June 10. But, “second look” spots like this for young pitchers can be troublesome. We’ve talked about Wainwright often this year, as he keeps showing up whenever we preview the Cardinals. He made the wrong kind of headlines in the All-Star Game “groove.” Perhaps that will inspire peak intensity here. Clearly a big edge to Wainwright. But, the market gives him so much respect that handicappers must think about whether or not Tampa Bay’s improved level of play recently is creating hidden value on the road underdog.

WEDNESDAY’S PITCHERS
Alex Cobb: 4.08 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 7.7 K-Rate
Lance Lynn: 3.13 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 8.2 K-Rate

Cobb has been below career norms since returning to the rotation. He’s not lasting deep enough into games, and you can tell that he’s not exactly scaring people in the numbers above. Lynn has thrown quality starts in six of his last seven outings, and seems to be settling in as a consistent contributor. You do have to make mental adjustments above for Cobb having to face a DH in most games. Still a slight edge to Lynn. Conceivably a handicapping spot where you consider the Game One loser in Game Two because neither has been playing like “sweep fodder” lately.

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It’s back to football tomorrow as we resume our summer series of college conference previews. Perhaps the top threat to Florida State’s run at a second straight National Championship will be discussed Wednesday when we look at Oregon and the rest of the Pac 12 “North.  Here’s the upcoming NOTEBOOK schedule…

Wednesday: College Football…Pac 12 “North” Preview
Thursday: College Football…Pac 12 “South” Preview
Friday: MLB Series Preview…LA Dodgers at San Francisco
Saturday: College Football…Big 12 Preview
Sunday: College Football…American Athletic Conference Preview
Monday: MLB Series Preview…either Pittsburgh at SF, or Boston at Toronto
Tuesday: MLB Series Preview…either LA Angels at Baltimore or Atlanta at LAD

Wow…the pennant races are shaping up as something very special…and it’s always fun to prepare for a coming football season. Don’t forget that our annual NFL divisional previews will get rolling just as the Preseason begins. That will be here before you know it!

Whatever the sport…whatever the time of year…JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK® will always MAKE YOU A WINNER!

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