MLB Picks: Rays vs. Tigers Series Odds and Predictions
by Darin Zank - 4/9/2012
Two teams that opened their seasons with series sweeps over the weekend meet when the Tampa Bay Rays and Detroit Tigers play a three-game series at Comerica Park beginning Tuesday afternoon.
Both Tampa and Detroit made the playoffs last year, and both teams are off to good starts this year. And if you like watching good pitching, you might want to tune in to this series.
Rays vs. Tigers Storylines
The Rays just swept three games at home from the New York Yankees over the weekend, taking the lead in the first inning of each game. Friday Tampa got a grand slam from Carlos Pena in the first inning and a long game-winning single from him in the bottom of the ninth for a 7-6 victory. Saturday the Rays scored twice in the first, built an 8-2 lead and held on for an 8-6 win. And Sunday Tampa got 8 2/3 scoreless innings from starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson in their 3-0 victory.
Pena, the former Ray who's back with Tampa after one season with the Cubs, went 6-for-12 over the weekend with two home runs and seven runs batted in.
The defending AL Central Champion Tigers, meanwhile, are off to a 3-0 start after sweeping three games from Boston at Comerica Park over the weekend. Detroit beat the Red Sox, 3-2, Thursday, pushing across a run in the bottom of the ninth after Jose Valverde blew a 2-0 lead in the top of the inning. Saturday the Tigers got two home runs each from Miguel Cabrera and newcomer Prince Fielder and five-plus innings of shut-out ball from the bullpen on their way to a 10-0 victory. Then Sunday Detroit, and blowing an early 4-0 lead, got a game-tying three-run homer from Cabrera in the bottom of the ninth and a game-winning two-run shot from Alex Avila in the bottom of the 11th to win, 13-12.
For the series Cabrera, Fielder and Avila combined to go 15-for-35 with seven homers and 16 RBI. So the middle of the Detroit lineup is banging the ball pretty good so far.
Series Pitching Matchups
Young left-hander Matt Moore will start Tuesday's series opener for Tampa against Rick Porcello for Detroit (1 p.m. Eastern).
The highly-regarded Moore saw very limited action last year and has never faced the Tigers. But there's no arguing with the numbers he posted after his call-up last Fall, allowing just four earned runs over 19 innings of work, walking six and striking out 23.
Porcello went 14-9 last year although his ERA, at 4.75, wasn't that hot. He did not pitch vs. the Rays last year.
The Tigers went 31-20 vs. left-handed starters last year.
James Shields will start Wednesday's game for the Rays vs. Justin Verlander for the Tigers (1 p.m. Eastern).
Shields, after going 16-12 with a 2.82 ERA last year, got buffed around in his first start of this season against the Yankees, allowing six ERs on nine hits in six innings. He did not pitch vs. Detroit last year.
Verlander, meanwhile, coming off his AL MVP performance of last season, began this season by throwing eight innings of shutout ball vs. Boston Thursday. But Valverde's blown save cost him the victory.
Verlander, though, had his downs and ups in his two starts vs. Tampa last year. In his first start vs. the Rays he gave up six ERs on nine hits in six innings. But he must have made some adjustments, because in his second start vs. Tampa three months later he gave up just one ER on three hits in seven innings.
Finally, Jeff Niemann gets the call for Tampa Thursday against rookie left-hander Drew Smyly, making his ML debut, for the Kitties (1 p.m. Eastern).
Niemann, after going 11-7 with a 4.06 ERA last year, will be making his first start of this season. He's been dealing with a blister situation on his throwing hand, which is why he didn't start vs. the Yanks over the weekend.
Last year, in his one start vs. Detroit, Niemann gave up two runs in the second inning, and then he got to the eighth before allowing two more.
Smyly, meanwhile, won the No. 5 spot in the Tigers' rotation this Spring after posting a 2.07 ERA at Single-A and Double-A ball last year. But in his tune-up start for Triple-A Toledo Saturday he gave up three ERs in less than two innings of work.
So as I see it the Rays have the edge in two of the three pitching matchups in this series.
Rays vs. Tigers Head-to-Head
Last year Detroit took six of seven games from Tampa. And those games definitely trended toward the low-scoring, with final scores of 2-1, 5-2, 2-1, 3-2 and 2-0. The Rays scored a total of 16 runs in those seven games last year.
Rays vs. Tigers Betting Odds and Trends
While series lines have not been posted, both teams opened at -110 for Game 1 of the series on Tuesday. The Tigers will be favored to win the series and when Verlander pitches.
Tampa went 65-88 on the 'over/unders' last year.
Detroit went 84-66 on the O/Us last year.
Nine of the last 14 Rays-Tigers games, going back to 2010, have played under on the totals.
Rays vs. Tigers Series Predictions and MLB Picks
Detroit is the obvious favorite to win this series, and I won't be betting against Verlander. But in the hopes of getting a decent price on the series I'll take Tampa. Also, the weather in Detroit isn't supposed to be too great over the next few days, so the unders might be the way to go on the individual games.
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