MLB Betting and Handicapping: Scouting the Week Ahead
by Alan Matthews - 7/22/2013
Dr. James Andrews. The three worst words any athlete can hear in his career. And that's the guy whom Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz will visit with Monday. Somehow a sore neck has morphed into something much worse with the Sox ace not having pitched in more than six weeks. What's even stranger is that Boston's team doctors already have cleared him. Andrews' diagnosis -- which could come Tuesday -- will shape the American League East race. I recommend you put money down on the Tampa Bay Rays to win the division now. They are +160 to win it on Sportsbook.ag with Boston the even-money favorite.
The Rays, who started a four-game series on Boston on Monday night, are the hottest team in baseball. They swept Toronto over the weekend -- likely officially putting a nail in the Blue Jays' coffin this season -- and have won 17 of 19. The Rays were last in the AL East on June 22 and now have the second-best record in the AL.
That James Shields trade to Kansas City is paying off in spades as since rookie Wil Myers joined the Rays on June 18, they have gone 22-8. In that stretch, Myers leads all AL rookies in RBI (18) and homers (four) while hitting .310. Myers did sit out Sunday with a sore wrist, but it's not thought to be anything significant. I didn't think the Rays had enough offense to win, but Myers has solved that. And James Loney is having a big season after being signed off the scrap heap. So is Kelly Johnson.
The problem with facing the Rays is that you don't get a break pitching-wise unless Roberto Hernandez -- formerly Fausto Carmona -- is on the mound. He could be bumped out whenever Alex Cobb returns from his concussion next month. Matt Moore and David Price are now as good of a 1-2 punch as any in baseball. Jeremy Hellickson hasn't lost since mid-June and hasn't allowed more than three runs in any start since. Now rookie Chris Archer has made that rotation even better. The Rays have won his past six starts, and his ERA is down to 2.76. Archer has allowed just one earned run over his past three starts. All the talk is baseball right now is about Matt Garza being traded -- Archer was acquired from the Cubs in that Garza deal. He's only in the majors because of Cobb's injury, but I can't imagine Archer being sent down at this point when Cobb returns.
The one worry with Tampa Bay is that financial limitations will not allow the Rays to add a big salary via trade. The Red Sox clearly can do that and probably will add a starter with the Buchholz issues and Jon Lester's struggles. Still, I'd recommend Tampa Bay on the AL East prop.
Suspensions This Week?
The trade deadline is one week from Wednesday. You can be assured that those Biogenesis suspensions will be revealed before that so teams can adjust if need be. Now it appears that those suspensions could indeed take effect right away because the MLB players' union isn't going to put up much of a fight for those who are clearly guilty. In fact, there's already talk that closed-door agreements are being held. Was it curious coincidence that Alex Rodriquez strained a quad over the weekend and now won't debut with the Yankees this week? Just saying.
No race potentially will be more affected than the AL West. Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz, the team's leading RBI guy, and Oakland pitcher Bartolo Colon, shockingly the team's ace, are both among the players reported to be on that list. Colon has been crazy good. He leads the majors in wins (nine) and ERA (1.33) since he turned 40 two months ago. I don't think Oakland can survive without him, although the return of Brett Anderson next month would help.
I tend to think the Rangers can survive without Cruz because, like the Red Sox, they have the money and prospects to make a deal. Why not expand the Garza deal to get Alfonso Soriano back in a Rangers uniform? The A's are -250 to win the West with Texas at +160. Jump on Texas.
Davey Johnson First To Go?
Rather surprisingly, we haven't seen a manager fired in MLB yet. It might be coming in Washington. The Nats opened the second half by being swept by the Dodgers to fall two games under .500. Washington is seven games out of the NL East lead and the same number out of the second wild-card spot. This was to be Manager Davey Johnson's final season as manager regardless as he is set to move into the front office for next season. Why not just make that move now to wake up the team?
To make matters worse, the team's ace thus far this season, right-hander Jordan Zimmermann, is pitching through neck pain and was rocked for seven runs and eight hits in two innings by the Dodgers on Sunday. He missed the All-Star Game because of the injury. Watch his scheduled start Friday against the Mets very carefully. If he struggles again, the Nats are probably toast unless they add an arm. Washington is +1000 to win the NL pennant after being the spring favorite.
Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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