MLB Picks: Rays at Red Sox Series Odds and Betting Predictions

Doc Moseman@DocsSportsCorrespondent IMay 24, 2012

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - MAY 23:  Outfielder Rich Thompson #24 of the Tampa Bay Rays celebrates scoring the game-winning run in the 11th inning against the Toronto Blue Jays May 23, 2012  at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida.  The Rays won 5 -4. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Want to know the main reason the Boston Red Sox are in last place in the American League East? Look no further than that 7-10 record inside the division. By comparison, the Tampa Bay Rays are in second in the East in large part because they are 13-10 against divisional foes.

However, the Red Sox have had success against the Rays this season, winning four of six matchups, including taking three of four at Fenway vs. Tampa Bay back in mid-April (Tampa Bay is the only AL East foe that Boston has a winning record against thus far). The Rays return to Beantown for a three-game series starting Friday, and it’s the final series between these rivals until after the all-star break.


Rays at Red Sox Betting Story Lines

The Sox are playing better of late, having won four of five and taking two of three at division-leading Baltimore in their last series. Wednesday’s 6-5 Boston win got the Red Sox back to .500 (22-22). It also concluded a grueling 20 games in 20 days stretch—the maximum number of consecutive days played allowed under the collective bargaining agreement—with Boston going 11-9.

That’s pretty solid considering the Sox are gutted in the outfield with the likes of Carl Crawford, Jacoby Ellsbury, Cody Ross and Ryan Sweeney on the DL. How thin are the Sox out there? Gold Glove first baseman Adrian Gonzalez has been playing a bit of right field (he’s expected to move back to first for this series), and the Sox took Scott Podsednik off the scrap heap. On Wednesday, he made his first major league start since Sept. 9, 2010 (with the Dodgers) and hit his first homer since September of that season. For the time being, Podsednik is likely to continue to play center field when the Sox face a right-handed pitcher, while Marlon Byrd is likely to play vs. lefties.

The Rays, meanwhile, enter off taking two of three at home vs. the Blue Jays—Tampa Bay has the best home record in baseball at 17-7 but is 10-11 away from Tropicana Field. B.J. Upton won Wednesday’s finale for the Rays with a walk-off RBI double in the bottom of the 11th. Upton is red-hot as over the past seven games he is 13-for-29 (.448). Upton is now hitting .300, the first time it has been that high this deep into a season since June 8, 2008. He hasn't hit as much as .245 over the past three seasons.

By the way, always bet on Tampa Bay in a home series vs. Toronto as the Rays have won 15 straight home series against the Jays dating to 2007. That matches the second-longest home series winning streak of any team against an opponent in the last 50 seasons. (No. 1 is Angels winning 16 straight over Seattle from 1979-87). That Tampa Bay has one of the best records in baseball is quite amazing, considering the Rays have 10 players on the DL, including starters Evan Longoria, Desmond Jennings and Jeff Niemann (pitcher).


Rays at Red Sox Probable Starting Pitchers

Friday: Rays RHP Alex Cobb (1-0, 2.57) vs. Red Sox LHP Jon Lester (3-3, 3.95)—Friday marks Cobb’s second start of the season after he took a win with seven innings of two-run ball against the Braves in a 5-2 victory Saturday. He has never started vs. Boston. Lester struggled a bit last time out, allowing four runs and eight hits in six innings of a win vs. the Phillies, but Lester said he was pitching with a stiff back. He hasn’t faced the Rays this year.

Saturday: Rays LHP David Price (6-3, 2.88) vs. Red Sox RHP Josh Beckett (4-4, 4.38)—Price lost to the Braves last time out despite allowing just one earned run in seven innings. He has allowed more than three runs only once this season. Price faced Boston on April 13 in Boston and allowed three runs and four hits in three innings, taking the loss. It was easily his shortest outing of the season. Beckett has been great since that whole off-day golf issue. In his past two starts spanning 14.2 innings, he has allowed just one run and struck out 14. Beckett faced Price on April 13 and got the win, allowing one run and five hits in eight innings.

Sunday: Rays RHP Jeremy Hellickson (4-1, 2.73) vs. Red Sox RHP Clay Buchholz (4-2, 7.84)—Hellickson comes off his first loss, allowing five runs (two earned) and eight hits in 7.1 innings vs. Toronto. He faced Boston on April 14 and allowed five runs and seven hits in five innings but got a no-decision. Buchholz has been Boston’s worst starter, having allowed at least five runs in every start but two. He opposed Hellickson on April 14 and got the win, allowing five runs in seven innings.


Rays at Red Sox Betting Odds and Trends

The Sox will open at -165 on the series line with the Rays at +135. For Game 1, Boston is a -170 favorite with the total at nine.

Tampa Bay is 2-7 in its past nine road games vs. a left-handed starter. The Sox are 7-1 in their past eight games vs. a right-handed starter. But Boston is 1-7 in Lester’s past eight starts vs. a team with a winning record. The ‘under’ has hit in eight of Tampa Bay’s past 10 games when scoring five or more runs in their previous game. The under has hit in seven of Tampa Bay’s past eight road games. The under is 8-3 in Lester’s past 11 home starts.


MLB Picks: Rays at Red Sox Betting Predictions

The Sox haven’t been above .500 all season, but I think they are one game over come Sunday as Tampa Bay rarely plays well in Beantown. Boston hasn’t lost any of its past five series and takes two of three here. Also love Boston in the opener behind Lester as the Rays are just 6-8 this season vs. lefties and, as noted above, struggle on the road vs. southpaws. Take the under there.