Young Guns on the Hill: Tampa Bay Rays at Oakland A's

Greg RiotAnalyst IApril 24, 2009

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - APRIL 19: Infielder Akinori Iwamura #1 of the Tampa Bay Rays bats against the Chicago White Sox April 19, 2009 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

Tampa Bay Rays (6-10) at Oakland Athletics (5-9)

MLB betting odds: Rays -135, Athletics +115, Total 8

Left-hander Scott Kazmir will take the mound for Tampa Bay, while righty-hander Trevor Cahill does the honors for Oakland.

Here are some of the MLB Baseball betting trends as they relate to this matchup:
(Numbers go back to last season)

* TB has lost four of its last five games
* TB has lost nine of its last 13 road games
* OAK has lost five of its last six games
* OAK has played nine of its last 13 games OVER the total
* OAK has lost four of its last six home games
* OAK has played five of its last six home games OVER the total

In the HEAD-TO-HEAD sports betting trends:

* TB has won nine of the last 12 meetings
* Four of the last six meetings have gone UNDER the total
* TB has won five of the last seven meetings as the road team
* OAK has won 17 of the last 25 meetings as the home team
* Ten of the last 15 meetings in Oakland have gone UNDER the total

Tampa Bay has been searching for the answers to its slow start, as it tries to defend and American league title. The Rays actually were not red hot at this time last season, as they had compiled a 6-8 mark. Manager Joe Maddon is not pushing the panic button; he just thinks his team is pushing a little too hard and wants them to "try easier."

"Joe's message to us yesterday was just to relax and try easier and play the game that we know how to play," said star third baseman Evan Longoria. That may be effective, but the Rays also have to get some better mound work.

They have a 4.78 bullpen ERA, which is middle-of-the-road at best, and starting pitchers like Scott Kazmir have to be consistent. Kazmir, the fire-balling southpaw, was just fine in his first two starts, giving up four total earned runs to the Red Sox and Yankees.

He wants to rebound, however, from a sub par effort against the White Sox, where he exited after the fourth inning, having surrendered six runs and six walks.

Kazmir would certainly like to have the form he usually does against Oakland. His career record against the A's is 6-2 with an ERA of 2.70. In two starts against Oakland last season, he gave up two runs on just four hits in 12 innings.

Oakland made some moves to bolster the offense in the off-season, but the Athletics are still having a rough time getting the bat on the ball. Right now they are hitting just .232 as a team, and their four home runs are the lowest total in the big leagues.

Don't blame Matt Holliday too much. The former Colorado outfielder hasn't hit a homer yet, but he is at least batting .322, and leading this team with ten RBI's.

Darren Cahill has been a very pleasant surprise on the mound. Cahill, who just turned 21 years old last month, is a former Olympic team member and Top 20 prospect (according to Baseball America), and has done a nice job in his rookie season, compiling a 2.60 ERA with three solid starts, allowing just 12 hits in 17-1/3 innings.

Cahill does have to keep the ball under control, however; he has walked 13 batters thus far.

Kazmir has a nice history against the A's, but neither of these teams is putting runs across the plate with a lot of consistency. This means we're making a recommendation on an UNDER in the BetUS American League baseball betting odds.

Greg's Pick: UNDER 8 (-125) **

(Graded on a scale of 1-4 stars)