Bet of the Day – Boston Red Sox at Tampa Bay Rays, August 29, 2010

Boston Red Sox (+130) at Tampa Bay Rays (-140), Over/Under 8.5 runs
August 29, 2010 8:05 ET

Yesterday’s bet was a winner.  Let’s hope for the same as we return to Tampa for the Boston Red Sox (74-56) and Tampa BayRays (79-50) series finale.  Today’s game could be the biggest game of the season for Boston.  With yesterday’s loss, they are now 5.5 games behind the Rays and Yankees.  With only 32 games remaining, a loss today could be the first ring of Boston’s death knell.  In the opposite dugout, Tampa Bay could be on cruise control to the playoffs with a win today.

Fighting the injury bug all year, Adrian Beltre tweaked his hamstring in yesterday’s loss.  The 3rd baseman and key bat in the Boston lineup will likely start but his effectiveness is the unknown.  Boston was slumping at the plate coming into this series, but has had 21 hits in 2 games during this series.  Their problem hasn’t been getting men on base, it has been advancing them.  Boston has left 15 runners on base in these 2 games (a problem they have had all year-long in road games).  Starting pitcher John Lackey (12-7, 1.491 WHIP) has been consistently mediocre this year.  He was sharp last time out and generally pitches pretty deep into games.  Lackey has a tendency to walk runners in road games.  This is a definite concern as the Rays lead the league in drawn walks.

The Tampa Bay Rays are in a mild batting slump (.310 OBP and averaging 4.1 runs in last 7 games).  Fortunately, the Rays starting and bullpen pitching has been consistent (1.24 WHIP on the season) and they continue to find ways to score and get hits in key situations.  James Shields (12-11, 1.396 WHIP) starts for the Rays today.  Shields had a rough start to the year but has come into form of late (e.g. allowed 7 earned runs over his last 25 home innings).  Shields hasn’t been stellar against Boston this year going 1-2 with a  5.03 ERA.  With the Red Sox backed into a corner, the Rays will need a good outing today from Shields.

My baseball model simulated the game at Tampa Bay 5.09 to Boston at 4.57 for 9.63 total runs.  The model projects similar walks and hits for both teams but Boston is the driver for both.  The Red Sox are clearly the superior hitting team, but Lackey and the Boston bullpen’s high WHIP opens the window for the Ray’s creative offense.  There are two key contributors to the variance in the model: Boston’s ability to advance runners and James Shields.  If either of these are above average, you will likely have the winner.

The question remains, Who should I bet on today?  I won’t take the easy way out and give you a total bet.  For today’s bet of the day, I am going to take the Rays on the money line.  Here’s why: Boston is in a bit of a hitting slump.  Boston has left runners on base all year.  James Shields has been solid of late and even better at home.  The Rays bullpen is superior (1.168 WHIP on the season).  Last, the Ray’s are one of the most efficient scoring and timely hitting teams in the league.  Bet on the Tampa Bay Rays on the money line (-140).  Get all my picks on twitter.  Good Luck!

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