Boston Red Sox vs. Philadelphia Phillies Preview and Pick – John Lackey vs. Cole Hamels – Betting Line

Boston Red Sox (22-20) John Lackey, at Philadelphia Phillies
(25-15) Cole Hamels, Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia, Pa., 7:05 PM
EST, Friday, May 21st, 2010

by Badger of

Betting Line: Red Sox +125/Phillies -135
Total: 9

Major League Baseball kicks off interleague play this weekend around
the country and Friday nights headliner takes place at Citizens Bank
Park when then perennial American League contender Boston Red Sox
take on the defending National League champion Philadelphia Phillies.

The opener of the three-game set will have big-name drawing power on the mound as well, with the Red Sox throwing prize free agent pickup
John Lackey while the Phillies counter with former World Series MVP
Cole Hamels.

Most sportsbooks are currently listing the Phillies and Hamels as -135 favorites on the moneyline, with a few down to -130, after the
number opened at -145 on the overnight line. Boston with Lackey on
the bump is an attractive +125 underdog, and the over/under total is
listed at 9 at most of the offshore sportsbooks on the Web.

Both teams enter the series playing some pretty good baseball of late.

Boston is currently on a three-game win streak thanks to a two-game
sweep of the Minnesota Twins on Wednesday and Thursday. After getting
tagged around by the Yankees and Detroit for 29 runs in four games,
the Red Sox pitchers have put together back-to-back quality starts
holding the Twins to just four runs in the short series.

Philly stopped a two game slide with a 5-4 victory over the Cubs
yesterday to split the series at a game apiece. More importantly
though, the Phillies welcomed back shortstop and leader Jimmy Rollins
back to the lineup yesterday (he homered too), even though they have
gone 7-3 in the last 10 games and havent really missed a beat when
he was down.

Tonights pitching matchup is closer on paper than the odds may suggest.

Both pitchers are 4-2 on the season, but the Phillies are 6-2 in
Hamels eight starts whereas the Red Sox are just 4-4 backing up
Lackey. Both pitchers also have very similar splits (Hamels 4.29 ERA,
1.51 WHIP, .350 OBP; Lackey 4.86, 1.50, .360), so the biggest
difference between the two has been run support.

For whatever reason the Red Sox have had troubles scoring when Lackey
starts, averaging just 3.9 run for him in eight outings. Hamels has
had better luck on his side, getting 4.6 runs per start.

If history repeats itself, runs might not matter too much because
both hurlers have one great start against the opponent in their
careers. Lackey was spectacular in his one start versus the Phillies
as an Angel, earning the victory by throwing 6.1 innings with five
hits and one run (.269 OBP, .561 OPS). Hamels was also really good (7
IP, 7 H, 2 R) in what turned into an 8-2 victory over the Red Sox
back in 2008.

Boston won two of three at Citizens Bank Park both in 2009 and in 2008, so they are 4-2 over the past two seasons against their
geographical rival from the NL. The Red Sox also won five of six in
the 2006 season and all three in 2005, so at 12-3 its safe to say
the Red Sox seem to have the Phillies number.

In fact, the Phillies have been bad in interleague play going 1-8 in
interleague home games. Hamels has had issues too, going 0-4 in his
last four interleague starts. Meanwhile the Red Sox are 30-12 in
their last 42 interleague road games and are 4-0 in the last four
when they are listed as the underdog.

The over went 4-2 in the six games at Citizens in 08 and 09 and is
8-3 in the last 11 head-to-head meetings going back further.

Badgers Pick: Im leaning toward Boston as +125 underdogs as the
best value in this game, but I cant quite get my mind around Lackey
and is wishy-washy performance so far. I do think the offense takes
center stage in game one, because with bad weather expected the rest
of the weekend it might be their best chance at getting good swings.
Im taking the over of 9.