Florida Marlins vs. Tampa Bay Rays Preview and Pick – Tucker vs. Sonnanstine

Florida Marlins (36-30) +130, 9 at Tampa Bay Rays (38-28), 7:10 pm Eastern Friday
by Zman of Predictem.com

Two surprising second-placed teams meet for the opener of a three-game, in-state inter-league series when the Florida Marlins take on the Tampa Bay Rays Friday night at Tropicana Field.

Hardball bookmakers are listing Tampa and starting pitcher Andy Sonnanstine (6-3, 4.88) as 145 home favorites for Friday’s game, with a total of 9 1/2, while Florida and rookie Ryan Tucker (1-0, 1.80) are getting +130 as road underdogs.

The Marlins just took two of three games from the Philadelphia Phillies to cap off a 4-3 homestand. Meanwhile, the Rays just completed a 3-6 road trip after dropping two of three games in LA to the Angels this week. So going into this series, the Marlins sit in second place in the NL East, three games behind the division-leading Philadelphia Phillies, while the Rays are in second place in the AL East, 2 1/2 games behind the first-place Boston Red Sox.

Florida is 14-15 on the road this year, 26-26 as underdogs, and 39-27 vs. the run line.

Tampa is a solid 24-10 at Tropicana Field this season, 23-11 as favorites, and 36-30 vs. the run line.

Tucker made his ML debut last Sunday, holding Cincinnati to one run and two hits while walking five in five innings of a 9-2 Marlins win. At AA Carolina this spring, Tucker ranked among the best in the Souther League, with a 1.41 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 62/27 K/BB ratio in 70 IP.

Over his last three starts, including a decent outing vs. Texas last Saturday, Sonnanstine has allowed seven ER and 28 baserunners (hits + walks) in 15 2/3 IP. The Rays are 94 in Sonnanstine’s starts this year, the totals 6-7.

Sonnanstine has started one game in his ML career vs. Florida, allowing two ER and seven BR while striking out 10 in a 9-4 TB win last June.

These two teams play a home-and-home inter-league series every season. Last year, the Marlins took four of six games from TB, while the totals went 4-2, as the games averaged 12 total runs.

On the offensive side of this match-up, Florida ranks 19th in the majors this season in team batting at .257, 24th in team OBP at .322, 2nd in team slugging at .454, and is averaging 4.9 runs per game.

Tampa ranks 13th in batting at .262, 10th in OBP at .332, 15th in slugging at .409, and is averaging 4.5 RPG.

On the personnel front, it looks like the Rays will be without OF Carl Crawford for the next four games, as he serves his suspension stemming from last week’s on-field altercation vs. the Red Sox at Fenway Park. And 1B Carlos Pena is still on the DL with a finger injury. But Tampa may get closer Troy Percival back for Friday’s game after a stint on the DL with a tweaked hamstring.

The Florida bullpen, over its last five games, has given up seven ER and 24 BR in 17 2/3 innings of work.

The TB pen, over its last five games, has allowed eight ER and 23 BR in 12 1/3 innings of work.

The totals are 39-24 in Marlins games this year, 26-39 in Rays games, and just 10-24 in games played at Tropicana Field, which are averaging only 7.5 total runs this season, lowest among all ML ballparks.

Zman’s Pick: I like the Marlins as a dog tonight.