Tampa Bay Rays vs. Boston Red Sox Preview and Pick

Tampa Bay Rays (85-56) +180, 9 1/2 at Boston Red Sox (84-58), 7 pm Eastern Monday
by Zman of Predictem.com

The Tampa Bay Rays have led the Boston Red Sox in the American League’s Eastern Division since mid-July. And at times, almost comfortably. But Tampa’s lead is down to a game and a half over Boston, with 20 games to go, as the two teams kick off a three-game series at Fenway Park Monday night.

Baseball Bookmakers are listing Boston and starting pitcher Jon Lester (13-5, 3.37, 1.32 WHIP) as 200 home favorites for Monday’s game, with a total of 9 1/2, while Tampa and Edwin Jackson (11-9, 4.08, 1.47) are getting +180 as road underdogs.

The Rays led the Sox by 5 1/2 games about a week ago, but in losing five of their last six games, thanks to a three-game sweep at the hands of the Blue Jays in Toronto over the weekend, Tampa has given back four games to second-place Boston.

Meanwhile, the Sox just took two of three games from the Rangers in Texas over the weekend, and have won 14 of their last 18 games.

While the Red Sox trail Tampa by a game and a half in the AL East, Boston leads the AL wild-card race by 6 1/2 games over the second-place Minnesota Twins.

Tampa is 29 games above .500 on the season, but just 32-35 on the road. The Rays are also 22-24 as underdogs, and 72-69 vs. the run line.

Boston is 48-19 at home this season, 71-38 as favorites, and 74-68 vs. the run line.

These two teams have split 12 games so far this season, with the totals going 6-6, as the games have averaged 8.5 total runs per.

Over his last three starts, including a bombing at the hands of the New York Yankees last Wednesday, Jackson has allowed nine ER and 31 baserunners (hits + walks) in 16 1/3 IP. Tampa is 15-12 in Jackson’s starts this year, the totals 11-15.

Jackson started four games vs. the Sox last year, and three this season, giving up 25 ER and 68 BR in 38 1/3 IP. The Rays won three of those seven games, with the totals going 2-5.

Over his last three starts, including a winning 99-pitch performance vs. Baltimore last Tuesday, Lester has given up nine ER and 25 BR in 14 IP. Boston is 19-10 in Lester’s starts this year, the totals 12-14.

Lester has started twice this year vs. the Rays, and four times last year, allowing 16 ER and 45 BR in 35 IP. The Red Sox won all six of those games, with the totals going 3-3.

Offensively, Tampa ranks 19th in the majors this season in team BA at .252, 8th in team OBP at .339, 12th in team slugging at .421, and is averaging 4.7 runs per game.

Boston leads the league in batting at .285 and in OBP at .362, ranks 3rd in slugging at .452, and is averaging 5.3 RPG.

Over the last five games, the TB bullpen has allowed 13 ER and 23 BR in 16 1/3 IP.

Over its’ last five games, the Beantown pen has given up 12 ER and 28 BR in 19 2/3 IP.

On the injury front, Tampa activated 3B Evan Longoria from the DL over the weekend, although his status for Monday’s game is uncertain. And Rays OF Carl Crawford remains on the DL with a sore wrist. For Boston, JD Drew is still on the DL with a bad back.

The totals are 63-76 in Rays games this year, 64-67 in Sox games, and 30-34 in games played at Fenway Park, which are averaging 10.0 total runs this season.

Zman’s Pick: I recommend a lunch money play on Tampa at +180.