Tampa Bay Rays (77-49) +155, 9 at Chicago White Sox (73-53), 8 pm Eastern Friday
by Zman of Predictem.com
First place in the East meets first place in the Central when the Tampa Bay Rays and Chicago White Sox commence a three-game weekend series Friday night in Second City.
Baseball bookmakers are listing Chicago and starting pitcher John Danks (10-5, 3.11, 1.20 WHIP) as 170 home favorites for Friday’s game, with a total of 9, while Tampa and Edwin Jackson (9-8, 3.97, 1.42) are getting +155 as road underdogs.
The Rays missed out on a sweep of the Angels Wednesday, falling 5-4. Still, Tampa is a ML-best 22-10 since the All-Star break.
Meanwhile, the White Sox have won five games in a row after sweeping three games from Seattle this week, outscoring the Mariners 33-8 in the process.
So going into this weekend’s action, the Rays lead in the AL East is 4 1/2 games over the second-place Boston Red Sox, while the White Sox lead the AL Central by a half-game over the second-place Minnesota Twins.
Tampa may be 28 games above .500 this year, but they’re a game under the break-even mark on the road, at 30-31. The Rays are also 20-22 as underdogs, and 66-60 vs. the run line.
Chicago is 45-19 at home this season, 49-23 as favorites, and 72-54 vs. the run line.
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The Rays have taken four of seven games from the Sox so far this season, with the totals going 1-6, as the games have averaged just 5.7 total runs per.
Over his last three starts, including a good showing in a loss to Texas last Saturday, Jackson has allowed five ER and 28 baserunners (hits + walks) in 18 2/3 IP. Tampa is 13-11 in Jackson’s starts this year, the totals 9-14.
Jackson has started three games over the last two seasons vs. the White Sox, getting clipped for 14 ER and 32 BR in 16 1/3 IP. The Rays lost all three of those games, with the totals going 1-2.
Over his last three starts, including a winning performance vs. Oakland last Saturday, Danks has allowed four ER and 20 BR in 19 2/3 IP. Chicago is 15-10 in Danks’ starts this year, the totals 8-17.
Danks has started three games this year and last vs. Tampa, allowing five ER and 18 BR in 18 IP. The Sox won all three of those games, with the totals going a perfect 0-3.
Offensively, Tampa ranks 20th in the majors this season in team BA at .259, 13th in team OBP at .337, 15th in team slugging at .417, and is averaging 4.6 runs per game.
Chicago ranks 9th in batting at .269, 9th in OBP at .341, 2nd in slugging at .457, and is averaging 5.2 RPG.
Over the last five games, the Tampa bullpen has allowed four ER and 19 BR in 12 IP.
Over its’ last five games, the Chicago pen has held opponents scoreless on 11 BR in 13 1/3 IP.
On the injury/personnel front, 3B Even Longoria, OF Carl Crawford and closer Troy Percival all remain on Tampa’s DL with various ailments. For Chicago, DH Jim Thome is listed as probable for Friday, after sitting out Wednesday’s romp over Seattle with a sore leg.
The totals are 52-72 in Rays games this year, 61-63 in Sox games, and 33-30 in games played at US Cellular Field, which are averaging 9.9 total runs this season.
Zman’s Pick: I’m laying the wood here and backing John Danks.