Tampa Bay Rays vs. Kansas City Royals Preview and Pick – Garza vs. Meche

Tampa Bay Rays (59-41) -120, 8 1/2 at Kansas City Royals (45-57), 8 pm Eastern Thursday
by Zman of Predictem.com

One team fighting to hold on to first place in its division meets another team trying to stay out of the cellar when the Tampa Bay Rays and Kansas City Royals commence a four-game weekend series at Thursday night at Kauffman Stadium.

Baseball bookmakers are listing Tampa and starting pitcher Matt Garza (8-5, 3.68, 1.20 WHIP) as 120 road chalk for Thursday’s game, with a total of 8 1/2, while KC and Gil Meche (7-9, 4.55, 1.34) are getting +110 as home underdogs.

Tampa opened the “second half” of this season by going 4-2 over a just-concluded homestand. But the Rays lost their last six road games going into the All-Star break. So going into this series, TB sits atop the AL East, but by just a half-game over the second-place Boston Red Sox.

Meanwhile, the Royals have lost three straight games after getting swept at home by the Detroit Tigers this week. Going into Thursday’s play, KC occupies fourth place in the AL Central, 13 games back of the first-place Chicago White Sox.

While 18 games over .500 overall, Tampa is just 19-25 on the road this year. But they’re also 41-20 as favorites and 51-49 vs. the run line.

KC is 22-27 at home this season, 28-36 as underdogs, and 49-53 vs. the run line.

In the only other meeting between these two teams this year, the Rays took three of four games from the Royals in Florida two weeks ago. And three of those games went over their totals, as the games averaged 9.5 total runs.

Last year, KC took the season series from Tampa four games to three, with the totals going 4-3, as the games averaged 10.3 total runs.

Over his last three starts, including a sterling performance vs. Toronto last Saturday , Garza has allowed 10 ER and 26 base runners (hits + walks) in 19 1/3 IP. Tampa is 9-9 in Garza’s starts this year, the totals 7-11.

Garza made two starts vs. KC last year as a member of the Minnesota Twins, and has started once vs. the Royals this year for his new team. Over those three starts, Garza gave up eight ER and 26 BR in 18 2/3 IP. His teams lost all three of those games, and two of them went over their totals.

Over his last three starts, including a nice outing vs. the White Sox last Saturday, Meche has given up seven ER and 25 BR in 18 1/3 IP. Kansas City is 10-11 in Meche’s starts this year, the totals 12-9.

Meche started twice vs. Tampa last year and has started once vs. the Rays this year, allowing 10 ER and 25 BR in 17 1/3 IP. The Royals won two of those games, with the totals going 2-1.

Offensively, Tampa ranks 18th in the majors this season in team BA at .259, 11th in team OBP at .337, 16th in team slugging at .409, and is averaging 4.5 runs per game.

Kansas City ranks 15th in batting at .261, 29th in OBP at .314, 25th in slugging at .384, and is averaging 4.2 RPG.

Over the last five games, the Tampa bullpen has allowed 10 ER and 22 BR in 10 2/3 IP.

Over its’ last five games, a heavily-used Kansas City pen has been bopped around for 19 ER and 44 BR in 20 2/3 IP.

The totals are 42-56 in Rays games this year, 49-52 in Royals games, and 22-27 in games played at Kauffman Stadium, which are averaging 9.0 total runs this season.

Zman’s Pick: Tampa is clearly the better team here but their in a funk. I like the Royals to sneak out a win here tonight a nicely priced underdog.