TAMPA BAY RAYS (77-64)
at BALTIMORE ORIOLES (79-62)
First pitch: Wednesday, 7:05 p.m. EDT
Line: Tampa Bay -120, Baltimore +110, Total: 8½
After taking game one of the series Tuesday night 9-2, the Orioles will look to remain atop the AL East as they continues their three-game set with the Rays, who sit just two games behind both Baltimore and the Yankees.
Alex Cobb takes the hill for the Rays with a 4.28 ERA, 1.28 WHIP and 9-8 record in 2012. But he has been especially good lately, with a 2.18 ERA and 0.97 WHIP in his past three starts. Since August 1, Cobb is 5-0 with a 3.25 ERA and 1.08 WHIP leading the Rays to a perfect 7-0 record in those games. Cobb faces Miguel Gonzalez on Wednesday, who sports a 3.84 ERA and 1.22 WHIP as a starter this season, managing 6.2 innings per start. This should be an interesting matchup because Cobb excels by limiting home runs, having allowed just nine in 19 starts this year, while the Orioles have been mashing at the plate lately with 15 home runs in their past five games. And given Cobb’s struggles on the road, where he has a 5.30 ERA this year, the O’s should be in good position to tee off yet again. Play on BALTIMORE as the home underdog in this one.
This rare four-star FoxSheets trend also favors the Orioles:
Play On - Home teams (BALTIMORE) - poor hitting team (AVG <=.260) against a decent starting pitcher (ERA=4.20 to 4.70) -AL, with an overused bullpen that pitches more than 3.2 innings per game. (86-42 since 1997.) (67.2%, +53.1 units. Rating = 4*).
Although the Orioles and Rays have already played 13 times this year, with the O’s holding a slight 7-6 advantage, Cobb has yet to face Baltimore. Tampa Bay has displayed some power of its own lately, with six home runs in its past two games, but has struggled to string together runs, tallying just 13 runs in the past four games, spanning 39 innings. The Rays failed to eclipse three runs in three of those four contests. The good news for Tampa is that even if Cobb falls into his typical road struggles, he is backed up by a strong bullpen that has a 2.88 ERA and 1.08 WHIP this year. That ERA balloons to 3.72 on the road, however, and the Rays ‘pen has a 4.91 ERA so far in September. Play against these road favorites.
The Orioles have been in a dogfight to remain near the top of the AL East, and have been grinding out wins to stay close. Although they will miss RF Nick Markakis (thumb) for the rest of the season, they have been mashing without him and have guys who have been doing well against the Rays. J.J. Hardy, who smacked two homers in Tuesday’s series opener and has 10 RBI in his past eight games, will look to carry that over into another game with the Rays, against whom he has a .327 average and .899 OPS this year. And Gonzalez should be able to pitch well this game, as he has done much better at home lately, going 1-0 with a 1.93 ERA and 1.00 WHIP in his past two starts at Camden Yards. Although Tampa Bay shelled Gonzalez on July 25 in Baltimore (2.2 IP, 7 H, 7 ER), he shut down the Rays at Tropicana Field on Aug. 5, allowing just two hits over seven shutout innings of a 1-0 win in 10 innings.