After Tampa Bay floundered in its first two games of the ALDS at Fenway Park people may have forgot that the Rays are only indestructible sea creatures in elimination games. Jose Lobaton provided the drama last night with a game-winning, walk-off, solo home run that landed in the fish tank for the Rays’ third consecutive win in an elimination games this month. Now, Tampa eyes a chance to even the series and send it back to Boston for one deciding game. Jeremy Hellickson takes the ball for the home side against veteran Jake Peavy who looks to validate the mid-season trade that brought him to Boston to pitch in the postseason. The home Rays are listed as the favorite at most shops with a pretty consistent total of 7.5.
Despite six very worthy arms starting the first three games between these two clubs, every game in the series has been pushed over the listed total. Game four looks to be the first matchup where runs should probably be expected, which is why the total in this one surprises me a bit.
When Jake Peavy arrived in Boston at the end of July, he made a statement in his first full month with his new side – making six August starts and limiting opponents to two or less runs in five of the six. He quickly won the Boston fan base over with a hot attitude and effective stuff on the hill. Luckily for Peavy, Jon Lester found his stride in September and Clay Buchholz returned from injury to overshadow his less than impressive final month of the regular season. In September, Peavy posted a 5.40 ERA and failed to hold an opposing lineup to two or less even once. I’m not so sure Peavy regressed as much as the lineups he went up against improved. He benefited from a relative cake walk in August, which contrasted his four September starts against Baltimore, Tampa Bay, New York and Colorado. Tonight, Peavy gets another crack at Tampa Bay after giving up three runs on only four hits against the Rays a few weeks ago. While those numbers don’t look bad, Peavy’s five walks will need to improve against a patient Tampa Bay lineup if Boston hopes to clinch an ALCS berth in Florida. The Sox should expect something in between the August Peavy and the September one tonight at The Trop.
I’m not one to doubt Joe Maddon but I was pretty surprised to see him go with Jeremy Hellickson over Chris Archer in the ALDS. Both youngsters struggled down the stretch of the regular season and Maddon opted for Hellickson’s strong numbers against Boston this season rather than Archer’s breakout potential. Hellickson limited Boston to 18 baserunners in 18.1 innings pitched this season but two of his three starts came in June or earlier. Quite frankly, Hellickson really hasn’t shown anything this year to suggest that he will pitch well tonight. He has the stuff to escape jams; and the Rays will only look for five innings tonight. I’m not necessarily confident in fading him on the side because I fear backing Peavy but I certainly think Boston knocks him for a couple, if not many, tonight.
Game three saw a surprising over result with an extreme lack of hard hit balls and some really bad defense. While Clay Buchholz and Alex Cobb pitched better than the final score indicated, look for these two offenses to score a little bit more traditionally tonight with some hard hit balls and lots of walks. I don’t see either starter going more than six innings tonight. And I would be a little surprised if both got through five. Neither ‘pen is shutdown so look for at least one to get touched for a couple runs in the later innings. The total is simply too low – especially with the under juiced to -120. An easy decision here.
Free Pick: Boston/Tampa Bay Over 7.5 (+105)