Baltimore’s strange run of home games continues this weekend. After hosting Chicago in an empty stadium this week, the Orioles host Tampa Bay in St. Petersburg. Baltimore won’t play in front of its home fans on its most familiar diamond, but it will take the advantage of defending first and batting second. It does beg the question of how much each element has to do in making up the advantage home teams experience, but that’s not an easy question. Betting the “home” team in this one is a simpler focus for now.
The Orioles come into this one as surprisingly large underdogs. And it’s undoubtedly due to the stellar start of Chris Archer. Tampa Bay’s new ace has already tossed three games of 7 innings, 2 hits or less and no runs through his first five outings. And he hasn’t allowed a run since his first start of the year. That game came in Tropicana Field against the Orioles, however, when Archer was hit for 4 runs (3 earned) in 5.2 innings. Archer will be anxious to earn some redemption against an Orioles’ lineup that’s given him some trouble – at least far more than most MLB clubs. Baltimore has five players who have had double-digit at-bats against Archer and Ryan Flaherty, Adam Jones, JJ Hardy, Manny Machado and Matt Weiters have combined to go 17-for-60 in their careers. While Archer continues to improve each month, seemingly, Baltimore’s lineup is no slouch in this one. And it looks to put up some runs coming off a shutout on Friday.
Then there’s Miguel Gonzalez who also pitched in the teams’ first series of the season in Tampa. But, unlike Archer, one of Gonzalez’s better outings came then when he surrendered just one in 5.2 innings. He got 10 groundball outs, but couldn’t get through the sixth with a pitch count inflated by five walks. Gonzalez doesn’t have much of a wild track record, but he also walked four in his third start of the season with just one in each of his other two outings. Even before his breakout last season, Gonzalez has been a guy I’ve had success backing and I feel pretty good about taking him as a big ‘dog in a game that seems more like a coin flip.
Baltimore’s big on the moneyline if that’s the preferred play. For this write-up, I’m going to take them with the 1.5 in a game that we should expect to be fairly low-scoring at the Trop.
Free Pick: Baltimore +1.5 -130
YTD: 1-0 +1.00
2014: 45-28-3 +9.02