At 7-4 the Boston Red Sox sit atop the American League East very early in the 2013 MLB campaign. With Ryan Dempster on the bump tomorrow, the Sox open as -130 favorites to sweep away the Tampa Bay Rays in an 11 AM first pitch start on Monday.
The Rays pose nice value in a spot where they are not only trying to avoid a sweep, but are underdogs against a pitcher who is still trying to find his place in the Boston rotation. Ryan Dempster has decent career numbers against the six Tampa Bay Rays he has faced throughout his career, but many of the at-bats came when he was a member of a different team. Dempster has been decent since arriving in Boston, posting a 3.60 ERA in his first two starts as a member of the Red Sox. He has only mustered starts through five innings in each of his first two starts, which also came against divisional opponents in the New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles. Dempster has walked six batters in just 10 innings of work, which should come as a cause for concern against a Tampa Bay roster that is predicated on speed and manufacturing runs.
The Red Sox have had a phenomenal start to the season, where they have yet to surrender more than three runs in any single ball game. This team is extremely scrappy, led by Dustin Pedroia and a bunch of speed and smart players that hustle on every play. They face a tough task going up against young Jeremy Hellickson. Hellickson has started this season slowly for the Rays but he has had plenty of success against Boston in the past. The current Sox roster hits .267 off of Hellickson but the three players with any bit of a major sample size of at-bats against Hellickson have stuggled. Jacoby Ellsbury is 3 for 17, Pedroia is just 5 for 22 and Jarrod Saltalamacchia 5 for 18. The trio have been a huge part of the Sox early season success. Boston should need to put up at least four or five runs if they want a decent chance to win this ballgame. It won’t be an easy task against the young and talented Hellickson.
This game appears to be one where the wrong team is favored. Tampa Bay is in a nice spot with the better starting pitcher where a hungry team is looking to avoid an early sweep to a division rival. Look for Tampa Bay to come out and jump all over Ryan Dempster early and salvage a game in Fenway. I do like Tampa Bay to win this game outright, but just isolating the starting pitching matchup in this one appears to be the route that poses the most value. The Rays will come out strong in the late morning first pitch start.