AL East Rivalry: Boston Red Sox Travel To Tampa Bay to take on Rays

Boston Red Sox (39-27) AT Tampa Bay Rays (36-31)
June 15, 2011 at 7:10 PM EST
Opening Moneyline:  BOS -140, TAM +120
Current Moneyline:  BOS -129, TAM +109
Opening Total:  8
Current Total:  7.5

SP: BOS- Josh Beckett; TAM- Jeremy Hellickson

Jeremy Hellickson has impressed so far

It’s early in the season, but so far, it appears Boston is ready to reclaim the AL East as they currently hold a 3.5 game lead over third place Tampa Bay, and a 1.5 game lead over the Yankees, in perhaps the toughest division in baseball.

Tampa Bay’s players know it is a long season and that anything can happen still, and they are riding a three game winnings streak.

“Yes, we are the defending American League East champs and we plan on defending it, recapturing the flag again,” manager Joe Maddon said. “Don’t let anybody think anything differently.”

Going against the Red Sox’ Josh Beckett may not help extend the streak, however.  He has a 2.06 ERA and has won 5 of 7 decisions.  In his last 7 starts, he has gone 3-1 with a 1.81 ERA.  Thursday of last week against the Yankees, he held them to 2 runs and 4 hits over 7 innings in yet another quality start.  He has also owned the Rays in his last two meetings, going 1-0 while allowing only 2 runs in 12 innings, while striking out 12 batters.

For as much as the Rays may struggle with Beckett’s bag of tricks, Hellickson may experience similar success given that the Red Sox are batting .211 in the three meetings against Tampa Bay and they hit only 5 singles on Tuesday.

“It’s no secret that they have a good offense. They got a lot of really professional hitters, and they know what they are doing up there,” starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson said.  “They’ve got speed and power. They are seeing the ball well right now and scoring a lot of runs, but we’re up for the challenge.”

Hellickson, a rookie, had a tough outing on Friday in Baltimore.  He gave up 5 runs and 7 hits in 5 2/3rds innings, while receiving no run support at all.  Prior to that loss he had won 6 of his 7 previous starts, a stint over which he recorded a 1.74 ERA.  It’s good that he has been effective in light of the fact that the Rays got rid of an effective pitcher (Matt Garza) to clear way for Hellickson, whose fastball can touch 95 and he has great control over his pitches as well.  Last year, in only 26 innings of work at the major league level, he struck out 33.

Some betting trends:

The total has gone OVER in 10 of Boston’s last 13 games and the Red Sox are 6-1 SU In their last 7 games on the road.  The total has gone OVER in 4 of their last 6 games on the road and it has gone OVER in 4 of their last 6 against Tampa Bay.  The Red Sox are 1-4 SU in their last 5 against Tampa Bay and they are 1-6 SU in their last 7 road games in Tampa.  The total has gone UNDER in 5 of their last 6 on the road in Tampa.

Tampa Bay is 6-2 SU in their last 8 games and the total has gone UNDER in 17 of their last 25 at home.  The Rays are 4-1 SU in their last 5 against Boston and the total has gone OVER in 4 of Tampa Bay’s last 6 games against the Red Sox.  The total has gone UNDER in 5 of the Rays’ last 6 games at home against the Red Sox and the Rays are 6-1 SU In their last 7 games at home against the Boston Red Sox.

The total seems peculiarly high for two pitchers that have been so effective.  It’s not like 8 runs is really a lot, but Beckett hasn’t allowed much and Hellickson had been rather stingy too despite a poor showing in his last start.

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