Thursday MLB Preview – Twins at Rays

The Rays will look to regain sole possession of first place in the AL East standings in the series finale against the Twins.

Minnesota Twins at Tampa Bay Rays

Minnesota captured a 2-1 victory in the third game of this four-game series against the Rays at Tropicana Field, overcoming a blown save in the ninth from new closer Matt Capps.  “An exciting baseball game,” manager Ron Gardenhire said.  “Well pitched by both sides.”  Catcher Joe Mauer was back in the lineup for a second straight day, after missing two games with a shoulder injury.  The win last night snapped a four-game losing streak for the Twins against the Rays, which was their longest losing streak against Tampa Bay since August 2001.  The club is 21-18 in day games this season (-50) and the total is 17-18 O/U in those contests.  Minnesota has also played just three games this season in domes due to moving into Target Field from the Metrodome this year, posting a 1-2 mark in this series thus far (-40).  The Twins are still a dismal 13-18 against AL East opponents.

Twins starting pitcher Kevin Slowey is 10-5 with a 4.44 ERA in 22 appearances (21 starts) this season and is coming in with a two-game winning streak.  In those games, he has allowed just a single run and eight hits over 14 innings.  the right-hander has managed to tally 84 strikeouts and walk just 21 batters in 119.2 frames.  He has made 10 appearances (nine starts) away from Target Field, posting a 4-2 record and 5.44 ERA, but has surrendered seven home runs in 49.2 innings.  Slowey has made just one lifetime start against the Rays, picking up a loss and allowing five runs and nine hits over 4.1 innings.  In nine daytime outings (eight starts), he is an even 3-3 wit ha 5.57 ERA.

Tampa Bay fell back into a tie in the AL East divisional race, but have a chance to regain sole possession of the top spot with the Yankees idle on Thursday.  Both teams are tied with the best record in baseball at 67-40.  The Rays are 8-2 on this 11-game homestand and 34-22 overall this season at Tropicana Field (-400).  Overall, Tampa Bay has won 10 of its last 12 games and 23 of its last 31 contests.  The team also owns a 5-2 season series advantage over today’s opponent, with each game being decided by three or fewer runs.  The pitching staff has a combined 2.22 ERA over the last 10 home games, including an 0.51 ERA from the bullpen.  Tampa Bay brings in an electrifying 21-10 daytime record (+840) and the total is 12-18 O/U in those contests.  The team is averaging 4.5 runs per game and hitting for a combined .251 average during the day, which is slightly off from its overall season numbers (5.1 RPG, .255 AVG).

Rays starting pitcher Wade Davis is an even 9-9 with a 4.21 ERA in 20 starts this season and comes in with a personal win streak of four games.  Over that span, the Rays have outscored opponents 28-13.  The right-hander is 5-6 with a 4.05 ERA in 11 home starts this season, surrendering 12 home runs in 66.2 innings.  He will be making just his seventh daytime start, going 2-3 with a 3.75 ERA.  In five July outings, Davis posted a perfect 4-0 record and 3.03 ERA, which was even more impressive considering he went 0-5 with a 6.00 ERA in June.  He will be making his second career start against the Twins, as he faced them on July 3.  In that contest, he received a no decision, after giving up four runs and eight hits over 4.1 frames.

Bettors will find the Twins producing a 4-7 mark as a road underdog of +125 to +150 this season and 4-13 in Slowey’s last 17 starts versus the American League East.  Tampa Bay is a solid 9-4 as a home favorite of -150 to -175 and a dominating 49-14 in this situation the last three years (+2,620).

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