MLB Picks and Predictions For Thursday September 18

MLB Picks and Predictions For Thursday September 18

Baseball pushes on towards the postseason and Thursday offers a full schedule of games. Our team of writers and handicappers has three picks for Thursday’s action.

Minnesota Twins (82-70) at Tampa Bay Rays (90-60)

While the Tampa Bay Rays' season is already a remarkable one, they won't be content even when they clinch the franchise's first playoff berth.

Tampa Bay looks to take another step toward reaching that goal on Thursday when they open a four-game series with the slumping Minnesota Twins, who are trying to regain momentum in the AL Central race.

The Rays (90-60) moved closer to securing a playoff spot this week, winning two of three against the second-place Boston Red Sox, including a 10-3 win on Wednesday, to take a two-game lead in the AL East.

James Shields (13-8, 3.50) counters for Tampa Bay.

Shields pitched eight scoreless innings against the Yankees on Saturday, allowing five hits while striking out six in the 7-1 win. Shields is 4-1 with a 3.07 ERA in his last eight starts.

The right-hander is 1-1 with a 5.94 ERA in three career starts against the Twins. He allowed five runs - three earned - over five innings of a 6-5 loss on April 16 against them, but did not factor in the decision.

Pick: Tampa Bay - Best line -155 SBG Global

Los Angeles Angels (92-59) at Oakland Athletics (71-80)

Since Joe Saunders last faced the Oakland Athletics, he seems to have strengthened his case to be in the Los Angeles Angels' postseason rotation.

He'll look to defeat the Athletics for the third time in four starts this season as the Angels try to avoid a three-game road sweep on Thursday.

Saunders (15-7, 3.65 ERA) is 2-1 with a 4.60 ERA in three outings against Oakland (71-80) this year, but the loss came Aug. 27 when the left-hander was tagged for six runs over a season-low 1 1-3 innings in a 6-5 defeat.

Los Angeles hasn't been swept in a series since May 9-11 at Tampa Bay.

Oakland has won four straight after a wild win Wednesday. Mark Teixeira hit a two-run homer in the top of the ninth to give the Angels a 2-1 lead, but the A's took advantage of two throwing errors in the bottom half, including one by closer Francisco Rodriguez that allowed two runs to score.

Pick: Oakland - Best line +105 SBG Global

San Francisco Giants (68-84) at Arizona Diamondbacks (75-76)

After a difficult stretch, the Arizona Diamondbacks finally gained ground in the NL West race.

That could come to a halt against Tim Lincecum, who looks to bolster his chances for the NL Cy Young Award when he tries to help the San Francisco Giants avoid a four-game sweep by the Diamondbacks on Thursday.

Arizona (75-76) has won three straight and pulled within 3 1/2 games of the NL West-leading Dodgers with a 7-6 win over the Giants (68-84) on Wednesday. Stephen Drew finished with four hits while Justin Upton hit a two-run homer during a five-run second inning.

The Giants scored three runs in the ninth off Arizona's bullpen, but reliever Tony Pena retired Randy Winn for the final out to preserve the win. The Diamondbacks had received a boost when the Dodgers lost for only the third time in 17 games.

While Lincecum has enjoyed great success against the Diamondbacks, Randy Johnson (10-9, 4.11) might be pitching even better this year against the Giants. The 45-year-old left-hander is only 8-8 with a 3.22 ERA in 23 starts against San Francisco, but he is 1-0 with a 0.95 ERA in three starts against them this season and should have won the other two outings if not for shaky work by Arizona's bullpen.

The five-time Cy Young Award winner does not have a decision in any of his last four starts. He pitched six innings Saturday against Cincinnati, allowing one run and five hits in the 3-2, 10-inning loss.

Pick: San Francisco - Best line -110 SBG Global

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