MLB Playoffs News and Notes October 16

MLB Playoffs News and Notes October 16

ALCS Game 5 Preview
By Josh Jacobs

Tampa Bay’s 13-4 win in the all important Game 4 on Tuesday showcased a growing offensive trend. It was during the regular season that the Rays ranked 14th in the majors with 4.8 run per game scored and 21st with a sluggish .260 batting average. How the bats have awakened in October.
   
Led by Carlos Pena, Willy Aybar and Carl Crawford, Tampa has exploded inside the batters box. The Rays’ offense has scored a total of 49 runs in six wins throughout the postseason. The club has outscored both the White Sox and Red Sox 8.2 runs per game versus 3.5 (in those six total victories). Tampa’s B.J. Upton has led the pack with 10 RBIs, last logging in a game without a hit on Oct. 2, while Evan Longoria has added nine of his own RBIs.

And it wasn’t that long ago that the Rays dropped seven-straight in Boston, getting outscored by a lopsided 48-16 figure. Tampa’s starting rotation of James Shields, Matt Garza, Scott Kazmir and Edwin Jackson were pulverized for a 6.21 ERA in a total of 16 starts during the regular season, while closer Troy Percival put an exclamation point on pitching problem with a 10.13 ERA in four outings.

But those numbers are behind the club heading into Game 5 of the ALCS and with good reason. Tampa manager Joe Maddon has officially called upon the pitching duties of Kazmir instead of slated starter Shields. His last outing in Game 2 against Boston was of some concern. In only 4.1 innings, Kazmir tossed a high, 98 pitches, allowing the Red Sox to tag on five runs on six hits. The real problem stemmed from a total of three home runs launched out of Tropicana Field with the four-year southpaw responsible for those bombs allowed.

So, who comes to the rescue for Boston on Thursday night?

Starting slinger, Daisuke Matsuzka will take mound duties for the Red Sox and there are good numbers accompanying his work. Those numerical digits kept on the books include a 2-0 record in four starts (both regular season and postseason combined against Tampa) and a 1.50 ERA, all while dialing in .228 BAA. Dice-K has racked up 26 strikeouts (6.5 Ks per start) versus the Rays in ’08, allowing just one long ball in those four starts.

Not an overwhelming disparity but Matsuzaka has been more effective on the road with a 9-0 record and a 2.37 ERA versus his 9-3 performance with a 3.34 ERA at home.

The Rays might be 13-46 in the last 59 meetings in Boston but we’re looking at a club that’s completely distanced itself from the older image of a losing entity. Some hot commodities capable of sending author Steven King back into his novel without watching the happenings on the field include the fire that Tampa third baseman, Aybar has executed at the plate. In the last two wins, Aybar is six-for-nine with five RBIs (all five RBIs were produced in Game 4). This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise as you would think given Aybar’s .414 BA with five runs produced in 29 at bats in Boston this season.

Another not so surprising fact is Boston’s lack of production with the wood. In the divisional series win over the Angels, Red Sox bats made contact for a .250 BA, averaging 4.5 runs per game. Fast forward to the present battle with Tampa and Boston’s offense has dipped to a .232 BA, while averaging a full run lower at 3.5 per game (compared to the ALDS). Both J.D. Drew and David Ortiz have struggled in a four-game stretch, batting for a .113 average and still without one RBI generated.

Under the microscope, the Red Sox Ortiz is 1-for-14 with two runs in the last four games. It’s also worth taking into consideration that center fielder, Jacoby Ellsbury (.280 BA with 47 RBIs during the regular season) has gone 0-for-14 with three strikeouts and one walk in the ALCS.

Sportsbetting.com has installed Boston as a $1.55 (bet $155 to make $100) home favorite in this decisive Game 5, with the total set at nine. The Rays are currently 1-to-2 favorites to take the 2008 World Series, a far cry from the 12-to-1 odds to take the AL East before the season began (Tampa was at 50/1 odds to take the division back in February).

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Tampa Bay (6-2) at Boston (4-4)

The upstart Rays, whose first winning season in their 11-year history came this year, stand on the brink of the World Series when they send southpaw Scott Kazmir (12-8, 3.49 ERA) to the hill at Fenway Park against righty Daisuke Matsuzaka (18-3, 2.90 ERA) and the Red Sox for Game 5 of the ALCS.

Tampa Bay followed up its 9-1 Game 3 thrashing of Boston with a 13-4 beatdown Tuesday night in Game 4 at Fenway to go up 3-1 in the best-of-7 series, teeing off on starter Tim Wakefield, one of five Red Sox hurlers sent to the mound. The Rays are now 12-9 against the defending World Series champions this year, including a sterling 10-3 in the last 13 clashes. And after losing their first six games at Fenway in 2008, they’ve won four of the last five.

Tampa Bay is on hot streaks of 7-2 overall, 9-1 against A.L. East foes, 4-1 on the road and 36-16 versus right-handed starters. Meanwhile, the Red Sox are still 23-10 in their last 32 postseason games and 12-5 in their last 17 home playoff games, and they sport additional positive streaks of 64-29 at Fenway and 17-6 following a defeat. But Boston is in a 2-5 rut against A.L. East foes.

Prior to its recent 4-1 run at Fenway, Tampa had lost 45 of its previous 54 games in Boston. Also, the home team won the first 12 meetings between these clubs this season, but the visitor is now 6-3 in the last nine.

Kazmir started Game 2 and got beat up, yielding five runs on six hits in 4 1/3 innings Saturday, but the Rays pulled out a 9-8 victory to tie the series before coming to Boston and winning the next two games. Tampa Bay is 8-2 in Kazmir’s last 10 starts, with the 24-year-old posting a 5-2 mark with three no-decisions in that span.

Kazmir got a no-decision in his last outing at Fenway – a 5-4 Tampa victory Sept. 9 in which he allowed two runs on five hits in six innings. In his subsequent start Sept. 15, though, Boston lit up Kazmir for nine runs on nine hits in just three innings in Tampa Bay. The Rays are 3-2 this season against the Sox behind Kazmir, who has gone 0-2 with three no-decisions in those contests. Kazmir is 4-6 with a 4.10 ERA in 13 road starts this year, and for his career, he is 6-7 with a 3.62 ERA in 21 starts against Boston.

Matsuzaka was nearly flawless in winning Game 1, giving up no hits until the seventh inning. In that inning, he yielded four hits but still kept the Rays scoreless in finishing the inning before exiting the game. Matsuzaka is 8-1 with four no-decisions in his last 13 starts – 11 of which the Red Sox have won – allowing three runs or less in 12 of those contests. Also, he’s 1-0 with one no-decision and a 2.45 ERA in two playoff starts so far.

Boston is now 2-2 this season with Matsuzaka facing the Rays, but 0-1 at home. For his career, he is 2-3 with a 3.75 ERA in eight starts against Tampa Bay. Additionally, Matsuzaka is 9-3 with a 3.34 ERA in 16 home starts this year.

The over is on a 6-1 tear in Kazmir’s last seven starts and is on further runs of 5-0 with the lefty going on four days’ rest, 4-0 when he faces the A.L. East and 4-1 when he battles winning teams. On the flip side, with Matsuzaka throwing, the under is on runs of 11-5-1 overall, 5-1 at home and 10-3-1 on grass.

The “over” trends for Tampa Bay are plentiful, including 6-1 on the road against right-handers, 20-6 overall against righties, 7-3 on the road and 15-7 following a win. For Boston, the over is on a 6-0 spree in ALCS home games and is also 7-2-1 in its last 10 home playoff contests, but otherwise for the Red Sox, the under is on streaks of 4-0 on Thursday, 6-2-1 following an off day and 5-2-2 against left-handed starters.

Finally, the last three meetings in this series have soared past the total and the over is 5-0 in Kazmir’s last five starts against the Red Sox and 4-1 in Matsuzaka’s last five outings against the Rays.

ATS ADVANTAGE: BOSTON and OVER

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Thursday's mound matchup
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Scott Kazmir (Tampa Bay Rays) vs. Daisuke Matsuzaka (Boston Red Sox)

Scott Kazmir LHP (12-8, 3.49 ERA)


After struggling through four innings of work in Game 2, Kazmir is the surprise starter for Game 5 of the ALCS. The lefty gave up three big flies and five earned runs before being yanked Friday night. Kazmir has pitched only 9 2/3 innings in his first two postseason starts.

Rays manager Joe Madden told reporters Wednesday he was making the switch because he and his staff felt more comfortable with Kazmir pitching Thursday and Jamie Shields taking the mound back in Tampa Bay if a Game 6 is necessary.

Madden pointed to Kazmir’s success at Fenway Park and Shields comfort pitching at Tropicana Field for the rotation shuffle.

In 11 career starts at Fenway, the 24-year-old is 4-4 with a 3.02 ERA.

Daisuke Matsuzaka RHP (18-3, 2.90 ERA)


I don’t know how to say “Thank God it’s not me” in Japanese, but I’m sure Matsuzaka was muttering it to himself after watching his fellow Red Sox pitchers fall victim to the Rays’ red-hot bats.

Daisuke was incredible in Game 1 of the series. He gave up just four hits in the seven-inning shutout. Previous to that, the righty allowed three runs on eight hits in five innings versus the Angels in the NLDS.

Those two starts came on the road. Thursday’s effort puts Matsuzaka back in the familiar confines of Fenway where he is 9-3 with a 3.34 ERA. He has never taken the mound at Fenway in October.

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Re: MLB Playoffs News and Notes October 16

TAMPA BAY (103 - 67) at BOSTON (99 - 71) - 8:05 PM
SCOTT KAZMIR (L) vs. DAISUKE MATSUZAKA (R)
Top Trends for this game.
BOSTON is 99-71 (+9.7 Units) against the money line in all games this season.
BOSTON is 20-5 (+11.8 Units) against the money line as a home favorite of -150 to -175 this season.
BOSTON is 57-28 (+13.4 Units) against the money line in home games this season.
BOSTON is 24-7 (+14.7 Units) against the money line when playing on Thursday over the last 2 seasons.
BOSTON is 92-54 (+21.5 Units) against the money line in games played on a grass field this season.
BOSTON is 71-49 (+9.3 Units) against the money line in night games this season.
BOSTON is 89-54 (+19.5 Units) against the money line after a loss over the last 2 seasons.
BOSTON is 50-17 (+28.8 Units) against the money line in home games after 3 or more consecutive losses since 1997.
MATSUZAKA is 25-6 (+15.7 Units) against the money line in all games this season. (Team's Record)
MATSUZAKA is 20-5 (+11.4 Units) against the money line in games played on a grass field this season. (Team's Record)
MATSUZAKA is 16-4 (+10.6 Units) against the money line in night games this season. (Team's Record)
TAMPA BAY is 103-67 (+32.3 Units) against the money line in all games this season.
TAMPA BAY is 39-26 (+12.8 Units) against the money line when the total is 9 to 9.5 this season.
TAMPA BAY is 46-30 (+19.0 Units) against the money line against division opponents this season.
TAMPA BAY is 66-45 (+20.0 Units) against the money line in night games this season.
TAMPA BAY is 76-42 (+31.7 Units) against the money line against right-handed starters this season.
TAMPA BAY is 62-40 (+17.4 Units) against the money line after a win this season.
TAMPA BAY is 57-37 (+20.9 Units) against the money line when playing against a team with a winning record this season.
KAZMIR is 21-8 (+11.1 Units) against the money line in all games this season. (Team's Record)
KAZMIR is 16-3 (+12.8 Units) against the money line in night games this season. (Team's Record)
KAZMIR is 21-7 (+11.9 Units) against the money line after a win over the last 2 seasons. (Team's Record)
KAZMIR is 23-9 (+16.5 Units) against the money line when playing against a team with a winning record over the last 2 seasons. (Team's Record)
KAZMIR is 23-15 (+15.4 Units) against the money line when playing against a team with a winning record in the second half of the season since 1997. (Team's Record)
BOSTON is 226-180 (-45.7 Units) against the money line in home games against division opponents since 1997.
BOSTON is 289-265 (-49.7 Units) against the money line against left-handed starters since 1997.
BOSTON is 47-50 (-16.1 Units) against the money line when playing against a team with a winning record this season.
BOSTON is 31-33 (-10.6 Units) against the money line when playing against a team with a winning record in the second half of the season this season.

Head-to-Head Series History
TAMPA BAY is 13-9 (+6.2 Units) against BOSTON this season
12 of 22 games in this series have gone OVER THE TOTAL this season . (Over=+1.9 Units)

SCOTT KAZMIR vs. BOSTON since 1997
KAZMIR is 6-7 when starting against BOSTON with an ERA of 3.86 and a WHIP of 1.415.
His team's record is 12-10 (+8.5 units) in these starts. The OVER is 11-11. (-0.5 units)

DAISUKE MATSUZAKA vs. TAMPA BAY since 1997
MATSUZAKA is 3-3 when starting against TAMPA BAY with an ERA of 3.27 and a WHIP of 1.309.
His team's record is 4-5 (-4.3 units) in these starts. The OVER is 5-4. (+1.0 units)


American League Championship Series
Best of Seven
Game Five
Rays Leads, 3-1
TV: TBS
Tampa Bay at Boston, 8:05 ET
Scott Kazmir (L) vs. Daisuke Matsuzaka (R)

Kazmir:
TB 7-16 Away off BB wins
TB 17-6 Over Away playing with day off

Matsuzaka:
22-5 TSR as a favorite
Boston 14-4 facing elimination in a playoff series


TAMPA BAY vs. BOSTON
Tampa Bay is 4-1 SU in its last 5 games when playing on the road against Boston
Tampa Bay is 7-18 SU in its last 25 games when playing on the road against Boston
Boston is 2-4 SU in its last 6 games
Boston is 2-5 SU in its last 7 games at home

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Re: MLB Playoffs News and Notes October 16

Tips and Trends

Tampa Bay Rays at Boston Red Sox [TBS | 8:05 PM ET]

Rays: Rays manager Joe Maddon decided to do something different with his pitching staff, opting to start Scott Kazmir instead of James Shields in Game 5. Kazmir is the only Tampa Bay starter to pitch poorly in this series. He lasted just 4.1 innings on Saturday, yielding five runs, six hits - three homers - and three walks. Kazmir is 6-7 with a 3.86 ERA in 22 starts versus Boston, but 0-2 with a 9.27 ERA in five outings this season.

Rays are 7-3 in their last 10 games following a win.
The OVER is 7-3 in Tampa Bay's last 10 games overall.

Key Injuries - NONE

PROJECTED SCORE: 4

Red Sox (-150, O/U 9): With their season on the line, the Red Sox turn to their most consistent pitcher, Daisuke Matsuzaka. The Sox have won both of Dice-K’s postseason starts including Game 1 against the Rays where he pitched seven innings of shutout ball, while striking out nine. Matsuzaka was tough at home this season, going 9-3 with a 3.34 ERA at Fenway Park.

Red Sox are 11-4 in their last 15 playoff games.
The OVER is 4-1 in Matsuzaka’s last 5 starts vs. Rays.

Key Injuries - 3B Mike Lowell (back) is OUT.

PROJECTED SCORE: 5

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Re: MLB Playoffs News and Notes October 16

That was one hell of a game tonight.

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