MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Baltimore Orioles

chris archerThe (5-6) Baltimore Orioles are at home to the (7-5) Tampa Bay Rays in an early season AL East showdown (Monday 7:05pm ET). For the Orioles, a win could go a long way to the team’s hopes of competing in one of baseball’s toughest divisions.

The 2013-14 MLB season is less than two weeks old and the Orioles have played eight games against AL East opponents. By the end of the month, the team will have played 27 games, 19 of which will have been within the division. By comparison, the Rays won’t play their 19th divisional game until May 7th.

The Orioles have definitely had the toughest schedule of the teams in the AL East and they have handled it with a mixed bag. The team has only won one series but they have won three of their last four and could be primed for a nice end to April.

In order to do this though, the Orioles have to get off to a good start against Tampa Bay. The Rays lead the AL East and have been a good, but not great, team this year.

The Orioles are a young and improving team though and there is no reason to panic yet. If Baltimore drops the series or gets swept however, with the way their schedule does not let up, the team and their fans might be in for a long season.

Tampa Bay Rays: Contenders or Pretenders?

Right now, 7-5 is good enough for first place in the AL East. However, with their schedule to this point (combined record of teams faced by Tampa Bay is 18-26), the Rays haven’t faced a team that is currently over .500. Only their divisional rival the Toronto Blue Jays is a .500 team at 6-6. That begs one to ask the inevitable question: contender or pretender?

It seems too early in the season to fully come to a conclusion regarding the team’s status but what it does seem is that this is not the team predicted by some ‘experts’ to win a league-high 93 games. The Rays have played well enough but offensively they are just a middle of the pack team.

Tampa Bay is 22nd in batting average and RBI, 14th in on base percentage and 19th in slugging percentage and runs scored. They are 17th in total bases and have just 32 extra base hits.

Offense is one thing but if there is a reason other than the soft schedule that explains Tampa Bay’s level of success, it once again belongs to the pitching staff.

The Rays rank fifth in team ERA, is tied for third in quality starts and has a strikeout to walk ratio of overall three. The team is also sixth in WHIP and 11th in batting average against.

Tampa Bay’s strength is definitely its starting pitching staff. Their young arms in Alex Cobb and Chris Archer (pictured) have started the year on positive notes. Both have posted above average starts and have given up minimal runs en route to two wins and just one loss. The old man of the staff at 28, ace David Price, is also off to a good start this season. He has two wins in three starts and is second in the AL with 22 strikeouts.

Pitching Matchup: (TB) Chris Archer vs (BAL) Wei-Yin Chen

While it is important to note that the Tampa Bay Rays have had success with their pitching this year, it is still early in the season. In fact, most of the starters on both teams, on any MLB team have yet to make more than two starts. Two such pitchers are Archer and Chen.

As mentioned, Archer is one of the young arms that the Rays will be relying on as they fight for the league title. He is in his third year in the bigs and his second year as a fulltime starter. Last season he had an impressive 3.22 ERA and a 9-7 record. Most notable though was his control as he walked just 38 compared to 101 strikeouts.

Archer has continued to be in command of his control and has already struck out 11 on the year. He has only given up two runs in 13 innings and is poised to continue to excel from the middle of the pitching rotation. He gives the Rays depth and has a favorable matchup against a Baltimore team he pitched well against last season.

Baltimore will be sending Chen to the mound for the third time this season and 58th time of his career. Chen is a middle of the rotation pitcher at best but does have a strong arm. He hasn’t fared well this year and has failed to get past the sixth. He has also given up 21 hits and eight earned runs in just 10 innings.

The most promising part of Chen starting is that he has pretty good career numbers against the Rays. His career ERA is 4.13 but against Tampa Bay, that number is just 3.04. He has made eight starts against this team.

Rays at Orioles Betting Picks Advice

Just like Tampa Bay, Baltimore has been average offensively. Defensively however, the team is near the bottom of the ranks in almost every category and surprisingly, they are still waiting on last year’s X-Factor Chris Davis to get hot.

Behind Davis’ power Baltimore is a different and more dangerous team. Right now however, they are just one of the sub .500 clubs Tampa Bay is lucky enough to have on their early season schedule.

  • Bet on the Rays to take game one on the moneyline @ odds of -111 with BetOnline Sportsbook. They are -120 with Bovada. Sure they only average just over 3.6 runs a game but they have the better starter on the mound and the better and more reliable bullpen for late innings.