MLB: Last two teams play their season opener
Two teams have yet to make their debut for the 2010 campaign and they will take care of that business today on Florida’s west coast. Baltimore and Tampa Bay christen their seasons with in an AL East matchup, where every game counts in a division top heavy with the Yankees and Red Sox. Tampa is a heavy favorite at Sportsbook.com. See the latest price on the LIVE ODDS page and get the key stats and trends for this and all of Tuesday’s games on GAME MATCHUPS page.
After years of floundering, the Orioles have stopped their free spending ways on free agents who never quite fit and who never helped Baltimore actually win.
Instead, with team president Andy McPhail calling the shots, the Orioles are putting their cash into player development and its paying off. The outfield is oozing with talented youngsters like Adam Jones and Nick Markakis. Felix Pie is still he still is just 25-years old, with major league experience, having made the roster hitting the ball, his biggest weakness.
Orioles’ fans are also excited about the future with three young pitchers, Brian Matusz, Brad Bergesen and Chris Tillman, all seemingly destined for long big league careers. For now, veteran Kevin Millwood will be the leader of the pitching staff with his vast experience and he will be the opening game starter after 13-10 season with a 3.67 ERA in 31 starts in Texas. Millwood is 2-2 vs. Tampa Bay with an ERA of 6.16.
The Rays returned to earth after 97 win season and World Series appearance in 2008, but still managed a winning record.
Tampa Bay’s offense is led by Carl Crawford and Evan Longoria, but if they are going to contend in the division, Carlos Pena and B.J. Upton are going to have to be more a factor.
Pena did hit 39 home runs and drove in 100; however the team needs more bases hits after his batting average slipped again, down to .227 in 2009.
When Upton was first drafted by Tampa Bay, attitude was one of the warning signs related to him and last year it was on display batting just .241 and having more than a couple pouting sessions. Still just 25, Upton has to start approaching his job like a major leaguer for a team that is 53-23 against the money line in home games against division opponents.
James Shields draws the Opening Day assignment for the Rays, his third straight as the “old man” of the starting pitchers at the ripe age of 28. Shields does not have overpowering stuff, but he frequently gets into the seventh inning or beyond working both sides of the plate with his fastball and has the best changeup in the American League that he will throw on any count.
Unlike the fans evidently, Shields loves Tropicana Field, where he is 25-14 with a 3.40 ERA. He doesn’t mind the birds on Baltimore’s cap either, posting 6-2 record with a 2.92 ERA in 15 career starts against the Orioles.
Sportsbook.com has Tampa Bay as -200 ML line favorite in their maiden voyage of 2010, with total Ov8.5. The Rays have been awesome in this spot, 52-14 as a home favorite of -150 to -200 over the last two years and they are 80-33 at the Trop against right-hand pitchers.
Baltimore has lost 14 of 18 at Tampa Bay and is unsightly 46-98 against AL East opponents since 2008. Millwood in his career is 13-3 UNDER as an underdog of +150 or more.
First pitch for both teams to start the season is at 7:10 Eastern with the Rays 57-26 at home in the first half of the season.
The StatFox Power Line shows Rays -143 and Over
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