Had this been five years ago, there is no way that a September MLB betting showdown between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Baltimore Orioles would have meant all that much. However, fast forwarding to 2012, there are AL East and AL Wild Card implications for both teams on the line, and on Tuesday, they’ll meet for the first game in an absolutely pivotal three-game set at Camden Yards.
The Rays are still on the wrong side of the playoffs at this point with just 22 games to play, and time is truly running out on them. Yes, they are just a game back of the O’s and two back of the New York Yankees, but the time is going to have to come in which they make their move, or they’ll be left on the outside looking in. There are still too many teams that are playing well around Tampa Bay at this point for the team to not do well here in Baltimore, and the man that is going to be tabbed with the task of winning this game is Matt Moore. Moore might be just 10-9 this year, but advanced stats really show that he has been a dominating starter. The southpaw hasn’t won a game since August 19th, but he just continues to mow down batters, striking out 161 men in 162.1 innings of work. Moore has a 3.66 ERA, and batters are hitting just .241 against him. As soon as he figures out how to walk significantly fewer than the 70 men that he has allowed to freely get on base this year, Moore will be one of the best pitchers in baseball.
Baltimore just keeps figuring out how to win games, and that’s why the squad is still just barely on the right side of the playoffs at the moment. It is going to be a tense race down the stretch though, and this is where we are going to figure out whether the Orioles are legit. Jason Hammel, a former member of the Rays, will take the hill on Tuesday. The righty is 8-6 with a 3.46 ERA this year, and the argument could be made that this has been the best campaign that Hammel has ever had. His WHIP is 1.26, 18 points lower than his career average, and batters are hitting just .238 against him, 42 points lower than his career numbers. As a result, all of the rest of the splits are down for the righty as well, and though he hasn’t won a game since June 22nd, he too, has a heck of a lot going for him.
The problem that we have with Hammel is that he has had just one start since July 13th, and he only lasted five innings. If this becomes a battle of the bullpens, the Rays are going to take that fight the mass majority of the time. This could be another one of those gritty games that is a heck of a lot of fun to watch, and the grittier it is, the more that we expect Tampa Bay to figure out how to come out on top. Tampa Bay 4 – Baltimore 2