MLB: Road woes a thing of past for Rays?



2008-08-14

The Tampa Bay Rays have been one of baseball’s worst road teams since their franchise inception, but lately, signs are evident that those woes might be a thing of the past. Since losing six straight contests away from home heading into the all-star break, the Rays have gone 8-5 on the road. They’ll look to continue the surge when they play game seven of a 10-game trip today in Oakland. Tampa Bay is 4-2 thus far, and plays as a -125 favorite behind James Shields.

The Rays, who have lost two of their most productive offensive stars, still have their sights on the American League East crown. Now without Carl Crawford and Evan Longoria, they still maintain a cozy 3-game lead over Boston in the division race. Much of the reason for the cushion has been their ability to turn things around on the road. Since the all-star break, Tampa is 8-5 away from home, and has boosted its overall road mark to 27-30.

James Shields (10-7, 3.65 ERA) takes the mound for the Rays with hopes of winning his seventh decision in the past nine. The 26-year-old righthander has held opponents under four runs in nine of his past 10 starts and has pitched at least six innings in all of them. He is 1-0 with a 4.50 ERA in two starts against Oakland.

Sean Gallagher (4-5, 4.39) counters for the Athletics and hopes to win for the first time since July 11 - his debut with the team after being traded from the Chicago Cubs in the deal that sent Rich Harden packing to the National League. The 22-year-old is 1-1 with a 4.26 ERA in five starts in the AL and has 27 strikeouts, but 19 walks in that span.

Ben Zobrist's RBI double in the seventh inning snapped a tie score and helped the Rays claim a 3-2 triumph on Wednesday.

As evidence of how poorly the Rays have played on the road historically, take a look a this managerial trend on Joe Maddon:

• MADDON is 8-42 (-29.2 Units) against the money line in road games vs. AL teams allowing 4.7 or less runs/game in the second half of the season as the manager of TAMPA BAY. The average score was TAMPA BAY 3.3, OPPONENT 6.0 - (Rating = 4*)

Still, baseball is typically a game of “what have you done for me lately?”, and Oakland certainly hasn’t done much, particularly offensively. In fact, the A’s haven’t exceeded the 4-run mark since July 27th, a span of 15 games! Things don’t figure to go much better against the tough Shields today either:

• OAKLAND is 12-28 (-17.0 Units) against the money line vs. an AL starting pitcher whose ERA is 4.00 or better this season. The average score was OAKLAND 3.5, OPPONENT 4.8 - (Rating = 2*)

The best StatFox system for today’s game indicates to back Shields and the Rays:
• Play Against - Any team (OAKLAND) - very bad AL offensive team (<=4.2 runs/game) against a team with a good bullpen (ERA<=3.75), with a starting pitcher whose gives up 5.5 or less hits/start. (95-35 since 1997.) (73.1%, +54.3 units. Rating = 4*)

Game time is 3:35 PM ET, so get your action down early.

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