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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Thursday, August 16, 2012 at 1:14 PM

The Tampa Bay Rays just endured a perfect game at the hands of Felix Hernandez and the Seattle Mariners. The good news is that they left the great pitcher’s park in Seattle. The bad news is that they travel to Anaheim for what could be a four-game series of pitcher’s duels that will greatly shape the Wildcard race in the American League.

Heading into today’s action, it’s the Baltimore Orioles who are surprise leaders of the Wildcard sprint. Tampa Bay is right behind them, just one game out of the first spot and in possession of the second spot heading into Thursday action. The LA Angels have endured a bit of a slump lately, and are now 2.5 games behind Baltimore…and 1.5 games below the playoff threshold in the crowded race.


AL WILDCARD RACE (fighting for two spots)

Baltimore 64-53

Tampa Bay 63-54

Detroit 63-55

Oakland 61-55

LA Angels 62-56

So, you can see how important this four-game set is. If one team wins three of four or sweeps, the other sinks to the bottom of the race. Both would probably take a split knowing that Baltimore and Detroit are also playing each other this weekend. Frankly there’s just no margin for error. This is basically a playoff series now. And, that’s kind of ironic because the actual Wildcards will only play a one game knockout when the postseason finally arrives! The new format is brutal for Wildcard teams, rewarding the three teams who ultimately win their divisions (currently led by the NY Yankees, the Chicago White Sox, and the Texas Rangers).

Here are the pitching matchups for Tampa Bay/LA Angels…and there are some beauties…



Tampa Bay: Price (15-4, 2.50 ERA)

LA Angels: Haren (8-9, 4.68 ERA)

Haren has been battling injuries, which means his numbers don’t live up to his name. Price vs. Haren in a big game is something special. And, if Haren is feeling good, tonight’s game should live up to that billing. Price is clearly having the better year overall. Let’s say edge to Tampa Bay in this one. The market agrees, with Tampa Bay laying -115 as a small road favorite as we post this on the website.



Tampa Bay: Shields (10-7, 4.02 ERA)

LA Angels: Weaver (15-2, 2.22 ERA)

This time it’s Shields who isn’t quite pitching up to his name. Weaver has been fantastic this season, and has enjoyed some good run support. What a W-L record! The Halos will be favored here, probably by their biggest moneyline of the series.



Tampa Bay: Cobb (7-8, 4.08 ERA)

LA Angels: Wilson (9-9, 3.32 ERA)

Wilson has slowed down a bit in recent starts, while Cobb is finding it tough to thrive on a team that scores so few runs. An ERA of 4.08 will get the job done with the Yankees or many other contenders. With Tampa Bay, every game’s a sweat because the bats are so often overpowered. You know the TB hitters are very worried about this series heading in given the arms they’re expected to see.



Tampa Bay: Moore (9-7, 3.60 ERA)

LA Angels: Greinke (10-4, 3.81 ERA)

Yes…after Felix Hernandez it’s Haren, Weaver, Wilson, and Greinke in succession. Brutal! Though, it has to be said that Greinke has been struggling under pennant race pressure since joining the Angels. Most of his career has been out of the limelight in terms of high pressure situations. Huge game here. And, one where it’s probably going to make sense to look at whoever trails 2-1 (or 3-0) to try and salvage the weekend.

Maybe we’ll see four straight pitcher’s duels. Maybe one team will announce itself as a serious championship threat with a dominating weekend. Handicappers are going to learn a lot about the dynamics of the Wildcard race this weekend with this series and Baltimore-Detroit looming so large.

The men who loom largest in the handicapping industry have posted their Thursday baseball. Among the highlights:

*Jim Hurley has always told you that the best time to attack baseball is when Vegas oddsmakers are worried about football. He’s going to show you what that means first hand with a special FOUR-DAY package of baseball Best Bets from Thursday through Sunday. Pay $35 up front (less than ten bucks a day) and get 12-15 MLB Monsters from now through the weekend.  

*Coach Ron Meyer mixes his baseball and football on one big Thursday report. Pay just $15 for his NFL Game of the Week in the Preseason and his top gems from the diamond.  

Be sure you visit the VSM home page every day for big play announcements and early bird football bulletins. Additional information is available on the “Buy Picks” page (including news about a “Big Five Guarantee” in the NFL Preseason from Kelso!). Hot handicappers are always waiting to hear from you!

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