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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, July 22, 2013 at 7:00 AM

The Tampa Bay Rays made it very clear this weekend in Toronto that they’re serious about making a run at first place in the AL East. They stormed out of the gate after the All-Star Break to win a road series against a divisional rival, and now have their sights set on the first place Boston Red Sox in a four-game battle that begins Monday Night at Fenway Park.

Let’s run through the probable pitching matchup for this week’s biggest series…



Tampa Bay… Moore: 13-3, 3.44 ERA, 1.29 WHIP


Moore’s ERA has dropped from a high of 4.13 down to 3.44 thanks to four strong outings vs. relatively weak opposition. Just before that stretch, he had been hit pretty hard by the likes of Baltimore and Detroit. So, we have a very good test here in Fenway for whether or not Moore is ready for the pennant race. Can he shut down the Red Sox in a hitter’s park? Both of these teams can hit. The rotation that performs most consistently when it matters is going to ultimately rule the division.

Boston may have trouble finding that consistency if they’re dealing with question marks in one of their rotation spots. They need Buchholz to come back in his prior form quick. He’s scheduled to see Dr. Andrews Monday…which usually isn’t a sign of a quick return.



Tampa Bay … Hernandez: 5-10, 4.90 ERA, 1.31 WHIP

Boston …Lester: 8-6, 4.58 ERA, 1.37 WHIP

The former Fausto Carmona has struggled all season for the Rays. It’s hard to have a 5-10 record on a top team that has a good offense! He’s settled into a pattern lately of allowing 3 ER in 6 IP, which barely qualifies for a quality start. Fortunate for the Rays here that Hernandez draws Lester, who’s also been struggling.

We’re at the #5 spots in the rotation since this is Tuesday and the season started back up again on Friday. These are the guys both teams trust the least right now! Lester’s ERA has really blown up over his last seven starts. And, that bad run started in Tampa when he allowed 7 ER in only 4.2 innings. Definitely worth thinking about the Over with these pitchers facing these offenses in this park.



Tampa Bay …Price: 4-5, 4.03 ERA, 1.22 WHIP

Boston … Doubront: 7-3, 3.76 ERA, 1.39 WHIP

Price has been effective since returning from the Disabled List. But, he did allow three home runs to Toronto in the first game after the All-Star Break. The Rays rallied to win that game anyway. Amazing that Tampa Bay is in the pennant race while their ace has posted such generic full-season numbers. Their playoff hopes are most closely tied to how Price performs from this point forward. The AL East is too competitive for Price to not be at his best.

Doubront is lucky to have a good record and ERA with that kind of WHIP. He’s been stranding runners of late…which is flirting with disaster. You win by not letting people get on base! We give the youngster credit for righting his ship after a very shaky start. We’ll be studying his mental toughness very closely in this high profile matchup against a big name opposing pitcher.



Tampa Bay … Hellickson: 9-3, 4.62 ERA, 1.21 WHIP

Boston …Lackey: 7-7, 2.95 ERA, 1.16 WHIP

Hellickson endured a very poor start to the season…but found his form several appearances ago. That’s created a very weird mix of stats…where he looks like a star in won-lost record and WHIP, but like a mediocrity in ERA. He’s better than that ERA suggests…but not as good as the other numbers. The fourth game of a series is often keyed by emotions triggered from the first three. Keep that in mind as you handicap the finale.

Lackey has been putting up ace numbers all year, but getting little reward for it. He lost another toughie to the Yankees on Saturday against Kuroda. Lackey will deserve a look here for sure if the Sox have dropped two of the first three games.

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We resume our summer series of college football conference previews Tuesday with a look at the Big 12. The new American Athletic Conference (formerly the Big East) grabs the spotlight Wednesday. The series concludes this weekend with the Pac 12.

Get the information you need to win in the NOTEBOOK…then GET THE MONEY with JIM HURLEY’S NETWWORK!

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