Both Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays got off to miserable early starts

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The 2011 season is nearly one month complete as teams have played 20 games or so and we’ve started to see some teams start to reverse early season form.

In the AL East both Boston and Tampa Bay got off to miserable early starts. After starting 0-5 and 1-7 Tampa’s Rays have pulled even at 11-11 to take over second place and trail the New York Yankees by just three games as the week dawns. Boston started 0-6 and 2-10 the Red Sox have won eight of nine to stand 10-11 on Monday, winners of five in a row.

And while the Boston bats are slowly starting to find their collective groove, the pitching has been the story in their five-game winning streak that culminated with a four-game sweep in Anaheim this past weekend over the Angels. The five starters – including Daisuke Matsuzaka – tossed a total of 35 1/3 innings, allowing just three earned runs in the five wins.

They posted a collective 0.76 ERA and a WHIP of 0.91 while striking out 30. Most encouraging has to be that Dice-K’s win over the Angels was his second straight dominating performance. Last Monday he throttled Toronto that followed a pair of ugly outings in his first two starts.

Another AL East team has not been so fortunate. Following their surprising 6-1 start the Baltimore Orioles have lost 11 of 13 games to start the week at 8-12.

There’s still a lot of baseball to be played and Baltimore should be an improved team over the past couple of seasons come September. But the lofty expectations some had forecast for the Orioles in their first full season under accomplished manager Buck Showalter may prove out to have been a bit too optimistic but perhaps just a season too premature.

That the Yankees and Texas Rangers are tied for the best record in the American League (12-6) comes as no surprise nor does the fact that Philadelphia has baseball’s best mark at 15-6.

But a couple of National League teams off to strong starts do bear watching.

Colorado has started 14-7 to lead the NL West by three games. The Phillies’ lead in the NL East is just 1½ despite their strong start because Florida has started 13-7. The Marlins begin this week tied with Boston for the best record over their last 10 games, 8-2, and and have been winning largely due to a strong but under publicized starting rotation, anchored by Josh Johnson, one of the top pitchers in all of baseball over the past few seasons.

Home teams are winning just 52.5 percent of all games thus far and blindly betting all homers this season would have you down slightly more than 15 units. Blindly having played the road teams would have netted nearly four units of profit after 320 games.

Totals show nearly even results more than an eighth of the way through the season with 156 OVERs and 148 UNDERS in addition to 14 pushes and a pair of no decisions. Scoring still remains depressed with fewer than nine per game on average.

Here’s a look at four series this weekend.

Mets at Phillies: These bitter rivals meet for the second time this season after Philly took two of three in New York earlier this month. After losing seven in a row the Mets start this week having won four straight .

The Phils start the week having scored four runs or less in 13 straight games after having scored five or more runs in six of their first eight to start the season, including scoring 10 and 11 runs in their two wins over the Mets.

Preferred plays:

• Mets as +120 underdogs or more against Joe Blanton.

• Phillies as -160 favorites or less in starts not involving Blanton.

• OVER 8 or lower in a start by Blanton.

• UNDER 7 or higher if Philly starts someone other than Blanton against Chris Young or Dillon Gee.

• UNDER 8 or higher in others.

Cardinals at Braves: After dropping three of four at the Dodgers the Braves just completed a three-game sweep in San Francisco. Atlanta is just 4-5 at home with all nine games having been against NL East Division foes.

The Cards have gotten stronger starting pitching than expected in the absence of ace Adam Wainwright out the entire season due to injury.

Preferred plays:

• Cards -130 or less in starts by Kyle McClellan or Jaime Garcia against any Atlanta starter.

• Cards as underdogs.

• Braves +125 or more.

• UNDER 8 or less in any matchup.

• UNDER 7 or higher if McClellan or Garcia oppose Tim Hudson or Jair Jurrjens.

Angels at Rays: The Angels swept a pair of games in Tampa earlier this month as the Rays started 0-6. The LA duo of Jered Weaver and Dan Haren combined to pitch 14 1/3 innings of seven hit ball, each allowing a single run.

Weaver and Haren form perhaps the best starting pitching duo in the AL, after which there is a significant drop off. Tampa has since rebounded to play solid baseball, relying more on pitching than on hitting with David Price, James Shields and Wade Davis.

Preferred plays:

• Angels as -150 favorites or less in starts by Weaver or Haren.

• Rays as +150 underdogs or more against Weaver or Haren.

• Rays as dogs if Davis, Price or Shields don’t face Weaver or Haren.

• UNDER 8 or higher.

• UNDER 7 or higher if Weaver or Haren opposes Price or Shields.

Rangers at A’s: Oakland’ strength is on the mound as all five regular starters have ERAs of three or less. The starting staff has combined for 14 quality starts (six or more innings, two earned runs or less) in their first 22 games.

Texas has gotten above average pitching with rookie Alexi Ogando and lefty Matt Harrison putting up outstanding stats through their combined eight starts. Texas is expected to be without closer Neftali Feliz for a couple of weeks.

Preferred plays:

• A’s as dogs or -130 favorites or less in starts by Brett Anderson, Trevor Cahill or Gio Gonzalez.

• Rangers as dogs of any price not facing those three.

• UNDER 8 or higher.

• UNDER 7 or higher if Anderson, Cahill or Gonzalez oppose Harrison or Ogando.

About the Author

Andy Iskoe

Owner and author of “The Logical Approach,” Andy Iskoe has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football.

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