MLB: Rays go for sweep of Cubs backed by 5* system


Heading down to Florida early this week, the Cubs had everything going for them. Now, after two straight losses to the red-hot Rays and injury concerns with ace pitcher Carlos Zambrano, things have turned. Chicago will look to avoid the sweep Thursday night, but a 5* StatFox Super Situation indicates host Tampa is the side to play, even at -145.

Coming right off of today's FREE MLB FoxSheet, the system of interest is of the interleague variety and reads as follows:

Play Against - Any team (CHICAGO CUBS) - good NL offensive team (>=5.0 runs/game) against a good AL starting pitcher (ERA<=4.20), on a good fielding streak, 10 straight games with one or less errors.
(59-16 since 1997.) (78.7%, +45.2 units. Rating = 5*)

The average money line posted in these games was: Team underdog with a money line of: +103.7
The average score in these games was: Team 6.2, Opponent 3.8 (Average run differential = +2.4)

The situation's record this season is: (3-2, +0.1 units).
Over the last 3 seasons the situation's record is: (27-6, +20.6 units).
Over the last 5 seasons the situation's record is: (32-6, +25.7 units).

James Shields goes tonight for the Rays and boasts a 1.72 ERA and 0.860 WHIP in seven starts at home this season. The Cubs of course, are scoring 5.5 runs per game in '08, and haven't committed more than one error in any of their last 19 games.

The major league-leading Cubs arrived at Tampa hoping to build some momentum heading into their highly anticipated weekend series against their cross-town rival. It seems that so far in this series, the Rays have had other ideas.

Tampa Bay will be looking to become the first team to sweep the Cubs when these teams wrap up their three-game set Thursday night at Tropicana Field.

After defeating Chicago 3-2 in manager Lou Piniella's return to Tampa Bay (42-29) on Tuesday, the Rays won 5-4 Wednesday.

Second-place Tampa Bay is two games back of AL East-leading Boston, while the Cubs have a 3 1/2-game lead over second-place St. Louis in the NL Central.

Chicago (45-27) came to Tampa Bay as winners of six of seven, but is now in danger of getting swept for the first time since losing to Arizona in the 2007 playoffs. The Cubs, who open a three-game set against the AL Central-leading Chicago White Sox on Friday at Wrigley Field, are the only team in the majors that has not lost three straight games all season.

Tampa Bay, meanwhile, has won nine straight home series, winning 24 of 28 in that span.

The Rays are one victory away from setting a new club record for wins before the All-Star break. They were 42-45 at the break under Piniella in 2004 en route to winning a franchise-best 70 games.

Shields (4-5, 3.91 ERA) takes the ball in the series finale for the Rays, as he makes his first start in a week after serving a six-game suspension. On June 5, Shield was ejected in a game at Boston when he hit Red Sox outfielder Coco Crisp with a pitch leading to a bench-clearing brawl.

In his first start since, Shields gave up six runs, 10 hits and struck out a season-high nine in eight innings of a 6-1 complete-game loss to the Los Angeles Angels last Thursday.

This will be his first career start against the Cubs.

Chicago's Kosuke Fukudome hit in the leadoff spot for the first time Wednesday, and Piniella would like to keep the rookie there until Alfonso Soriano, who is out with a broken left hand, returns from the disabled list. Fukudome doubled in a run and also scored once Wednesday.

Soriano isn't the only Cub that is banged-up. Outfielder Reed Johnson sat out Wednesday with back stiffness, Jim Edmonds left the game in the fourth inning with left foot soreness and staff ace Carlos Zambrano left after 6 2-3 innings with shoulder discomfort, and is flying to Chicago Thursday to have an MRI.

Sean Gallagher (3-3, 4.54) looks to help the Cubs avoid the sweep when he makes his first career start against the Rays.

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