MLB: White Sox vs. Rays Betting Preview



2008-10-03

Think back to March of this year, the chances of Tampa Bay and the Chicago White Sox winning their divisions were about as good as an Alaskan governor being on a presidential ticket. Yet as October begins, all three of these unlikely events have occurred. Think about it, Tampa Bay had the worst record in baseball last season, losing 96 games, and was expected to finish below .500 again this year. The Rays had never won more than 70 games or finished higher than fourth in their division, yet went from worst to first in a division that included the Yankees and Red Sox.

Though not as stirring, the White Sox story is still compelling. After finishing 72-90 in 2007, Chicago was presumed to have a sore neck, looking up at Detroit and Cleveland all season. Instead, the White Sox young starting pitchers matured, the bullpen solidified for the most part and the big thumpers started hitting home runs again. The addition of several new everyday players like Carlos Quentin, Alexei Ramirez and Orlando Cabrera helped put them over the top.

Managers Ozzie Guillen and the Rays Joe Maddon are about as different as Joe Biden and Sarah Palin. The Sox skipper has not met a microphone he wouldn't speak into and Maddon is just a long time baseball guy, who was the perfect fit for a young team that needed an anchor in the dugout.
TBS announcers John Smoltz and Ron Darling see similarities to past teams about Tampa Bay. "I think [the Rays] mirror the [last-to-first] 1991 Braves in the sense that they have young pitching that looks, from afar, really talented, and barring any health issues they should be able to stay together for quite some time," said Smoltz. "People in baseball who have played them could see this coming. You never know when a team is going to turn it around; you never know when a team is going to click."

Darling went further back in the way-back machine, drawing comparison to '69 Mets. "Because you're talking about, traditionally, a team that's almost been the laughing stock of the division," Darling said. "From top to bottom they've done an amazing job drafting and trading for veterans such as Cliff Floyd."

Peter Gammons said back in spring training, Tampa Bay was the most athletic team in baseball and could finish over .500. They easily surpassed that number thanks to solid young starting pitching, a complete bullpen and an offense that is more National League in style. The Rays don't throw a lot of flashy numbers around offensively, however were second in walks in the American League and six players had on-base percentage of .345 or higher.

The White Sox will come battle tested, having to win last three games just to be here, after losing five in a row. Chicago still has several players from the 2005 World Series championship team and has the long ball which can alter any contest in a moments notice.

StatFox Take: Whoever gives up home field advantage is probably sunk. Tampa Bay was the best in baseball at 57-24 and the Pale Hose were fourth at 54-28. Teams that have the ability to manufacture runs are normally in better shape in the postseason, then power teams, who can be shut down by better pitching. The White Sox are only 4-15 in last 19 games on the fake grass, batting .227. Tampa Bay has a decided edge with its first two pitchers at home and Guillen has to burn Buehrle on the road as opposed to pitching him at home where he's fantastic. Hard to fathom Chicago winning three in a row if they drop the first two at the Trop.

Series odds from Bookmaker.com: White Sox +148, Rays -168

Thursday October 2
White Sox (Vazquez) at Tampa Bay (Shields) 2:30 EDT

Friday October 3
White Sox (Buehrle) at Tampa Bay (Kazmir) 6:00 EDT

Sunday October 5
Tampa Bay () at White Sox () TBD

Monday October 6
Tampa Bay at White Sox if necessary

Wednesday October 8
White Sox at Tampa Bay if necessary


Offensive American League
Runs scored White Sox 5th Rays 9th
Home Runs White Sox 1st Rays 5th
Total Bases White Sox 4th Rays 8th
Slugging Ptc. White Sox 2nd Rays 8th
Walks White Sox 7th Rays 2nd
On base Ptc. White Sox 9th Rays 5th
Pitching & Defense
ERA White Sox 6th Rays 2nd
Strikeouts White Sox 3rd Rays 3rd
Walks White Sox 4th Rays 8th
On base Ptc. White Sox 3rd Rays 2nd
Putouts White Sox 3rd Rays 1st
Errors White Sox11th Rays 4th

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