Tampa Bay fell to 2-2 on its current six-game road trip, falling to the Minnesota Twins 2-1 at Target Field. “We’ve got to do better than one run,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “We had plenty of opportunities and did not get it done.” The club has still scored 19 runs on the trip and combining for a .291 batting average. Manager Joe Maddon’s decision to drop first baseman Carlos Pena from the cleanup spot to the No. 7 position in the lineup didn’t pay dividends on Friday. The slugger went 0-for-4 and is 12-for-62 over his last 17 games. Tampa Bay is 12-10 in its last 22 games versus the Minnesota Twins.
Rays starting pitcher Wade Davis is 5-9 with a 4.68 ERA in 15 starts this season (-580), but will be looking to snap a five-game losing streak. Over his last five starts, the Rays have managed to score just 12 runs, while the right-hander has given up 17 earned runs over 27 innings. He brings a 2-3 mark and 5.10 ERA in six road starts (-20), allowing opponents to hit .282 against him. Davis has been solid in four daytime starts despite bringing a 1-3 record to the table, compiling a 3.20 ERA and giving up just two home runs in 25.1 innings of work. After posting a 5-4 record in the first two months of the season, he recorded an 0-5 mark and 6.00 ERA in June.
Minnesota evened its current weekend series against Tampa Bay, but has been treading water with a 13-16 mark since June 1. The Twins are still a disappointing 8-11 against the AL East division on the season. First baseman Justin Morneau has been doing his part all season long, sitting third in the majors with a .348 batting average while hitting 16 home runs and 52 RBIs. Fans are hoping that 2009 MVP Joe Mauer will start producing at the plate in the same manner, with only three home runs through his first 69 games this season. “He’s on the ball as well as anybody on this team, hitting line drives and rockets everywhere,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “The home runs will come.” Minnesota brings a 14-15 record (-410) into this afternoon’s contest.
Twins starting pitcher Francisco Liriano is an even 6-6 with a 3.47 ERA in 15 starts this season (-160). The left-hander is suffering from a three-game losing streak, allowing 12 earned runs and 21 hits over 18 innings. He is 3-3 with a 3.12 ERA in his first seven career outings at Target Field (-320), after going 12-8 with a 3.02 ERA in 35 career appearances (25 starts) at the Metrodome. Liriano has made just five daytime starts, posting a 2-3 mark and 3.82 ERA, while not allowing a home run in 33 frames. In four career starts against the Rays, he has tallied a 2-1 record and 2.39 ERA. He failed to produce one of those victories in 2009, going 0-1 with a 5.06 ERA in two outings.
The linesmaker has made the Rays an appealing underdog in this contest, as the team is 19-8 against left-handed starters this season (+800). This becomes even more playable due to Tampa’s perfect 3-0 mark as a road underdog of +125 to +150. Bettors should take a conservative approach to their wager based on the Twins 14-2 record as a home favorite of -125 to -150.