I can remember a time when the Rays were known as the Devil Rays and they were rarely if ever favored by odds makers to win any individual game during the baseball season. Having the best record in baseball will change that, I guess.

The Rays were favored last night at home against the White Sox at a money line of -123. Tonight they are favored at -140. They lost last night and will probably lose tonight. If I were a bettin' man, I would take the underdog White Sox at +130.

Prior to last night's game, John Danks, the starting pitcher for the White Sox, had a record of 3-4 an ERA of 3.00 and a WHIP of 1.21; he also had struck out 42 batters and walked only 17. These are exceptional numbers.

In comparison, Edwin Jackson, the starter for the Rays had a record of 3-3 an ERA of 3.47, a WHIP of 1.39; he had struck out 43 batters and walked 30. These are decent numbers, but not as good as Danks's.

If you consider the fact that both Danks and Jackson have a prior history of not being very good pitchers and you say they both are having great seasons so far this season, you could consider them a wash in terms of winning factors. If anything, the edge would have to go to Danks, but we won't nit pick.

Both the White Sox and the Rays have been hot, each winning 7 of their last ten games, so that factor is a wash. We were left with the Rays being favored slightly simply because they were the home team, something that rarely used to happen.

My point is simply that the Rays stock has risen to the point that odds makers and fans are suddenly accepting that they are for real. In a game like last night, all things being equal statistically, the Rays were favored.

In years past, they could have a great pitcher on the mound and still be slight underdogs at home to a hot team like the White Sox. All it took for a bettor was to see the name "Tampa Bay" and they thought automatic loser, no matter who was pitching.

The factor in favor of the White Sox winning tonight is Jose Contreras. You can take a look at his stats if you want. His stats are a mere reflection of the dominant pitcher Contreras has become, or perhaps resurrected.

In his last start on Sunday night, Contreras was pitching a nice game against the Angels. Then the Angels suddenly got two hits in a row, the second being a game-tying two-run homer. Contreras got a look on his face of complete anger and determination. That look never left his face and he proceeded to shut down the Angels the rest of the way, striking out ten of them for the game and giving up just one more hit that night.

If Contreras continues to pitch with that attitude and the kind of nasty stuff he had on Sunday night, there is no way the Rays will score even one run off of him.

If you want to look at the opposing pitcher stats, go ahead. You will see he is a young pitcher with a great track record at home and a bad record against the White Sox.

I expect the Rays to try and use their speed to get on base, steal bases and manufacture runs against Contreras. It is the only way they can score, unless Contreras forgot how to pitch since Sunday.

Don't misunderstand me.  I am not saying the Rays can't hit.  They can hit big time.  They just can't hit Contreras.  Nobody can hit Contreras right now. 

If the Rays can steal a run or two and get a real gem from Shields, they can win this game, but I wouldn't bet on that. The White Sox lineup is heating up by the day and Shields, while being very good, is a bit too cocky for his own good at times. He will try to do a little too much at the wrong time and most likely give up one back breaking home run to somebody tonight.

A low scoring game with the White Sox on top should be the final result.


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