MLB Betting Odds: Rays host O's in home finale

By: Jimmy Sirody | Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Jeff Niemann

Jeff Niemann gets the call in Tampa Bay’s regular season home finale.

The Tampa Bay Rays' champagne dreams were put on ice Monday by the Baltimore Orioles.

The Rays
came out flatter than any bubbly could ever be and lost to the last-place Birds, 4-0. Their magic number for clinching a playoff berth remained at one. The good news is Tampa Bay maintained its half-game lead over the New York Yankees in the American League East when the defending champs lost at Toronto.

The Rays sent David Price to the mound Tuesday in Game 2 of the series, but if their ace is unable to get the job done against the pesky O’s, the spotlight will be on Jeff Niemann (11-7, 4.49) in Wednesday’s regular-season home finale.

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The 6-foot-8 right-hander’s stock has taken a dip over the second half of the season, and how he fares against Baltimore could have a bearing on what his role will be come playoff time.

Niemann wasn’t sharp last Friday against Seattle at home, but he had his best outing since coming off the disabled list on Aug. 25, yielding three runs on seven hits in 5 1/3 innings.

Baltimore has given the Rays trouble at times, taking two out of three in the teams’ last series and scoring 16 runs in the two wins.

Tampa Bay has taken 10 of 16 from Baltimore, but the Orioles, even after getting swept at Toronto over the weekend, are 29-21 overall and 4-3 against the Rays since Buck Showalter took over as manager.

Kevin Millwood will likely be making his last start in a Baltimore uniform in the series finale.

Millwood is showing what it looks like when a mediocre pitcher from another division has to face the Yankees, Rays and Red Sox on a regular basis. The veteran right-hander gave up six runs on seven hits in five innings against Boston last Wednesday.

In two starts against Tampa Bay this year Millwood is 0-1 with a 5.06 ERA and the Rays have tattooed him at a .356 clip. He is 2-9 on the highway with a 5.52 ERA and a .315 batting average against.

The Rays are 5-2 in Niemann’s last seven starts at home and 7-2 in his last nine appearances against division foes. However, they are 1-5 in his past six outings overall.

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Baltimore is 3-16 on the road versus winning teams with Millwood on the mound and the O’s have flunked the right-hander’s last seven division tests.

The baseball betting ‘under’ has cashed in nine of the past 10 series tussles at the Trop.

The Birds have flown ‘under’ in nine of 10 on field turf and in 11 of 16 versus division tenants. Tampa Bay has ducked below the number at a 12-3-1 clip recently in St. Pete.

Angel Hernandez will be calling the balls and strikes Wednesday. The ‘under’ is 13-3-1 in his last 17 assignment behind the plate, but the Rays have zipped ‘over’ the last eight times he officiated against them.

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