Several top-notch pitching matchups take place Friday, perhaps none bigger than Justin Verlander battling David Price as the Detroit Tigers and Tampa Bay Rays continue their series at Tropicana Field.
Detroit has floundered all season after being the chalkiest of picks to win a division with a -650 price in the AL Central in early April. The Tigers began this series three games under .500 (36-39), but well within striking distance of the Chicago White Sox with only a 4-game deficit in the standings.
Tampa Bay has been in a bit of a funk as well and trailed the New York Yankees by 6.5 games in the AL East after leading the division less than three weeks ago. The Rays have dropped 10 of their last 15 since June 10 when they held a slim half-game advantage in the AL East.
The Rays and Tigers opened the 4-game series on Thursday night in a game that was still pending and listed Tampa Bay as a 120 home favorite with a 7½-run total. Max Scherzer was scheduled to start for Detroit opposite Tampa's James Shields.
Friday's second game will get underway at 7:10 p.m. (ET), and the early bird lines priced Verlander at -115 with a 7-run total leaning 25 cents to the 'under.'
Verlander has pitched the Tigers into the winner's circle each of his last four assignments, including a complete-game victory at Pittsburgh last Sunday. He was vying for a complete-game shutout when he faced the Rays in Detroit on April 11, but couldn't pull it off as Tampa Bay rallied for four runs in the top of the ninth after Verlander took a 2-0 lead into the final frame.
The Tigers were $1.65 favorites in that contest, and have been favored in each of Verlander's 16 starts. If the opening number for Friday holds, it will be the shortest price Detroit backers have been asked to lay in a Verlander outing.
Price picked up his 10th win of the campaign last Sunday in Philadelphia, getting some help from his bullpen in a 3-2 Tampa Bay triumph as a slight underdog. The southpaw out of Vanderbilt has notched the dubya in four of his last five starts and is 3-1 in four career efforts vs. Detroit with a 2.36 ERA.
In the April series at Comerica Park, the Tigers won two of the three games with the 'under' cashing twice to go with one 'push.' Detroit won three of the four played in St. Pete a season ago, the 'under' a winner three times along with a 'push' on a 7-run total in a game that Verlander started and won.
Dickey Takes Crack At Offensively-Challenged Dodgers
Another key 4-game set cranks up Thursday when the New York Mets continue their weeklong trip with a stop in Los Angeles to face the Dodgers. Chris Young was in line to take the bump for the Metropolitans opposite LA's Chris Capuano, and the Dodgers were 125 favorites on the Don Best odds screen that also listed a 7-run total priced to the 'under.'
The Mets arrived in Tinseltown off a 17-1 laugher at the Chicago Cubs' expense on Wednesday. The victory stopped a 4-game skid for New York and left the club third in the NL East, 4.5-games south of the front-running Washington Nationals.
The Dodgers were beginning this series on a 1-8 slide and in the throes of a 4-game losing streak after being swept by the Giants. Los Angeles couldn't muster a single run in the broom job at San Francisco who now shares the NL West lead with the struggling Dodgers.
Friday's second game will begin at 10:10 p.m. (ET) and features an initial mound duel between New York's RA Dickey and LA's Aaron Harang. The Mets opened as 115 favorites and the scoreboard hurdle was set at 6½.
Dickey had been the hottest arm in the game before running into the Yankees last Sunday. The knuckleballer allowed five runs in six frames, but didn't factor into the decision that went to the Yanks by a 6-5 count. The Mets had won his previous nine starts, and are 5-2 behind Dickey on the road thus far in 2012.
This will only be Harang's sixth appearance at Chavez Ravine with 10 of his 15 starts to date coming on the road. The Dodgers are 3-2 at home with Harang on the bump, and his ERA is more than two runs lower in LA (2.51) than away from home (4.58).
The teams are meeting for the first time in 2012 after New York won five of the seven clashes last season. The Mets were 3-1 in LA, the only Dodgers win coming when Clayton Kershaw took on New York's Dillon Gee. Those two hurlers are currently scheduled to meet Sunday night in the series finale.