White Sox Open Big Series With Tampa Bay Rays

By: Willie Bee | Wednesday, September 26, 2012

It's a 4-game series that could propel one team or the other into the postseason.  The next four days on Chicago's South Side could also ultimately cost both the White Sox and Tampa Bay Rays a chance to play on when the regular season draws to a close a week from now.

A lot is at stake when the Rays and White Sox open their long set Thursday at US Cellular Field (8:10 p.m. ET).  Fittingly, each club will send a top-notch hurler to the mound for Game 1 as James Shields gets the nod for Tampa opposite Chicago's Jake Peavy.

Also appropriate for such a crucial series are the opening numbers for the first of four contests.  Early MLB odds had the game near a pick 'em at some outlets while visiting Tampa Bay was a slight favorite at others.  Thursday's 8-run total was priced 20¢ to the 'under.'

Time may have already run out for Joe Maddon and the Rays who sit three games behind Oakland for the second wild card opening in the American League.  Tampa Bay not only has to catch the Athletics, but climb over the Los Angeles Angels as well.  A split in Chicago just won't cut it, and even taking three of four might not be enough to accomplish anything but knocking the Pale Hose out of the AL Central race.

Robin Ventura and the ChiSox were tied with Detroit for the top spot in the division heading into Wednesday action which was still pending.  Chicago was a solid $1.70 favorite in its series finale vs. the Indians while the Rays were priced a bit more modestly at -135 when they wrapped up a set in Boston.

It has been about four months since the clubs last met, and that series down at Tropicana Field was certainly no fun for the Rays who were broomed by the Pale Hose.  Two of the three contests failed to reach the total, continuing a trend since the start of the 2011 season when six of the eight went 'under.'

Chicago has also been a bad destination for Tampa Bay over the years.  The White Sox are 32-19 at home vs. the Rays, winning six of the last nine played on the Windy City diamond.

Shields has had his ups-&-downs facing the White Sox during his career.  Ten regular season outings have netted the big right-hander a 4.95 ERA while the Rays broke even at 5-5.  Shields also owns a win over Chicago in the 2008 ALCS, but it's his most recent outing that we're more concerned with as the ChiSox banged on him in St. Pete back in late-May, scoring six runs (5 earned) in his six innings of work.

Peavy has the luxury of an extra day off thanks to Ventura tweaking his rotation during the series against Cleveland.  The injury-plagued hurler reached the 200-inning plateau for the first time since 2007 last Friday against the Angels, though it wasn't necessarily a joyous occasion as Peavy suffered the loss after giving up five runs in as many frames.

The Alabama native last saw the Rays in 2010, and neither assignment against them that season will make his career highlight reel as Peavy was touched for 12 runs in less than 10 innings between the two starts.  The White Sox bailed him out with enough plate crossings for a win in one of the affairs.

Current weather forecasts call for a clear, cool and humid evening in Chicago on Thursday.  First pitch should come with temps in the low-60s, and the weatherman is calling for an 8-10 mph NNE wind (3B out to RF corner).

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