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Mon, 16 Aug 2010 06:17 PM EDT

Two of the best teams in the American League start a three game series on Monday night, and you couldn’t ask for a better pitching matchup for the opener, as Texas’ Cliff Lee will square off against Tampa Bay’s David Price. Oddsmakers at initially gave Lee the edge, installing him as a -115 favorite, despite his team being on the road. However, since bettors have moved the line to -105 and may even turn it further over to Tampa Bay’s favor over the course of the day. Let’s take a closer look at this stellar contest. Baseball Scores

The Rangers and Rays could well be headed for an October showdown, and Monday’s pitching matchup between Lee and Price will certainly be enough to give the game a postseason feel. The teams hold the biggest current leads in baseball’s playoff races, with Texas (67-49) up 8 1/2 games on the Angels in the AL West and Tampa Bay holding a five-game edge over Boston for the wild card. The Rays are also within one game of New York for the East lead.

The current standings would match the Rangers against the Rays (71-46) in an AL division series. It’s a good bet that tonight’s pitching matchup would be the same as a potential Game 1 in that series. Lee comes in with a 10-5 record and 2.57 ERA. He has quickly become the ace of the Texas staff since arriving on July 9th. Price has a better won-lost mark at 15-5, but his ERA is a slightly more elevated 2.84. He can become the first AL starter to 16 victories with a win tonight.

Price and Lee have never faced one another. In three career starts, Price is 0-2 when starting against Texas with an ERA of 9.45 and a WHIP of 1.650. Lee lost twice to Tampa Bay while with Seattle this season, but is 6-4 with a 2.51 ERA in 12 lifetime starts versus the Rays.

Since each of these pitchers ranks among the best in his craft, one of the handicapping factors you’ll want to give full consideration to tonight is each team’s performance against left-handed starters. That edge goes to the Rays, who are 25-13 against southpaws in 2010, scoring 5.4 runs per game, a full half run per game better than against righties. The Rangers are just 20-16, and scoring 4.6 runs per contest. That is a half run worse per game than against right-handed starters. In fact, take a look at this distinctive trend from FoxSheets:

  • WASHINGTON is 33-61 (-23.3 Units) against the money line in road games against left-handed starters as the manager of TEXAS. The average score was TEXAS 4.1, OPPONENT 5.4 – (Rating = 1*)

    Tampa Bay has done some solid work this season against the league’s best pitchers, going 13-3 (+9.7 Units) against the money line vs. an AL starting pitcher whose ERA is 3.20 or better this season. The average score was TAMPA BAY 6.1, OPPONENT 3.2 – (Rating = 1*) Basketball Scores

    Perhaps with two fabulous pitchers and the total set at 7 runs, the best wagering option could be on the under. Take

  • TEXAS is 22-12 UNDER (+8.7 Units) against left-handed starters this season. The average score was TEXAS 4.6, OPPONENT 4.0 – (Rating = 0*) Basketball Spreads

    The top StatFox System also favors that side of the total:

  • Play Under – All teams where the total is 7 to 8.5 (TAMPA BAY) – poor AL hitting team (AVG <=.260) against a team with a very good bullpen (ERA <=3.33), playing on Monday. (42-17 since 1997.) (71.2%, +22.6 units. Rating = 2*)

    Keep in mind that the Rays have won their last four home series against Texas. First pitch for tonight’s contest is set for 7:10 PM ET from Tampa.

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