Baseball Predictions Preview: It would be safe to say there has never been a more important three-game series played at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., than the one between the Tampa Bay Rays and Boston Red Sox beginning Monday night (7:10 p.m.). The two teams have exchanged places at the top of the AL East standings a couple of times already this season and start this current series with the Rays holding a half-game lead in the standings over their Boston rivals. Tonight’s game one is the first meeting of the clubs since the June 5 brawl. In this one Tampa Bay will send RHP James Shields (5-5, 3.76 ERA) to the mound while Boston will counter with RHP Justin Masterson (4-1, 3.76).
Baseball Predictions Betting Line: Oddsmakers at Bodog (Bodoglife.com) currently have the Rays listed as 151-moneyline favorites versus the Red Sox, while the game's total is sitting at 8½. The Red Sox bettors are getting +136 money line odds.
Shields is coming off a resounding victory over the Marlins on Wednesday night in which the right-hander broke a seven-game dry spell to notch the win. He tossed seven innings of four-hit ball, allowing only a solo home run to Mike Jacobs in the sixth inning. Shields will face a new rival in the Red Sox, as the right-hander was one of five Rays suspended after the on-field melee at Fenway Park. Monday's game will be the 27-year-old's fourth appearance against the Red Sox this year. Shields has beaten Boston once this season, in April 27's game at Tropicana Field, but sports an impressive 1.99 ERA in home starts.
Masterson earned his second career win against Tampa Bay on June 3, a 7-4 decision at Fenway Park. It wasn't his most dominant performance, allowing four runs on six hits during six innings of work. But it did set the tone for the three-game set, as the Red Sox swept the Rays to regain first place in the AL East. Masterson's last start was very similar to that game against the Rays; he allowed four runs on seven hits against Arizona on Tuesday.
The Red Sox lost to Houston 3-2 as a -175 favorite on Sunday. The five runs scored fell UNDER the posted over/under total (8.5).
Dustin Pedroia and Manny Ramirez hit solo home runs for Boston, while Josh Beckett gave up two runs on eight hits in seven innings.
The Rays defeated Pittsburgh 4-3 as a -120 favorite on Sunday. The seven runs scored fell UNDER the posted over/under total (9.5).
Shawn Riggans was 3-4 with a home run and two RBI for Tampa Bay, while Andy Sonnanstine earned the win after allowing one earned run on five hits in seven innings.
Baseball Predictions Pick: Tampa Bay -151 ML