The Chicago White Sox fattened up their record with two series against the floundering Cleveland Indians over the past two weeks, but they’ll be put to the test this weekend when they take on one of the best teams in baseball this season – the Tampa Bay Rays.
The ChiSox managed to dispatch the Tribe in two of the three games that they played against their division rival earlier in the week. Monday saw Chicago score three times in the top of the 12th inning to earn a 6-3 victory. On Tuesday the Indians turned the tables with an 8-2 win, thanks in large part to a Franklin Gutierrez grand slam in the first inning. In Wednesday’s finale Carlos Quentin drove in three runs in a 6-5 Chicago win.
So Chicago enters their four-game weekend series with the Rays holding a two-game lead on the Minnesota Twins in the AL Central division standings. The Rays, though, have a 1.5-game lead on the Boston Red Sox in the AL East division, and they’ll be looking to convert more baseball fans into believers with a series victory over Chicago.
And if you were planning on paying attention to the baseball odds on this series this weekend, which of the four games should be your target? Perhaps Saturday’s projected matchup between Chicago’s Javier Vazquez and Tampa Bay’s Scott Kazmir. Vazquez has been good this year (a 5-3 record and a 3.52 ERA), but Kazmir has been almost untouchable over his last four outings – the lefthander allowed just two runs over those four games.
Thursday night has John Danks (3-4, 3.00 ERA) taking on the Rays’ Edwin Jackson (3-3, 3.47 ERA), while Friday is expected to feature a matchup between Jose Contreras (5-3, 3.06 ERA) and James Shields (4-3, 3.38 ERA). Sunday afternoon’s finale has Mark Buehrle (2-6, 5.27 ERA) battling with Andy Sonnanstine (6-3, 4.98 ERA).
For lefthander Buehrle, Sunday’s start will be an opportunity to make up for his last outing – he was the one who allowed the grand slam to Gutierrez, and he surrendered six earned runs on eight hits over just five innings on that day. Buehrle had pitched well in his previous two starts, but he’s only managed to earn one victory since April 6.
Who’s hot heading into this series? Quentin leads the White Sox with 14 home runs and 47 RBI, and his batting average hasn’t dipped below .290 for the past two weeks. Chicago shortstop Orlando Cabrera is hitting just .242, but he’s collected 10 hits over his past six games. Rays outfielder B.J. Upton’s average has gone up 20 points in the last two weeks, and third baseman Evan Longoria has eight RBI in his last five games.