August 1, 2012
By Kevin Rogers
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The Thursday baseball card showcases nine contests, including seven at night. We'll take a look at four of the bigger games, including the Athletics looking to stay red-hot at home against the struggling Blue Jays. The night begins in Washington with the first and last place teams hooking up inside the NL East.
Phillies at Nationals - 7:05 PM EST
Philadelphia dumped a pair of outfielders prior to Tuesday's trade deadline by sending Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence to the NL West. However, the Phillies rebounded from a three-game sweep at Atlanta to blank Washington in the series opener, 8-0 as $1.25 road underdogs. The Nationals still own the top spot in the NL East, but the Braves are lurking by sitting just 2 ½ games back heading into Thursday.
Cliff Lee dominated the Nationals in the opener, as another southpaw ace takes the mound on Thursday for the Phillies. Cole Hamels (11-5, 3.31 ERA) tries to rebound from a poor outing at Atlanta, just days after signing a six-year extension to remain in Philadelphia. Hamels allowed five runs (three earned) and walked six in five innings of a 6-1 loss. The Phillies aren't cashing when Hamels takes the mound of late, dropping five of his past six starts. In two starts against the Nationals this season, Hamels has beaten Washington each time, including a 9-3 victory as a short road favorite in early May.
The Nationals counter with Ross Detwiler (5-4, 3.24 ERA), who was knocked around in his last start at Milwaukee. The left-hander couldn't escape the fifth inning as the Brewers jumped out to a 4-0 lead, en route to a 6-0 victory. Detwiler received no help from his offense, which pounded out just four hits in Washington's first loss with him on the mound in his last five starts. The Nationals have cashed the 'over' in five straight home outings by Detwiler, as the Washington offense has scored at least five runs in each of those contests.
Twins at Red Sox - 7:10 PM EST
The last time these two teams hooked up at Target Field in April, Boston pulled out the broom and swept Minnesota in a three-game set. The Twins have come back to life following a slow start to the season, but Ron Gardenhire's club owns an 8-11 record since the All-Star break. The Red Sox have struggled to find consistency, even though Boston is coming off series victories over New York and Detroit this week.
One of the biggest mysteries coming out of Boston this season is the struggles of Jon Lester (5-8, 5.49 ERA). The southpaw has failed to put together a quality start in five of his last six outings, in spite of the Red Sox pulling out an 8-6 triumph in his last trip to the mound against the Yankees as $1.55 road underdogs. In this stretch, the 'over' has cashed five times, including four times at Fenway Park. Lester has by far been the biggest "money-burner" at home by losing 11.36 units in 12 starts at Fenway this season.
The Twins go for their fourth consecutive victory with Samuel Deduno (2-0, 3.13 ERA) on the mound, as the 29-year old from the Dominican Republic makes his third road start. Deduno is coming off back-to-back victories over the Royals and Indians, while allowing one earned run in each win. Minnesota is riding a healthy 'over' streak, by hitting in eight of the past 11 games, including five straight on the road.
Angels at Rangers - 8:05 PM EST
The race inside the AL West is tightening up as Los Angeles has captured four of the last six meetings with Texas. The lead has been trimmed to four games after the Halos dumped the Rangers in consecutive contests to start this crucial four-game set in Arlington. Ron Washington's team is just 4-6 the last nine games, but managed an 11-10 extra-innings triumph over the Angels on Wednesday.
The Rangers turn to newly acquired Ryan Dempster (5-5, 2.25 ERA), who was traded from the Cubs on Tuesday for the pennant push. Dempster has never pitched in Arlington in his career, while never facing the Angels in interleague play. The right-hander is coming off consecutive road losses at Pittsburgh and St. Louis as Dempster's name swirled around trade rumors to Atlanta or Los Angeles. In spite of the change in leagues, Dempster cashed the 'under' in his final five starts with the Cubs, while not allowing a run in five outings from June through mid-July.
A former Ranger gets the call on the Los Angeles side as C.J. Wilson (9-7. 2.88 ERA) is winless in his last six starts. The southpaw is fresh off quality starts in 12 of his last 14 appearances, including six scoreless against the Rangers in early June. Wilson didn't face Texas in the teams' last series in Southern California in late July, as the Rangers are 7-2 in his previous nine road outings.
Blue Jays at Athletics - 10:05 PM EST
Oakland is red-hot at the moment, winning 19 of 24 games in July to creep near the top of the AL Wild Card race. Toronto has gone backwards since winning six of eight games, as the Blue Jays dropped the all three contests at Seattle. The Jays are short-handed offensively with Jose Bautista, J.P. Arrencibia, and Adam Lind all sitting on the disabled list.
The last time these teams met at Rogers Centre, the A's grabbed two of three matchups, including a 16-0 drubbing of Toronto in the second game of the series. Bartolo Colon (7-8, 3.78 ERA) didn't face the Jays in that series, as the veteran goes for his second win in the last seven trips to the mound. The A's are 7-2 to the 'under' in Colon's previous nine starts, while going 4-2 in his last six outings at O.Co Coliseum.
Oakland owns a 16-4 record the last 20 home contests against right-handed starting pitchers, which includes losses to James Shields and Alex Cobb of Tampa Bay the last two days. Henderson Alvarez (7-7, 4.43 ERA) is coming off back-to-back underdog wins over Detroit and Boston, while silencing the potent Tigers' offense in a 5-1 triumph last Saturday. The Jays have won three of Alvarez's four starts against AL West opponents this season, with the lone loss coming in extra-innings at Texas.
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