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Thursday Matinee Tips

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Baseball season is underway as teams are wrapping up their first series of the new campaign. Four series during matinee action involve rubber contests, including the Rays and Orioles wrapping up their wild series at Tropicana Field. We'll start in Cincinnati with the first interleague stanza coming to a close.

Angels at Reds - 12:35 PM EST

Cincinnati rebounded from an opening day loss in 13 innings to Los Angeles, as the Reds held off the Angels in Wednesday's 5-4 walk-off triumph. The Reds cashed as $1.20 favorites thanks to Joey Votto's game-winning single in the ninth inning after Cincinnati blew an early 4-0 lead.

Bronson Arroyo takes the mound for the Reds in the series finale after closing last postseason with a one-hit gem in seven innings of work against the Giants in the NLDS. Cincinnati won nine of his 14 starts at the Great American Ballpark in 2012, but lost his final two outings as a home favorite to the Brewers and Dodgers.

Joe Blanton makes his Angels' debut after coming over from the Dodgers in the offseason, as Los Angeles won five of his final six outings. One of those victories was a no-decision for Blanton in a 3-1 Dodgers' win at Cincinnati last September, as the righty allowed just one earned run in 5.2 innings of work.

Cubs at Pirates - 12:35 PM EST

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The first two games of this series involved great pitching performances in the wins. On opening day, Jeff Samardzija tossed eight solid innings in a 3-1 victory for the Cubs. Last night, Wandy Rodriguez shut down the Chicago offense by allowing two hits in 6.2 innings as the Pirates grabbed a 3-0 shutout. Today, the Bucs look for a share of first place in the NL Central with a win.

James McDonald started fast in 2012 as the Pirates put together a 13-4 record in his first 17 starts. However, the righty soon fell apart after the All-Star break, as Pittsburgh stumbled to a dreadful 2-8 record in his final 10 trips to the mound. The final two defeats came to the Cubs, who scored seven runs and racked up 12 hits in two victories over McDonald in the underdog role.

The Cubs counter with southpaw Travis Wood, who went 4-8 away from Wrigley Field last season. However, Wood picked up road underdog triumphs of $1.60 or higher against the Mets, White Sox, and Pirates. In the victory at PNC Park last September, Wood allowed only one hit in six scoreless innings of a 12-2 rout over the Pirates as a $1.70 'dog.

Tigers at Twins - 1:10 PM EST

Detroit's biggest issue headed into the season was the closer role. Phil Coke shut the door in the season opening win over Minnesota, but the southpaw gave up the game-winning two-run double in the ninth inning to Eduardo Escobar in Wednesday's 3-2 defeat. Anibal Sanchez silenced the Twins' bats by allowing just two hits in five innings of work, as the right-hander received a no-decision in Detroit's first loss of the season.

The Tigers go for the series victory today with Rick Porcello on the bump, who makes his first start since a pair of relief appearances in Detroit's run to the World Series. Porcello lost seven of his final nine starts in 2012, while posting a 2-4 mark as a road favorite overall. The Tigers won his lone start at Target Field, a 4-3 triumph as $1.15 'chalk,' but Detroit bailed out Porcello by scoring two runs in the top of the ninth to take the lead for good.

Mike Pelfrey makes his Minnesota debut after making just three starts with the Mets last season. The righty had a career season in 2010 with 15 victories, but tailed off in 2011 by winning just seven times in 33 starts. Pelfrey didn't have a great spring by compiling a 6.38 ERA in six starts, while winning just once.

Orioles at Rays - 3:10 PM EST

Baltimore turned many heads last season with its run to the playoffs in the competitive AL East. With the Yankees down due to injuries and age, the crown is up for grabs in the division. Tampa Bay doesn't want to be forgotten in spite of missing the postseason in 2012, as the Rays look for a series win this afternoon at Tropicana Field.

The Rays rallied for an 8-7 win over the Orioles after falling behind 4-0 on Wednesday night. Matt Joyce's solo homer in the ninth inning was the difference for Tampa Bay, who has allowed 14 runs in the first two games. Roberto Hernandez (the former Fausto Carmona) makes his first start in a Tampa Bay uniform today after coming over from Cleveland. Hernandez lost all three starts with the Indians last season, while posting an 0-2 record in spring training with an ERA of 5.33 in six starts.

Miguel Gonzalez was racked in his first start against Tampa Bay last season, allowing seven earned runs in less than three innings of a 12-2 home defeat. However, the righty bounced back by giving up a grand total of just two earned runs in his next three outings against the Rays, including a pair of shutout wins at Tropicana Field. Since the loss to the Rays in July, the Orioles won nine of Gonzalez's final 11 starts.

You can reach Kevin Rogers via e-mail at rogers@vegasinsider.com

Kevin Rogers can be followed on Twitter at virogers.

  
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