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Aug 01, 2019

Thursday's Tip Sheet

Rays at Red Sox (-125, 10 ½) – 7:10 PM EST

The top spot in the American League East race is safely held down by the Yankees, who enter Thursday’s action at 68-39. The next closest team is Tampa Bay (62-48), who sits seven games back of first place in the division, but the Rays are currently holding down the second Wild Card spot in the AL after topping Boston (59-50) in consecutive games at Fenway Park the last two nights.

After the Rays held off the Red Sox, 6-5 on Tuesday, Tampa Bay jumped out to a 5-0 lead in last night’s 8-5 victory as a +120 underdog. The Rays knocked around Red Sox right-hander Rick Porcello for six runs in less than six innings, including hitting three home runs off the former Cy Young winner. Tampa Bay has won five of its past six games overall, while improving to an impressive 7-1 at Fenway Park in eight tries this season.

The Red Sox look to avoid their home sweep of a three-game series or longer in 2019 as Andrew Cashner (10-5, 4.18 ERA) takes the mound tonight. Cashner finally broke through for his first victory in a Red Sox uniform by topping the Yankees as a short home underdog last Friday, 10-5. The right-hander put together his best start in three appearances with Boston since getting dealt from Baltimore in mid-July as he lasted 6.2 innings and allowed three runs, while not giving up a home run for the first time in three starts.

Rookie Brendan McKay (1-1, 3.72 ERA) dominated the Rangers in his Major League debut on June 29 by yielding a single hit in six innings of a 5-2 win. However, the Rays are 0-3 in McKay’s last three starts, including back-to-back defeats as a favorite of -220 or higher. The most recent defeat was the worst outing of McKay’s short career by allowing five runs and nine hits in less than four innings of work in a 9-2 drubbing at the hands of the White Sox on July 19.

Astros (-190, 8 ½) at Indians – 7:15 PM EST

Houston (69-40) made the biggest splash at the trade deadline by acquiring ace Zack Greinke from Arizona to bolster its already loaded starting rotation. The Astros were blown out by the Indians (63-44) on Wednesday, 10-4 to have their three-game winning streak snapped, but Houston will turn to another one of its big horses on the mound tonight.

Gerrit Cole (12-5, 2.94 ERA) is in the mix for the Cy Young conversation in the American League after winning his past three starts, while Houston owns a 6-1 record in his previous seven trips to the mound. Cole has tossed seven innings in each of his last three appearances, while allowing one run apiece, including shutting down the Cardinals in an 8-2 blowout last Saturday as a -200 road favorite. Cole pitched well in his last outing against Cleveland on April 25 by striking out 10 batters in seven innings, but he allowed two home runs in a 2-1 defeat as a -155 favorite.

The Indians avoided their first three-game skid since late May by scoring three runs or more in three separate innings last night. Danny Salazar is making his first start since 2017 for Cleveland following right shoulder surgery nearly two years ago. The return of Salazar to the Indians’ rotation will help Cleveland moving forward although he struggled in his last full season of 2017 by compiling a 5-6 record with a 4.28 ERA.

The Astros have done a solid job of closing out series on the road recently by going 7-1 in the last eight away series finales since early June. The Indians have won five consecutive home series finales since late June, but lost in their only opportunity as a home underdog in this situation back on May 22 against Oakland.

Cubs at Cardinals (-115, 8 ½) – 7:20 PM EST

For the first time in 11 tries this season, the road team finally won a game between Chicago and St. Louis. The Cubs (57-50) pulled back into a tie for first place in the NL Central race by blanking the Cardinals (57-50) on Wednesday, 2-0, highlighted by a terrific pitching performance from Kyle Hendricks, who tossed seven scoreless innings for his third win against St. Louis this season.

The UNDER has hit in five of the past six matchups between these NL Central rivals, while the losing team has been held to one run or fewer five times. Chicago owns a dreadful 1-10 record in its last 11 games off a road win since mid-May as the Cubs try to turn around that skid with Jon Lester on the mound tonight.

Lester (9-6, 3.63 ERA) needed two extra days of rest prior to his last start due to a case of bronchitis, but the southpaw was terrific against Milwaukee last Saturday. The veteran tossed seven scoreless innings, but the Brewers rallied past the Cubs’ bullpen in a 5-3 win in 10 innings. The loss ended a three-game winning streak with Lester on the mound, while the Cubs slipped to 3-6 in his nine starts away from Wrigley Field.

The Cardinals have lost 10 of their last 11 games when scoring two runs or less, while winning 12 straight contests when plating at least three runs since the All-Star break. Jack Flaherty (4-6, 4.17 ERA) has pitched well lately even though he has no wins to show for it as the right-hander has given up four runs in his last four starts. St. Louis is 2-0 in his past two outings against Cincinnati and Houston (both no-decisions for Flaherty), while the UNDER is on a 4-0 run with Flaherty on the mound.

The Cubs have seen plenty of Flaherty this season as the Cardinals are 1-2 his three starts against Chicago. Both the losses came at Wrigley Field, while the lone win came at home on June 1 as the righty yielded two runs in five innings of a 7-4 win in a game that was delayed several hours due to rain after the fifth. Chicago owns a 2-3 record in Lester’s past five starts at Busch Stadium since 2017, but the left-hander beat the Cardinals at Wrigley back on June 8 in a 9-4 victory.

You can reach Kevin Rogers via e-mail at [email protected]

Kevin Rogers can be followed on Twitter at virogers.

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