GameThread: Rays (83-51) @ Orioles (49-86), 7:05pm

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This is the place to be if you don't give a crap about college football. Actually, if you like baseball and also college football, this is still a place to be, but where's the fun in it if I don't take the chance to foster a little inter-sport demagoguery?

The last two series have showed why it sucks to be in the AL East. There must be some way out of here. I'd just like to throw this stat out there again: no AL team outside of the East has a winning record against the East. Although there's not any confusion about that, we still can't get no relief.

Fortunately, tonight looks to be a good chance to turn the skid around. ESPN.com's little Accuscore projection tool even puts the Orioles at 52% favorites for the game. As I've noted in the past, that's actually not a good omen, because they have never actually won a game where I looked and noticed they were "favored". So it goes. The reason why today is a good chance to win is that the Rays are starting James Shields. I've been informed by Stacey that Rays fans (actually, do I need to use the plural?) refer to him as Big Game James. Give him this: he is now the Rays franchise leader in wins (with 56) and he has thrown 200+ innings in each of the last three seasons. This year he has a 4.73 ERA and has given up 1.5 HR/9. His WHIP is 1.39 and he has a 13-11 record.

Jeremy Guthrie, with his 8-13 record, 3.94 ERA and 1.2 WHIP, is not impressed in the least. Guts gets the chance to show why he is the better pitcher tonight, because he's starting opposite Shields. He needs to watch out for Carl Crawford, B.J. Upton and Carlos Pena, though, because they all have hit at least .333 off of him in 30+ PA apiece. Hang on, and this is our best matchup of the series? Dammit, statistics, I'm trying to be optimistic here.

O's hitters have a chance to tag Shields too, though. Nick Markakis (59 PA) has a .390 OBP.  Luke Scott (31 PA) has a 1.006 OPS. Ty Wigginton (10 PA) has two home runs off Shields. Felix Pie (12 PA) gets on base at a .500 clip so far in his career against Shields. Now that's what I'm talking about. Let's break this streak. Go O's!



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