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The St. Louis Cardinals and Tampa Bay Rays were both expected to contend for spots in the postseason this year. But only one of them has actually done so, as the Rays are contenders in the American League, while the Cardinals are in last place in their division. On Thursday, these teams will square off in the final game of a three-game series in St. Petersburg, where the Rays will hope to pull themselves closer in the AL East.
The St. Louis Cardinals have had a nightmare campaign, going 50-65 so far this season, and sitting in last place in the NL Central. But they do come into this game off of a win, having beaten the Rays on Wednesday in a 6-4 game. On Thursday, they aim to close this series out with a victory that will not help their postseason hopes but will provide them with some positivity heading into their next series.
In this contest, Matthew Liberatore is set to get the start for the Cardinals, which has not led to good things this season. Liberatore is just 1-4 so far this season, posting an ERA of 6.93 in his 37.2 innings of work on the year. Against a Tampa Bay team that has an explosive offense, Liberatore will need to be much better than usual in order to help his team get a win in this rubber match.
Fortunately for the Cardinals, they have the potential offensively to hang with the Rays on the scoreboard in this game. On Wednesday, the trio of Nolan Arenado, Paul Goldschmidt, and Lars Nootbar all drove in runs to help the Cardinals beat the Rays. Contributions from all three will be necessary again here for the Cardinals to win this game and come away with the series win as well.
The Tampa Bay Rays have fallen two games behind the Baltimore Orioles in the AL East standings, and come into this game off of a loss to the Cardinals. Tampa had nine hits in Wednesday’s loss to St. Louis, but they were only able to score on three home runs in that game. In this contest, the Rays need to do a better job of putting runs on the board via means other than the home run if they want to avoid a series loss.
Tampa will put their faith in Zach Littell on the mound to start this game, with Littell entering this contest at 2-2 with a 4.04 ERA in 2023. The Rays are banged up from a pitching perspective, with Shane McClanahan likely out for the season and Tyler Glasnow currently listed as day-to-day on their injury report. That opens up opportunities for pitchers like Littell to step up and win big games like this one.
From a situational point of view, the Rays have not been a great team as a favorite so far this season. They are just 49-48 as favorites on the year, while the Cardinals are a respectable 34-16 on the season as an underdog. St. Louis will once again be a threat as an underdog in this game, while the Rays can’t afford to drop contests like this if they want to get the job done in the AL East race.
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Jay Sanin is a sports bettor and writer from New York. He has been handicapping since the moment he was old enough to gamble legally, with his specialties being niche sports like the WNBA and XFL. He’s been told he has a voice for radio. He also has a face for radio.More info on Jay Sanin
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