Guess who owns the Majors’ best record entering Tuesday’s action. Why, it’s the Rays, of course.
Yes, in winning 12 of their first 16 games on the schedule, Tampa Bay has not only vaulted out to a surprising head start in the AL East, but they also sit atop baseball as well. And they have some excellent starting pitching to thank.
Overall, the Rays boast the lowest team ERA (2.44), with the rotation leading the way. Tampa starters have logged a microscopic 1.47 ERA, easily ranking them ahead of any other pitching staff in the bigs. In turn, the under has gone 12-4.
That pitching staff — and its penchant for unders — will be put to the test this weekend when they host the reigning world champion Boston Red Sox in a three-game set at Tropicana Field. This is especially true considering they’ll be taking on the starting rotation that ranks on the opposite end of the spectrum with an awful 7.18 ERA.
When you think of the Red Sox, you typically think of potent offense. But that hasn’t come to fruition yet in 2019. Boston is averaging just 4.35 runs per game, placing it 19th, and the Red Sox also sit in the bottom-third of the league in OPS (.692) and homers (17).
Let’s see if there’s potential for them to disrupt Tampa’s unders flow in this series.
Eduardo Rodriguez vs. Rays TBD (Friday): Originally, it was supposed to be reigning AL Cy Young award winner Blake Snell kicking off this critical series for the upstart Rays. Instead, a freak accident as the fourth-year southpaw was trying to move a granite stand in his bathroom took place, and now Snell is on the shelf for one start — if not more.
Enter the Rays’ “bullpen game” strategy, which is the expected option for the AL East division leaders to replace Snell in the first meeting. It is not known at press time who exactly will start for Tampa Bay. But no matter what, the “opener” they use only goes one or two innings anyway. After that, you’re relying on one of the better bullpens in the league, a unit that is currently tied for eighth in bullpen ERA (3.64).
The Tampa Bay battalion of relievers will try to outpitch Rodriguez, who will be looking to build off his first quality start of ‘19. The 26-year-old has a rocky track record when matched up with this opponent, however, as evident in his career 6.67 ERA and 1.76 WHIP against the Rays in six career starts. OVER
Rick Porcello vs. Charlie Morton (Saturday): Porcello has been at the heart of Boston’s problems, contributing to the glaring pitching woes. The former AL Cy Young winner enters this matchup with a brutal 11.12 ERA and he’s also somehow managed more walks (12) than strikeouts (11). Unsurprisingly, the over has easily gone 3-0 in his assignments.
Morton may not be of assistance to put a stop to that. He’s doing nicely in his new digs but the 12-year veteran had major issues last season with the Red Sox, who walloped Morton to the tune of a 6.97 ERA and 1.84 WHIP in two games, including three long balls. This middle affair figures to have one crooked number, at least. OVER
David Price vs. Tyler Glasnow (Sunday): It’s always a sight to behold when Price returns to The Trop, the place he called home for 6 1/2 seasons. Most would say he’s the best pitcher in the Rays’ franchise history. Since being dealt prior to the 2014 deadline, Price has continued his excellence in Tampa, etching a 2.19 ERA, 1.03 WHIP and 52-10 K/BB ratio in his seven starts as a visitor.
So long as that consistency can hold up, it would take only a decent performance from Glasnow to keep the series finale’s score on the lower end. Considering the 25-year-old’s stellar start to the year, in which he gave up only one run total through his first three starts, this will probably be a good bet. UNDER
Last week: 1-2
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