One of the 15 Opening Day games in the MLB will feature the Detroit Tigers heading to Tampa Bay to take on the Rays. With the Rays being in such a stacked division, it’s important for them to get off on the right note, and we’ll preview their first game before going over my play for the action.
You can’t ask for a better opening-day starter than Shane McClanahan, as the young lefty will lead the Rays onto the field today after posting a 12-8 record last season, along with a 2.54 ERA and 194 strikeouts. McClanahan made two starts last season against the Tigers and went 1-1 with ten strikeouts in 13 ⅓ innings.
Tampa Bay certainly has a lot of potential at the top of its lineup with Wander Franco, Isaac Paredes, and Randy Arozarena. Leadoff hitter Yandy Diaz has the best track record against Tigers starter Eduardo Rodriguez, as he is hitting .429 in 23 plate appearances against him. World Baseball Classic hero Randy Arozarena has also found a lot of success against Rodriguez in his career, hitting .385 in 15 plate appearances.
Eduardo Rodriguez went 5-5 last season for Detroit with a 4.05 ERA, but with most of the Tigers' pitching staff on the IL, he will lead the rotation. The lefty’s one start against the Rays last season did not go well, as he only lasted ⅓ of an inning while allowing three earned runs on four hits and two walks. Rodriguez will need to bounce back this season in terms of putting hitters away, with the veteran coming off his worst season in terms of strikeout percentage.
Behind Rodriguez will be a mix of young Tigers hitters looking to establish themselves at the Major League level in Riley Greene and Spencer Torkelson. Around those guys in the lineup will be newly acquired Matt Vierling, Javier Baez, and Austin Meadows. No one in the Tigers line-up has recorded a lot of at-bats against McClanahan, which makes the matchup even more challenging for Detroit.
For my play in this one, I’ll be taking the Tampa Bay Rays run-line of -1.5 at (-105). The Rays were 11th in the league in run differential last season and hold clear advantages all over the field. The Tigers were fourth in the league last season in strikeout percentage and will now be starting the year facing a pitcher that had a 30.3% strikeout percentage last year.
I touched on it earlier, but multiple guys in the Rays lineup have found a lot of success against Rodriguez, so I expect them to come out aggressive in this one. The Rays were also a much better hitting team at home last season, both in terms of power and average. Tampa Bay’s team batting average was eight points higher at home, while Rodriguez has worse numbers across the board when pitching on the road.
Betting Tampa on the moneyline in this one doesn’t provide a reasonable enough return, but I like the price on the run-line, especially with how the two sides stack up. I think McClanahan can shut down the Tigers for as long as they’ll let him go, and I also trust the Rays bullpen to hold a lead to preserve the run line.
Tampa Bay Rays -1.5 (-105)