The Rays continued their absolute dominance to begin the season yesterday, as they swept the White Sox and moved to 13-0 at home this season. Tonight the Rays will look to continue their home win streak as they begin their series against the Houston Astros, and we’ll preview the game before going over why I’ll be targeting the total in this one.
It was only a matter of time until the Astros started moving in the right direction, and after winning four of their last five games over the Blue Jays and the Braves, that time seems to have come. Houston’s pitching staff showed why they are dangerous over the past week, allowing three or fewer runs in four of their last five games, while the Astros' offense scored five or more runs in four out of five as well.
Tonight, Houston will hand the ball to José Urquidy to make his fifth start of the season. The righty has thrown 19.7 innings with a 3.66 ERA while racking up 17 strikeouts and seven walks. Urquidy was on the mound in Houston’s only loss over the last five games, as he allowed two home runs and four earned runs in 4 ⅓ innings.
Urquidy will take on his toughest test of the season tonight as he takes on a Rays lineup that scored 16 runs in their three-game series against the White Sox. Unsurprisingly with their record, Tampa Bay leads the league in batting average, OPS, runs per game, and home runs. Additionally, the Rays have a .277 batting average and .919 OPS when playing at home this season.
On the mound tonight will be one of the many electric arms on the Rays staff in, Taj Bradley. The young righty has made two starts in his career and is already 2-0. Through those two games, Bradley has thrown 10.3 innings with 17 strikeouts, only two walks, and three earned runs allowed. Houston’s lineup will be his toughest test to date, as the Astros are hitting .271 on the road up to this point and just scored 11 runs in two games against the Braves.
The total for this game can be found at 8.5, and I’ll be taking the under for my play in this one. The under is 28-8-3 in the last 39 meetings between these two teams when playing in Tampa Bay, and both starters have the ability to provide their team with quality starts.
Urquidy can limit the amount of hard contact this Rays team has produced consistently this season. Entering tonight, the right-hander is in the 95th percentile in average exit velocity, 90th percentile in chase rate, and has an expected WOBA of .300, which is below the league average. The righty has also pitched to a .79 ERA on the road this season.
Taj Bradley is already in the 72nd percentile in barrel percentage, 94th percentile in expected slugging, and his .197 expected WOBA is in the top 2% of the league. The righty has flashed an outlier four-seam fastball that he is throwing 49.1% of the time, and it has warranted a .174 batting average against it. The Rays, as an entire pitching staff, has a 2.36 ERA when playing at home this year as well.