While the Orioles are off in Houston, playing a tough series with the Astros, the Rays are at home with the prime opportunity to gain ground in the AL East race during their three-game set with the Angels. We’ll preview the series’ opening game before going over which side I’ll be backing on the run-line.
Tampa Bay had a great opportunity over the weekend to regain control of their division, and through the first two games of their four-game set with the Orioles, it looked as if they were going to. At the end of the day, though, the Rays could not capitalize, and after losing 5-4 on Sunday, they are 2.5 games back. Sunday’s loss felt and looked like a playoff game, with both teams throwing haymakers back and forth until finally Cedric Mullins had a walk-off sac fly in the bottom of the 11th.
With the loss behind them, Tampa Bay hosts an already-eliminated Angels team to begin the week, and it will be Taj Bradley toeing the slab in game one. The young right-hander has flashed some impressive strikeout numbers, but recently, he’s been unable to keep teams out of the run column, allowing eight runs over his last two starts. While his strikeout numbers are up, so are his home run numbers, as he enters tonight averaging 1.5 home runs allowed over his last ten starts.
Even though no big league lineup is a walk in the park, Bradley does have an excellent opportunity to bounce back tonight against an Angels team that has lost five straight. Over the weekend, LA was swept by the Tigers in their home ballpark, with the series culminating with a 5-3 loss on Sunday.
The Angels have four series left before their nightmare of a season is over, but for now, they’ll have Patrick Sandoval on the mound to start this series. The left-hander has started to fade towards the tail end of the season, turning in three straight outings with at least four earned runs allowed, which has caused his ERA to spike up to 4.48 across 136.7 innings.
The Tampa Bay Rays run-line of (-1.5) is currently priced at (+108), and I’ll be backing them for my play. This series has a lot of importance for the Rays and their playoff scenarios, and they have also crushed left-handed pitching recently. With an advantage at the plate, I think Taj Bradley is also in a good spot to have a strong outing.
Since August 19th, no offense has been better against left-handed pitching at home than the Rays. In that span, Tampa Bay is hitting .306 and ranks 2nd in OPS and wOBA and 1st in wRC+. Patrick Sandoval struggles on the road (4.72 xFIP), but he’s also in the 30th percentile in xERA. The lefty will then hand the ball to an Angels bullpen with the second-highest ERA and xFIP in the league over the past month.
Meanwhile, the Rays bullpen has been the best unit in the league in that span, pitching to a 1.97 ERA. Before they get to the bullpen, though, the Angels lineup, which is 17th in wOBA and 16th in OPS against righties on the road in the past month, will face Bradley. The Rays starter doesn’t have ideal numbers on the surface, but his 3.72 xFIP at home shows he could be set to see some improvement moving forward.
Tampa Bay Rays (-1.5)(+108)