With five series left to be played in the regular season, this four-game set between the Rays and Orioles has a lot of implications for the AL East division title. As it stands, Baltimore holds a two-game lead over Tampa Bay, and this is the last time the sides will play each other this season, so there will likely be a postseason atmosphere at Camden Yards tonight.
Both the Rays and Orioles enter tonight with the same 7-3 record over their last ten games, but only Tampa Bay will come into today off a series win. By beating the Twins 5-4 yesterday, the Rays took two out of the three games in Minnesota. Entering the 9th inning knotted at four, Randy Arozarena would hit a solo home run in the top of the inning to secure the win.
Now, with their sites set on the Orioles, the Rays will have trade deadline acquisition Aaron Civale on the mound for his 8th start with the team. The right-hander is 1-0 over his last four starts, but his record doesn’t tell the full story, as he has allowed three or more earned runs in three of those starts. In his most recent outing against the Mariners, Civale allowed four earned runs on four hits in five innings, which gave him a 4.29 ERA in 35.7 innings for the Rays.
Civale will face an Orioles lineup that has been uncharacteristically bad over their past two games, which resulted in them losing a series to the Cardinals. After scoring two runs in game two of the series, the Orioles would be shut out entirely yesterday, losing 1-0. The Orioles managed three hits in the game but struck out 11 times, and to make matters worse, Ryan Mountcastle left the game with an injury.
While losing Mountcastle is not ideal, the Orioles will fill his roster spot with one of their top prospects, Heston Kjerstad. It’s unclear if he’ll play tonight, but if he does, he’ll play behind right-hander Kyle Bradish, who has turned in six straight starts in which he’s allowed two or fewer earned runs. With his recent stretch of dominance, Bradish is sporting a 3.03 ERA across 145.7 innings.
The Orioles F5 moneyline is currently priced at (-132), and I’ll be backing them for my play. Both sides will be highly motivated in this series, but Baltimore having their home crowd behind them is massive. Just based on recent performance, I would have to give the starting pitching edge to the Orioles, and it also helps that the Rays are 28-46 on the F5 moneyline in their last 74 games.
Aaron Civale comes into tonight with a 3.61 FIP on the road, but his xFIP is at 4.29, which is good for Orioles backers considering the lineup he has to face. Over the past month, Baltimore is hitting .300 and ranks 7th in OPS and wOBA and 5th in wRC+ against right-handed pitching at home.
Tampa Bay has been strong recently, but since the start of September, they are hitting .252 and rank 18th in OPS, 14th in wOBA, and 13th in OPS. Those numbers will not get the job done against Kyle Bradish, who has a .208 batting average against and 3.56 FIP at home this season. The Baltimore right-hander also has a 48.2% ground ball rate, and so far this month, he’s sporting a 31.9% strikeout percentage, so he is the ideal man to back in this matchup.
Baltimore Orioles F5 (-132)