After getting off to one of the best starts in MLB history, the Tampa Bay Rays have come back to Earth a bit by losing three of their last four games. The Rays will look to get back in the win column tonight after dropping game one of the series to the Reds, and we’ll preview the game before going over why I’ll be targeting a play on the total.
Hunter Greene is moving closer to the must-see TV category of starting pitchers if he is not already there, and the matchup of him against the Rays' lineup was set to be an exciting matchup. Unfortunately, after three innings, Greene was hit with a comebacker and left the game. Cincinnati was still able to come away with the victory in his absence, as the offense scored eight runs while the bullpen allowed just one run over six innings of work.
The Reds may have a below .500 record, but their offense can’t shoulder too much of the blame for that, as they are 12th in the league in batting average and 8th in average runs per game. On the mound tonight, the Reds will turn to another young and exciting arm in Nick Lodolo. The lefty has made three starts up to this point, and in 17 innings, he has pitched to a 2.12 ERA with 27 strikeouts and six walks.
Lodolo has faced a formidable Phillies lineup twice, but now he will take on a Rays lineup that, despite scoring one run last night, is still first in the league in average runs per game, first in home runs, and third in batting average. Last night marked only the second time this season out of 17 games that the Rays only scored one run.
Tonight the Rays will also hand the ball to a young starting pitcher in, Taj Bradley. The top prospect made his first career start against the Red Sox and picked up the win after throwing five innings with eight strikeouts and three earned runs allowed. The righty flashed impressive stuff, along with veteran poise, in his first outing, so even with all the video scouting reports, he will be a tough guy to see for the first time at the plate.
The total for this game is currently set at 9, and I’ll be taking the under for my play. Tampa Bay has clearly cooled off a little bit from their impressive streak, and tonight they take on a starter in Nick Lodolo that has the exact advanced metrics you want to see if you’re an under bettor.
Lodolo comes into tonight in the 85th percentile in hard hit percentage, 87th percentile in chase rate, and the 79th percentile in xSLG. The lefty has been a strikeout machine that doesn’t allow a lot of hard contact, which is already a positive, but to make matters better, he also has a 50% ground ball rate this season which is well above league average.
On the other side, since Taj Bradley only made one start, his advanced numbers cannot be relied on, but I think he can still be trusted tonight by under bettors. The righty was four-seam dominant in his first start throwing it 53.2% of the time, and the heavy reliance is for a good reason, as hitters had a .091 batting average against it while striking out five times. Cincinnati is 12th in the league in strikeouts, and I expect a much more low-scoring game than last night.