Sitting firmly atop the AL Wild Card is the Tampa Bay Rays, and sitting seven games back from the final Wild Card spot is their opponent tonight, the Los Angeles Angels. While the Angels finally get to return home after a six-game road trip, their gauntlet of tough opponents continues after taking on both the Astros and Rangers over their past two series. We’ll preview the opening game of this series before going over my play for the first five innings.
Despite everything going on with the Wander Franco investigation, the Tampa Bay Rays have remained focused on the field. After leaving him behind for their road trip, the Rays went into San Francisco and took two out of three games, culminating Wednesday with a 6-1 win. In their 14-hit offensive outburst, the Rays had four extra-base hits, including home runs from Brandon Lowe, Josh Lowe, and Luke Raley.
The Rays would also get a strong start from Aaron Civale, as he gave the club six shutout innings. Following their off-day yesterday, the Rays will be going with a bullpen game today, handing the ball to Erasmo Ramirez to start the game. The right-hander has only opened a game one other time, back on August 6th, where he threw three innings and allowed one earned run against the Tigers.
Rodriguez and the Rays bullpen will take on an Angels offense tonight that has scored three or fewer earned runs for six straight games. In their most recent series loss to the Rangers, the Angels were shut out in the opening game, and in the final game of the series, they would come away with a 2-0 win. Solo home runs from Shohei Ohtani and Matt Thaiss proved to be the only offense the team needed since starter Reid Detmers was able to spin 7.1 scoreless innings.
The Angels' offense might be getting a boost moving forward since their first-round draft pick Nolan Schanuel was called up to the Majors today after 21 minor league games. It is unclear if the lefty slugger will be in the lineup tonight, but if he is, he will be playing defense behind lefty Tyler Anderson. The veteran starter is fresh off a rough outing in which he allowed seven earned runs in 4.2 innings, which raised his ERA to 5.28.
The Tampa Bay Rays F5 moneyline is listed at (+100), and I’ll be backing them for my play tonight. While a bullpen game can bring on a lot of unknown factors, the Rays having a day off yesterday means they have plenty of rested arms they can rely on tonight after Ramirez. Tampa Bay has also swung the bat well against left-handed pitching recently, and their matchup has not exactly been light’s out.
Dating back over the last month, the Rays' offense ranks 14th in OPS and 12th in wRC+ and wOBA against left-handed pitching on the road. The Rays are also 7th in average runs scored per game in the first five innings and have gone over their F5 team total in eight of their last ten away games. Those numbers don’t bode well for Anderson since he is in the 26th percentile in xERA/xwOBA, 20th percentile in xBA, and has a 5.44 xFIP at home.
Since we don’t know who will come in after Ramirez tonight for the Rays, we’ll just look at how the Angels' offense has performed at home over the last month. In that span, they are hitting .222 and rank 24th in wRC+ and 21st in OPS, so it will be tough to challenge a Rays bullpen that has the 5th best xFIP in the league over the last month.
Tampa Bay Rays F5 (+100)