An interleague and interstate series is set to kick off tonight with the Tampa Bay Rays in Miami to take on the Marlins. These two Florida teams have been playing opposite brands of baseball as of late, with the Rays going 8-2 over their last ten games while the Marlins are 3-7. We’ll preview their game tonight before going over which side I’ll be backing in the first five innings.
Since they took a series against the Yankees, the Miami Marlins have lost four straight series, including one this weekend against the Nationals. While they were able to win on Sunday to snap a three-game losing streak, that win just helped them avoid getting swept. Without Jorge Soler and a strong performance by the bullpen, Miami would have been swept. Soler’s two-run home run was the only offense the team would get, while on the mound, six Marlins relievers held Washington to one run in their 2-1 win.
It won’t be an all-bullpen game tonight for Miami since they have a workhorse on the mound in Sandy Alcantara. The right-hander has thrown six or more innings in nine of his last ten outings, but after picking up two straight wins, Alcantara will enter tonight off a loss. In his most recent outing against the Padres, the righty allowed four earned runs on seven hits across 6.2 innings of work.
Alcantara did, in fact, pitch against this same Rays team back on July 26th and turned in a complete game with just one earned run allowed and seven strikeouts. The Rays lineup he will face tonight, however, is playing on a much higher level than they were the last time these teams met. Over the weekend, Tampa Bay took two out of three from the Yankees, including a 7-4 win on Sunday that featured Brandon Lowe picking up four RBIs himself.
Getting the ball for the Rays in the series opener will be deadline acquisition Aaron Civale. In four starts in a Rays uniform, the right-hander has pitched to a 3.54 ERA with 20 strikeouts in 20.3 innings. Civale took a no-decision during his most recent outing against the Rockies after allowing three earned runs in five innings.
Tampa Bay is currently priced at (-102) on the F5 moneyline, and I’ll be backing them for my play. The Rays offense has been playing at a high level recently, especially on the road, and Civale is getting the Marlins offense at the perfect time amid their struggle to produce.
Since July 29th, the Marlins offense ranks 23rd in wRC+, 21st in OPS, and 20th in slugging percentage against right-handed pitching at home. Miami has struggled even to produce hard outs in this split, as they are 27th in hard hit percentage as well. This sets up an excellent matchup for Civale since he is in the 80th percentile in hard-hit percentage, 74th percentile in xERA/xwOBA, and has a 1.86-road ERA.
While Miami’s offense is heading in one direction, the Rays offense is heating back up at the right time. Over the past month, Tampa Bay is hitting .291 and ranks 2nd in OPS, 1st in wOBA, and 1st in wRC+ against right-handed pitching on the road. Alcantara is still a tough matchup for them, but I think they are in a better spot to face him tonight. The right-hander has a 4.67 FIP in August, and if any offense is going to start the scoring tonight, I think it will be the Rays.
Tampa Bay Rays F5 (-102)