Nationals vs. Rays MLB Preview and Odds Analysis

Juan Soto #22 of the Washington Nationals. Rich Schultz/Getty Images/AFP
Juan Soto #22 of the Washington Nationals. Rich Schultz/Getty Images/AFP

Washington Nationals vs. Tampa Bay Rays

Tuesday, June 08, 2021 – 07:10 PM EDT at Tropicana Field

Probable Pitchers:

  • Nationals: Jon Lester (1-0, 4.37 ERA)
  • Rays: Tyler Glasnow (4-2, 2.69 ERA)


Stakes of the Matchup

After winning the World Series in 2019, the Washington Nationals have gone downhill. In 2020, Washington had a 26-34 record. This season the Nats are in fourth place in the NL East with a 24-32 record. This week they visit the Tampa Bay Rays for an inter-league game at Tropicana Field.

After winning the American League pennant last season, Tampa is off to another hot start. They are in first place in the AL East with a 38-23 record. This is despite playing in a division where four out of five teams have a winning record.

Tampa is built on strong starting pitching and hitting. Currently the Rays are averaging 4.95 runs per game which is the fourth best in the league. They may not have the best hitters, but their analytics team and manager Kevin Cash have found ways to produce the most runs possible out of their hitters.

The Nationals are built a little differently than the Rays. The Nats have a decent lineup that has been decimated by injuries this season. Currently Washington is averaging 3.84 runs per game which is the 6th worst in the league. However, for this week’s inter-league series they have the benefit of adding a designated hitter to their lineup. With their lineup being at full strength and the addition of a designated hitter, my model projects Washington to score 4.55 runs on a typical night.


Pitching Matchup

For Tuesday night’s game, the Tampa Bay Rays have a clear edge in the starting pitching matchup. The Rays are relying on Tyler Glasnow who is having another great season. Glasnow has a 4-2 record with a 2.69 ERA, and a 2.85 xFIP. Additionally, he is averaging more than 6 1/3 innings per start and has a strikeout rate of 12.39 strikeouts per nine innings. With Glasnow on the mound, the Rays are obviously heavy favorites for Tuesday’s game.

Opposing Glasnow is Jon Lester who has not done well recently. Over Lester’s 16-year career, Lester has a 193-113 record with a 3.61 ERA. However, since 2019 Jon Lester has fallen off a cliff.

Last year with the Chicago Cubs, Lester had a 3-3 record with a 5.16 ERA, and a 5.11 xFIP. With a WAR of 0.2, Chicago could have replaced Lester last year with a replacement level player and they would have won virtually same number of games.

This season with the Nats, Lester has a 0-2 record with a 4.37 ERA, 4.63 xFIP, and a 0.3 WAR. What is also worrisome for Washington is that Lester is averaging only five innings per start and 6.43 strikeouts per nine innings. The Nationals bullpen is among the worst in the league, and with Lester unlikely to pitch for more than five innings, Tampa should not have any issues piling runs onto the scoreboard.



Both teams have been appropriately priced for Wednesday’s game. Even though the Rays are a better team, they should be priced as -185 favorites, not at -230. Neither team has a clear edge against the odds, but there is an opportunity with the run total.

Despite the Rays having strong pitching, the run total has been set too low at only 7.5 runs. This is because both teams have strong lineups. The Rays average 4.95 runs per game while the Nats average 3.84 runs per game. Combined both Tampa and Washington average 8.79 runs per game or 1.29 runs per game more than the total. At only 7.5 runs, the over is worth a bet.

MLB Pick: Over 7.5 Runs -105 (BetMGM)

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