Rays vs. Red Sox MLB Picks: Will Franco Reach Base and Lead Tampa Bay to Victory?

Wander Franco #5 of the Tampa Bay Rays. Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images/AFP
Wander Franco #5 of the Tampa Bay Rays. Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images/AFP

The Boston Red Sox continue their crucial three-game series with the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday. Here’s a complete preview, including updated odds and MLB picks.

Tampa Bay Rays vs. Boston Red Sox

Tuesday, September 07, 2021 – 07:10 PM EDT at Fenway Park

Drew Rasmussen vs. Eduardo Rodriguez

The Red Sox have 11 players on the COVID-19 list, including Xander Bogaerts, Kike Hernandez, Nick Pivetta, Matt Barnes, Christian Arroyo and Yairo Munoz. At 40-17, the Rays have the best record in baseball since July 1st and they have an 8.5-game lead in the AL East standings and a 7-game lead on the Astros for the best record in the American League.

The Boston Red Sox, on the other hand, are 28-30 since July 1st and fighting to hang onto the second Wild Card spot in the American League. Losing Xander Bogaerts (131 Weighted Runs Created Plus) is not ideal for the Red Sox but he was struggling for a while at the plate and Bobby Dalbec and Alex Verdugo have probably been their two best hitters. Hunter Renfroe and Kyle Schwarber are also hitting the ball well.

The Rays don’t make headlines but they just can’t stop winning games. At +750, the Rays currently have the fourth-best odds to win the World Series at BetMGM, despite having the second-best record in the majors.

Drew Rasmussen (1-0, 3.00 ERA, 1.08 WHIP) will take the hill for the Rays. He will be making his 32nd appearance this season (seventh start). Rasmussen gave up one earned run on three hits with five strikeouts and zero walks over four innings to get a no-decision in a 3-2 loss against the Red Sox last Wednesday. He’s pitched well against the Red Sox this season, going 0-0 with a 2.53 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP in 10 2/3 innings over four appearances (two starts) and the current Red Sox lineup is just 6-for-31 (.139) against him.

The Red Sox will give the ball to Eduardo Rodriguez (11-7, 4.88 ERA, 1.36 WHIP), who will be making his 27th start of the season. Rodriguez threw six scoreless innings against the Rays last Thursday, surrendering four hits with six strikeouts and one walk in a 4-0 win. The left-hander is 1-0 with a 2.60 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP in three starts against the Rays this season.


The Rays opened at -115 at DraftKings, but over at FiveThirtyEight, they already have them at -113 based on our calculations (they suggest the Rays will win this game 53 percent of the time).

The player to watch for the Rays is No. 1 prospect Wander Franco (129 Weighted Runs Created Plus). A Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+) of 100 is the league average. Franco’s 129 would be 29 percent above the league average. In his last 30 games, he is batting .347 and leads the Rays in hits, runs, and doubles and he can break Mickey Mantle’s record on-base streak for a 20-year-old in the American League. He has reached base in 36 straight games.

Franco is 2-for-7 (.286) with one home run and four RBIs against Rodriguez. Brandon Lowe and Randy Arozarena have also had success against him. Lowe is 4-for-13 (.308) with three home runs and four RBIs and Arozarena is 3-for-9 (.333).

The projected Red Sox lineup has two hitters with a Weighted On-Base Average (wOBA) above .340, two hitters with Isolated Power (ISO) above .185 and five batters with a strikeout rate above 21 percent. Behind Rasmussen, the Rays will deploy the best bullpen in the league. The bullpen can get the job done if Rasmussen struggles.

Tampa Bay ranks No. 8 in hitting value (6.0 WAR) according to FanGraphs, one spot ahead of Boston at 5.9 WAR and Tampa Bay’s bullpen leads the majors at 7.4 WAR (Wins Above Replacement) according to FanGraphs. The Red Sox are missing their closer, as well as some other key members of their lineup and the Rays are 8-3 in the last 11 meetings. Keep that bet size small.

MLB Pick: Rays -1 (+114) (ML -115, -1.5 +145) at DraftKings

** -1 created with a run line calculator

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