Red Sox vs. Rays MLB Picks: Will Boston Gain Ground in the AL East?

Randy Arozarena #56 of the Tampa Bay Rays celebrates with Nelson Cruz #23. Greg Fiume/Getty Images/AFP
Randy Arozarena #56 of the Tampa Bay Rays celebrates with Nelson Cruz #23. Greg Fiume/Getty Images/AFP

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

Boston Red Sox vs. Tampa Bay Rays

Tuesday, August 31, 2021 – 07:10 PM EDT at Tropicana Field

Red Sox Sluggers Going Ice Cold at the Worst Possible Time

After a strong start to the season, the Red Sox have limped to the end of August with a losing record. The concern for the Red Sox right now is that Rafael Devers, J.D. Martinez and Xander Bogaerts are ice cold. After getting off to phenomenal starts Devers is batting .192, Martinez is hitting .208 and Bogaerts has struggled to just a .191 average over the last two weeks. The only move the Red Sox did at the trade deadline was the addition of Kyle Schwarber and he’s batting .326 with a 1.027 OPS and two home runs in his 14 games with them.

As usual, the Rays are under the radar. This is a team that doesn’t make headlines but they just can’t stop winning games. At +900, the Rays currently have the fifth-best odds to win the World Series at BetMGM , despite having the second-best record in the majors. The Red Sox haven’t named their starter for this game while the Rays will give the ball to¬†Ryan Yarbrough, who will be making his 25th appearance this season (19th start).¬†Yarbrough gave up two earned runs on five hits with zero strikeouts and two walks in four innings to get a no-decision in a 7-4 win against the Phillies last Wednesday. He’s struggled against the Red Sox this season, going 0-1 with a 12.00 ERA and a 1.75 WHIP in 12 innings over three appearances (two starts).

Prediction

The Rays opened at -135 at DraftKings, but over at FiveThirtyEight, they already have them at -144 based on our calculations (they suggest will win this game 59 percent of the time). The player to watch for the Rays is Randy Arozarena (125 Weighted Runs Created Plus). A Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+) of 100 is the league average. Arozarena’s 125 would be 25 percent above the league average. He’s hitting .300 in 210 at-bats at home with 11 home runs and 32 RBIs. The Rays are a league-best 10-1 in their last 11 games and they’ve won eight straight games. They are 20-6 in August and playing really good baseball right now. The Red Sox, on the other hand, are just 12-15 this month.

The projected Red Sox lineup has six batters with a strikeout rate above 21 percent and just three batters with a walk rate above 8.5 percent. Behind Yarbrough, the Rays will deploy the best bullpen in the league. Yarbrough might struggle but the bullpen can get the job done. The Rays are red-hot and playing with a lot of confidence right now and they’ve been great at Tropicana Field all year while the Red Sox have played in Tampa seven times this season and have gone just 1-6. Boston ranks No. 7 in hitting value (8.3 WAR) according to FanGraphs, two spots ahead of Tampa Bay at 8.0 WAR but Tampa Bay’s bullpen leads the majors at 6.7 WAR (Wins Above Replacement) according to FanGraphs. Keep that bet size small.

MLB Pick: Rays -1 (+106) (ML -135, -1.5 +150) at DraftKings

** -1 created with a run line calculator

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