Game: Baltimore Orioles at Tampa Bay Rays
Time: 7:10 p.m. ET
Starting Pitchers: Matt Harvey vs. Collin McHugh
Odds: Orioles +230, Rays -245
It’s easy to fall into the trap sometimes. A first-place team takes on the last-place team in its division like tonight’s Orioles-Rays matchup in Tampa. This is no trap though. Tampa Bay is clearly the better team. The question for bettors is how to approach this one.
The Rays are a huge favorite at -245. It’s no surprise. Tampa Bay is 11-1 against the Orioles this season and the two teams have played just two one-run games (both Rays wins). Baltimore has also lost ten straight and will have to face Tampa Bay pitcher Collin McHugh.
McHugh was a good pitcher when he was with the Astros, but he had really taken his game up a notch as a reliever in Tampa. McHugh has appeared in 25 games this season for the Rays and has a 1.41 ERA.
In 44.2 innings, his xBA is just .176. The Rays right-hander is even better when he is pitching at home. His ERA drops below 1.00 at 0.86 and his WHIP is an incredible 0.71. The bottom line is that Baltimore is going to have trouble scoring runs, especially early in the game.
On the other end, the Orioles will start Matt Harvey. One look at Harvey’s numbers for the season and you might be inclined to believe this is an automatic Rays’ victory. Harvey is 6-11 with a 6.10 ERA for the season. Up until recently, Harvey’s ERA was much higher and he was putting up the worst numbers of his career.
However, in his last five starts, Harvey looks like the Harvey of old. His ERA is a very strong 1.65 in those five games. Now, it’s great to see Harvey get back on track, but the fact is that he pitched against four teams with losing records and the Yankees. In the start against New York, Harvey gave up two runs in four innings and the Orioles lost 10-3. The bigger problem is what happens when Harvey exits the game.
Even if he is the “new” Harvey and gives up say three or fewer runs, the Baltimore bullpen is absolutely atrocious. In the last 15 days, the Orioles relievers have a combined ERA of 8.68. That ranks dead last in MLB over the time period. Pair that with a Rays offense that ranks first in the league in runs after the sixth inning and that spells disaster for Baltimore.
With Tampa Bay such a huge favorite on the money line, bettors should consider a better play on the run line where the Rays can be found -1.5 (-133). There is also the total to think about. Baltimore’s bullpen gave up 14 runs in the Orioles previous series.
Tampa Bay is fourth in MLB in runs per game (5.15) and seven of their last nine games have gone Over the posted total. Tonight’s game should see at least nine runs putting it over the total of 8.5.