Seattle left-hander James Paxton takes the mound in excellent form with a 2.25 ERA over his last three starts, including throwing 6 1/3 innings of shutout ball against the Rangers in his last outing.
While Paxton’s first MLB start of 2016 was an unmitigated disaster, it’s important to remember that he possesses an incredible upside and posted a 3.16 ERA in 165 MLB innings pitched from 2013 to 2015. The 27-year-old also boasts a 3.33 FIP, 1.91 xFIP and 2.50 SIERA this season, together with a 32.9% K%, 5.5% BB% and 27.4% K-BB%.
Paxton now faces an injury-riddled Tampa Bay squad missing outfielders Steven Souza (212 AB), Brandon Guyer (144 AB) and Kevin Kiermaier (123 AB), all of whom are out with injuries.
Matters got even worse for Tampa Bay last night when third baseman Evan Longoria was removed in the 11th-inning of last night’s game due to tightness in his left forearm. I expect Longoria, who is batting .278 with 16 home runs and 40 RBIs, to be held out of this afternoon’s game.
Paxton is also backed by a solid Seattle bullpen that owns a 3.17 ERA and 1.16 WHIP this season, including a 2.58 ERA and 1.10 WHIP on the road and a 1.90 ERA and 0.79 WHIP in day games. The Rays also possess a strong bullpen that boasts a 3.63 ERA and 1.31 WHIP in 2016, including a 1.25 ERA over the last seven games.
Tampa Bay prospect Blake Snell toes the rubber after blowing through three minor-league levels – High-A, Double-A and Triple-A last year where he posted a 1.41 ERA and 2.71 WHIP.
Snell struck out an incredible 31% of opposing hitters, which was the best mark among pitchers to record at least 120 minor-league innings in 2015. In 63.0 Triple-A innings this season, Snell posted a 3.29 ERA and 2.57 FIP, together with a 33.3% K% and 23.0% K-BB%.
In his first MLB start this season, Snell limited the Yankees to one run over five innings of work. Let’s also note that the Mariners are averaging a woeful 3.9 runs per game versus left-handed starters (.236 AVG.; .286 OBP; .666 OPS).
Technically speaking, the UNDER is 44-15-2 in the last 61 meetings in Tampa Bay between these squads and 21-8-1 in the Rays’ last 30 home games. With the UNDER standing at 12-2 in Tampa Bay’s home games following a win this season, take the UNDER 7.5 runs in the afternoon MLB affair and invest with confidence.