TB-TOR, Sept. 14: Odds, preview, prediction

September 13th, 2021

A version of this article originally appeared on the Action Network. For more betting insights, check out ActionNetwork.com.

Rays vs. Blue Jays Odds

Rays Odds: +115

Blue Jays Odds: -135

Over/Under: 8.5

Time: 7:07 p.m. ET


Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute MLB odds here.

The Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays continue one of the most important series in baseball Tuesday. Heading into the series opener Monday, Tampa and Toronto were second and fourth in MLB in run differential and shared the same Expected Win-Loss record (88-55).

Tampa can damage Toronto’s chances of landing one of the two AL Wild Card spots and keep the Blue Jays within reach for the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees.

Tampa entered the series 16 games over .500 in road contests. Toronto is 10 games over in “home” games despite having called Dunedin, Fla., Buffalo, NY, and Toronto home.

Rays Pitching Needs to Shine

Drew Rasmussen made his Rays debut in 2021 after being acquired in the trade that sent Willy Adames to Milwaukee. After starting in the Rays’ bullpen he has started five consecutive games but only pitched as many as five innings twice.

Rasmussen deserves praise for allowing four earned runs over his past five starts despite not having as much swing-and-miss upside compared to when he relieves. Rasmussen is also playing with fire some. His 3.25 ERA is below his 3.59 Expected ERA (xERA) and 3.62 xFIP. In a small sample size, Rasmussen has seen his Hard Hit percentage spike from 29.3% as a Brewer in 2020 to 47.9% as a Ray. That makes his 0.59 Home Runs Per 9 all the more impressive.

Rasmussen needs to remain impressive to lighten the burden off Tampa’s bullpen. The Rays’ 7.1 reliever WAR is best in baseball, but their elite pitching has run into harder times in September (-0.1 WAR). Both Rasmussen and the Rays’ bullpen must slow down the third-best home offense according to Weighted Runs Created Plus and fourth-best at home against right-handed pitching.

The offense has more than made up for some of the inefficiencies of the pitching staff. Tampa has the third-best road wRC+ and best against right-handed pitchers like Jays starter José Berríos. The Rays have the best road slugging percentage against righties and a .292 BABIP, more than respectable considering the damage the offense does away from the Sunshine State.

Hot Berríos, Hotter Offense

Berríos enters Tuesday’s start coming off three encouraging efforts that resulted in three wins while allowing five earned runs and striking out 26 over 20 1/3 innings pitched.

If Berrios does not pitch on the same level it will be a long day at the office for the Jays. Even though the Rays have had tough times with their bullpen, the Jays have been mediocre at best all season (1.0 reliever WAR, -0.1 WAR in September).

Toronto’s offense has scored five or more runs in 11 of 12 September games, including 47 in their series win (3-1) over the Baltimore Orioles. Beyond the O’s, Toronto has throttled the Yankees and Athletics, two of the top 11 pitching staffs according to pitching WAR.

The Blue Jays also entered Monday 18-6 at home since returning to Toronto. The return to Canada is one of the stat-less factors that has mattered with this team and will continue to play a role Tuesday.

Rays-Blue Jays Pick

Encouraging pitching goes a long way in terms of feeling comfortable betting a team’s moneyline. Based on recent performances, that would be a lean toward Toronto. But both offenses have been successful throughout the season. Neither pitcher has been consistent enough in 2021 to expect a shutdown performance.

Both teams are also familiar with playing in dome settings on artificial turf and the likelihood of Mother Nature causing an issue with Toronto’s retractable roof are eliminated.

This series is the best of the week and I expect to see a lot of runs.

Pick: Over 8.5 Runs (-120, bet to -130)