TB-TOR, Sept. 15: Odds, preview, prediction

September 15th, 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: +150

Blue Jays Odds: -170

Over/Under: 9

Time: 3:07 p.m. ET


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

The Tampa Bay Rays took the second game of this American League East series against the Toronto Blue Jays by the score of 2-0 on Tuesday night.

With the loss, the Blue Jays enter Wednesday’s game tied with the New York Yankees atop the AL Wild Card standings, while the Rays hold a commanding nine game lead over the Blue Jays and Yankees in the division. The Rays have firm control of a playoff spot heading into the last couple weeks of the season, while the Blue Jays continue to fight for their right to advance into the postseason.

Despite the shutout loss yesterday, the Blue Jays have been hot at the plate of late. So have the Rays. With two powerful offenses squaring off again in this one, should we be looking to bet the total in this afternoon bout?

Tampa Bay’s Pitching Faces Tough Test

Michael Wacha has struggled throughout most of his first season with the Rays. Over 105 2/3 innings, he’s compiled a 3-4 record, 4.72 FIP and has allowed an average of 1.87 HR/9 to opposing batters.

That said, he’s been much better of late. Over his past three starts, he’s pitched to a 3.62 FIP and has struck out 19 batters over 15 1/3 innings pitched. Despite the recent improvement, his advanced metrics on the season do raise some concern.

Per Statcast, Wacha has allowed an alarming 43.7% Hard Hit rate to opposing batters. He’s also allowing a sky-high 11.1% Barrel rate, another sign that he’s not been overly effective throughout the course of the season.

Tonight’s matchup won’t be an easy one, either. The Blue Jays have been the best team in baseball this season against right-handed pitching, collectively hitting to a .342 wOBA thus far. They’ve also been on fire at the plate of late, averaging an incredible 10.4 runs over their last five games, despite last night’s shutout loss at the hands of the Rays.

Regression Awaits Robbie Ray

Ray will get the nod for the Blue Jays at home in what will amount to his 29th start of the season. Ray has been effective in Toronto this year, pitching to a 3.45 FIP over 170 1/3 innings pitched. He’s also managed to maintain his elite strikeout rate, logging an 11.62 K/9 against opposing batters this season.

While his 3.45 FIP is still solid, it’s nearly a full run higher than his 2.69 ERA, typically a sign that we can expect some negative regression in his future. Further, he’s allowing a high 42.6% Hard Hit rate and an above average 9.4% Barrel rate to opposing batters, two additional signs that he’s been lucky to have maintained his impressive season stat line.

Tonight, he’ll take on a Rays team with a .315 wOBA and 103 wRC+ against left-handed pitching on the season.

Rays-Blue Jays Pick

While I do believe there is some value in taking the 90-win Rays as a plus-money dog in a division game, Wacha has been too inconsistent over the course of the season for me to feel too confident there. Despite pitching better of late, he allows too much hard contact and will face one the best offenses in baseball against right-handed pitching this season.

Ray has also allowed a staggeringly high number of hard-hit balls to opposing batters this season and is primed for some negative regression of his own given the discrepancy between his FIP and ERA.

Combine all that with two teams that have been hot offensively, and we have a strong signal towards the over. The strength of the Tampa Bay bullpen is a risk late in the game, but I think it’s offset by just how poor the Blue Jays bullpen has pitched this year (4.29 FIP, third-worst amongst all teams).

I’m taking over 8.5 runs in this one at the current number, but I would look elsewhere if this up any higher before the first pitch.

Pick: Over 8.5 (-115)