Red Sox Odds
8.5 (-115 / -105)
7:08 p.m. ET
The Tampa Bay Rays (63-42) are looking for a home sweep and to extend their half-game lead in the AL East against the Boston Red Sox (63-43) on Sunday Night Baseball.
The season series is currently tied at four games apiece, with the results over the final 11 meetings this season between these two clubs potentially determining the division winner.
I currently project the Rays to win 95.4 games and the Red Sox to finish with 92.9 wins. I give Tampa Bay a 50% chance of winning the AL East and Boston a 33% chance. PECOTA‘s projection aligns with my own, putting Tampa Bay 0.8 wins clear of Boston for the AL East crown, with respective chances of 37.1% and 34.1% to win the division.
Fangraphs is higher on Boston’s chances, placing it 1.3 games ahead of Tampa Bay (94.1 wins to 93.1) with a 40.1% chance of winning the division, compared to 34.2% for the Rays.
In terms of True Talent, I would make the Rays a 91.9 win team if the season restarted tomorrow and would place Boston at 86.4 wins, which is up from projections of 86.5 and 80.8 wins in the preseason. That’s an increase of 5.4 and 5.6 wins, respectively.
I think the Rays are the better team in a vacuum, but which club offers betting value on Sunday Night Baseball?
Boston Stayed Relatively Quiet Prior to Trade Deadline
On the season, the Red Sox rank seventh in expected offensive (.327 xwOBA), 17th in expecting pitching (.322 xwOBA allowed) and 16th in Defensive Runs Saved (+10).
They weren’t particularly busy at the trade deadline, but did add multiple pieces in Kyle Schwarber, Austin Davis and Hansel Robles.
Schwarber is currently healing from a hamstring injury, but should provide a boost against right-handed pitching (career 126 wRC+, 151 in 2021) when he returns. The Red Sox currently carry a 103 wRC+ against both righties and lefties this year.
Boston has had a top-10 bullpen by expected indicators (4.12 xFIP, 3.86 SIERA, 15.4% K-BB%), but will hope Davis (4.21 xERA, 4.40 xFIP, 3.99 SIERA) and Robles (5.52 xERA, 4.75 xFIP, 4.51 SIERA) can provide some depth, though neither pitcher has necessarily excelled this season.
Boston needs more assistance in the rotation (14th with a 4.07 xERA and 4.17 SIERA) and hope Chris Sale (3.43 xERA, 2.92 xFIP, 3.00 SIERA in 2019) can give them a boost over the final two months and into the playoffs.
Sunday’s starter Nick Pivetta is having a career year (3.99 xERA, 4.45 xFIP, 4.27 SIERA) after gradually balancing his curveball and slider usage over time. Pivetta’s fastball velocity is also up two full ticks — relative to last season — and his ground-ball rate has increased by 10 percent, with both reverting to career norms.
Otherwise, there is nothing particularly notable about Pivetta’s performance this season, though his BABIP (.293) and strand rate (73.2%) are likely to regress towards career norms (.318 and 69.4%) as well.
Tampa Bay Makes Big Splash with Cruz Trade
The Rays rank 24th in expected offensive (.306 xwOBA), third in expected pitching (.295 xwOBA) and third in Defensive Runs Saved (+45) this season. Tampa Bay has performed as a top-10 defensive club every season, dating back to 2015.
The franchise is currently missing a few key arms in Pete Fairbanks, JP Feyereisen and Ryan Thompson due to injury, and recently flipped closer Diego Castillo to the Seattle Mariners at the trade deadline.
The Rays continued their roster churn, acquiring Nelson Cruz, JT Chargois, and Matt Wisler. Cruz has been the most productive hitter in baseball (154 wRC+) over the past three seasons.
Chargois (3.38 xERA, 3.73 xFIP, and 3.27 SIERA) and Wisler (2.58 xERA, 3.50 xFIP, 2.82 SIERA) haven’t necessarily outperformed Diego Castillo (2.56 xERA, 2.90 XFIP, 2.69 SIERA) this season, but when the Rays acquire a pitcher, I expect them to optimize those arms talents in ways that teams failed to conceive of.
Interestingly, Wisler (90.1%) and Chargois (68.9%) throw their sliders as frequently as any pitcher in baseball, including Castillo (69.9%), and Chargois has an additional year of team control relative to Castillo’s contract.
The Rays have really revamped their bullpen — six of their eight relief arms have been acquired since February — but they continue to excel no matter the name coming through their doors.
Tonight, they’ll feature one of my favorite young pitchers in Shane McClanahan (3.91 xERA, 3.27 xFIP, 3.65 SIERA), who’s one of the first players I seriously scouted. McClanahan throws his fastball (97 mph; 39.3% usage) and slider (89.8 mph; 37.6% usage) harder than any southpaw starter in the big leagues. However, his fastball actually returned a negative pitch value during his young career.
His slider and curveball (83.4 mph, 13.5% usage) have been the above-average offerings, and an average splitter (89.6 mph, 9.6% usage) rounds out his pitching arsenal.
McClanahan induces hitters to chase pitches outside of the zone at a high clip (35.4%; 20th in MLB) with those three pitches (Jacob deGrom ranks first at 43.2%) and keeps the ball on the ground (48.4%, 43rd of 167 qualified pitchers) as well.
Projection systems (projected FIP range of 3.78 to 4.44) already like him quite a bit more than Pivetta (projected range 4.47 to 4.65), plus and I think he’s a potential Cy Young contender as early as next season.
Red Sox-Rays Pick
Despite my love for McClanahan and my skepticism on the Red Sox overall quality relative to the Rays, I show betting value on the Red Sox for both for the first five innings (F5) and the full game.
Initially, I didn’t show any betting value on this game, but the steam has come in on the Tampa Bay side, moving the line from -125 at open to -165 or higher as of writing.
I would push back on that line movement and bet the Red Sox F5 moneyline down to +125 odds, plus their full game ML to +131, with either bet representing more than a two-percent edge relative to my projection.
I also show actionable value on the Under 8.5 runs at -105 or better and would bet an F5 Under 5 runs at -115 or better.
Tropicana Field is generally an underrated pitchers park. Dating back to 2005, totals listed at 8.5 or higher at the Trop are 325-266-23, hitting at a 55% rate and good for +$3,821 for a consistent $100 bettor (6.2% ROI).
Red Sox First Five Innings ML (play to +125)
Red Sox ML (play to +131)
First Five Innings, Under 5 Runs (play to -115)
Total Under 8.5 Runs (play to -105)
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