With the All Star Game on the horizon, we have a star-studded matchup on our hands as the best team in the AL, the Tampa Bay Rays, hosts the NL-topping Atlanta Braves for a very intriguing series. Let’s take a look at the odds for this clash of elite teams, where my prediction is for a Braves win and the over to hit for a scoring total of 8.5 runs.
Braves Vs. Rays Prediction
Simply put, the Atlanta Braves are on fire. They’ve won 18 games out of their last 20, and have built an 8.5 game lead in the NL East. In fact, they’re 8.5 games better than any team in the National League, and have even taken over the top spot in the entire MLB by record.
They took that spot, of course, from the Tampa Bay Rays, who looked similarly unbeatable early on in the season, but have since come back to Earth. They’ll bring a season-high 5-game losing streak into the Braves series, capped off by an 11-inning grinder of a loss on Thursday to cap off a series sweep at the hands of the Phillies.
To make matters worse for Tampa, the Braves are coming off of an off day, a stark comparison to the Rays’ own Thursday workload. Baseball’s third-best bullpen will be rested and ready to go for a big series against the second-highest scoring lineup in the sport.
Of course, the Braves themselves have the third most runs scored in the league, so there’s just elite production across the board in this series. This is a tough one to pick, and the odds reflect that, but I’m going to keep it simple and stick with the squad in excellent form rather than the one experiencing its first serious stretch of adversity this season.
Atlanta also has a bit of a starting pitching advantage, as Charlie Morton has been solid this year compared to Tyler Glasnow, who has had some struggles as he has returned from injury. That being said, neither starter has been entirely lights-out, and as I mentioned earlier, these are two top-three offenses in the sport, so I’m going with the over given a relatively low number of 8.5.
Braves Vs. Rays Prediction: Braves ML (-105), o8.5 (-115)
Braves Vs. Rays Odds
Vegas sees the margins in this one as being razor thin, with just a -115 moneyline for the Rays compared to -105 for the Braves. Similarly, for a run scoring total of 8.5, the over is -115 while the under is -105.
Braves Vs. Rays Key Matchups
Charlie Morton Vs. On-Base Threats
Morton is having a really nice season by most measures, but his WHIP is a bit high and he does struggle to a degree with walk rate. This could prove to be problematic against Tampa, the league’s fourth-best team by on base percentage. The Rays have 5 major contributors with a batting average over .280, as well as two hitters outside that group who have an OBP over .360.
Yandy Diaz is the top guy in the lineup, as well as on both the team batting average and OBP lists. He’s the only Ray hitting over .300, and he’s getting on base at just below a .400 rate. Randy Arozarena is close behind by OBP, despite a much lower, but still strong, batting average- as it turns out, people are afraid of him, and he walks a bunch.
Guys like Wander Franco, Isaac Paredes, Harold Ramirez, and Josh Lowe are all getting a bit lost in the shuffle of star talent. That’s a shame, because their solid, even if somewhat expected, performances should get recognized- each one would be the star of many lineups.
Luke Raley has been a bit more of a surprise. He’s played 67 games so he doesn’t qualify for leaderboards, but that’s a decent sample size, and his OPS of .950 is way above anything he’s produced in his short career so far. I believe in Morton to limit the damage enough to pick up the win, but he will have his hands full with this incredibly well-rounded lineup.
Tyler Glasnow Vs. Power Bats
Despite generally throwing with good velocity and spin, Glasnow has been one of the league’s worst pitchers thus far in terms of quality of contact allowed; hitters are barrelling the ball, and getting high exit velocities against him. These two trends contrast and could be an indicator of bad luck, but as of now, he’s in a funk.
That’s not a trend you want to see when you’re facing the league’s runaway best home run hitting team. Matt Olson is leading the charge with an NL-best 29 home runs, and he’s the only one pushing Shohei Ohtani in the MLB Home Run race. Then there’s Ozzie Albies, who is well on the way to annihilating his career best with 22 home runs already.
Of course I’m not forgetting Ronald Acuña, who is probably the best hitter in the National League right now. He’s the only NL player with an OPS over 1.000, has accumulated 5 WAR, is leading the NL batting race with a .337 average, and has 21 long balls too.
With four other power bats in the teens of home runs, led by Marcell Ozuna with 17, Glasnow has his work cut out for him. This potent lineup is a major reason I have the Braves hitting their -105 moneyline and over 8.5 runs in my Braves vs. Rays prediction.
Braves Vs. Rays Starting Lineups
Braves Starting Lineup
RF R. Acuña Jr. R
2B O. Albies S
3B A. Riley R
1B M. Olson L
C S. Murphy R
DH M. Ozuna
LF E. Rosario L
SS O. Arcia R
CF M. Harris II L
Rays Starting Lineup
1B Y. Diaz R
SS W. Franco S
DH H. Ramirez R
LF R. Arozarena R
3B I. Paredes R
2B B. Lowe L
CF J. Siri R
C C. Bethancourt R
RF J. Lowe L