Who would’ve guessed the Rays and Pirates would begin a series in May as the two best teams in baseball? That’s what the records say, and one team will be coming out of this series with extra momentum. It’ll be a bullpen day for the Rays while Roansy Contreras is expected to get the start for Pittsburgh.
Let’s make predictions for Tuesday’s matchup and break down why the Pirates can steal the series opener.
Pirates vs. Rays Prediction
This is an intriguing spot for the Pirates here. Josh Fleming is set to handle the bulk innings for the Rays after an opener, so Pittsburgh won’t be facing a premier arm. Fleming is coming off a strong outing but has been unsteady this season and just doesn’t miss bats frequently. The Pirates’ low-strikeout lineup should be in good position to put the ball in play, especially given the success they’ve had against lefties this season.
If it’s Contreras on the mound for the Pirates, he might be in position to slow down the Rays’ offense. Contreras has yet to allow a home run this season, and the Rays have thrived on homers this season. Tampa’s well-rounded offense isn’t dependent on home runs, but if Contreras continues to keep the ball in the ballpark, it could be a low-scoring day for Tampa.
The tougher matchup for the Pirates comes on Wednesday, when Shane McClanahan will be on the mound for the Rays. A win in the series opener is realistic enough for Pirates moneyline to be the pick here.
Pirates vs. Rays Prediction: Pirates moneyline
Pirates vs. Rays Odds
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The Rays are set to enter as moderate home favorites, despite the Pirates’ recent success.
It’s going to be tough to find Tampa as an underdog in most games until this team proves otherwise. That doesn’t mean the Rays can’t lose here and there, however, and we saw that in their season finale against the White Sox. There should be enough value in the Pirates here to make Pittsburgh the most attractive option.
Pirates vs. Rays Key Matchups
Here are the key matchups that could decide Pirates vs. Rays.
Pirates’ High-Contact Lineup vs. Josh Fleming
The Pirates have maintained one of baseball’s lowest strikeout rates at only 7.9 per game. One reason for that is the absence of Oneil Cruz, but this group has shown huge improvement from last season when it had the third-highest strikeout rate in the league. Can Pittsburgh continue to put the ball in play on Tuesday?
With Fleming expected to handle the bulk of the innings – he tossed six scoreless innings last week – the opportunity is there. Fleming only averages 6.2 K/9 in his career and generally pitches to contact.
The Pirates are hitting an excellent .291 with an .834 OPS against left-handed pitchers, so they might be uniquely built to do some damage against a Rays pitcher that has been inconsistent so far this season.
Rays’ Power vs. Roansy Contreras
Roansy Contreras may not be a big name just yet, but he’s been a major reason for the Pirates’ rise. Contreras entered Monday as one of four starters yet to allow a home run through at least five starts this season. He’s repeatedly kept the ball in the ballpark, and it’s helped him overcome some control issues. Can that streak continue Tuesday?
The Rays are the only team currently averaging more than two home runs per game, leading every other team by a pretty wide margin. Tampa has notably hit better on the road this season, so playing in Tampa might not give the team a meaningful advantage in this one.
Pirates vs. Rays Starting Lineups
Pirates Starting Lineup
3B Ke’Bryan Hayes R
LF Bryan Reynolds S
DH Andrew McCutchen R
1B Carlos Santana S
LF Jack Suwinski L
RF Connor Joe R
SS Rodolfo Castro S
CF Ji Hwan Bae L
C Austin Hedges R
Rays Starting Lineup
1B Yandy Diaz R
SS Wander Franco S
LF Randy Arozarena R
2B Brandon Lowe L
DH Harold Ramirez R
3B Isaac Paredes R
RF Josh Lowe L
CF Manuel Margot R
CF Jose Siri R