I adore this pitching matchup.
Tampa Bay Rays’ starter Shane McClanahan is currently the betting favorite for AL Cy Young. Luis Castillo is seeing the positive regression we expected for him last season and is the only solid pitcher on this Reds staff.
The Reds are performing slightly better than their disastrous start to the season, while the Rays are coming off a series win
So, as the two prepare to match off, what should we bettors expect?
Read on for the starting lineups, betting odds, and my prediction for this Wednesday matchup.
Tampa Bay Rays vs Cincinnati Reds Odds
The Reds will be home underdogs given their pitiful record, but this could be a good spot to back them with their ace on the mound.
However, I wish we were getting more than +105, especially having to fade McClanahan. The current value might have me looking the other way.
The wind is projected to blow directly in on Thursday evening, which definitely gives a slight advantage to the under.
Tampa Bay Rays Starting Lineup
S. McClanahan L
9-3 1.74 ERA
3B Y. Diaz R
SS W. Franco S
RF H. Ramirez R
DH J. Choi L
1B I. Paredes R
LF R. Arozarena R
C F. Mejia S
CF K. Kiermaier L
2B T. Walls S
Tampa Bay Rays vs Luis Castillo
Castillo was one of the most unlucky pitchers in MLB last season. He posted a 7.61 ERA through his first 10 starts, but that was fueled by a .389 BABIP and a 54% strand rate. Plus, his xFIP was down near 4.00.
Positive regression for Castillo came rapidly and he pitched awesome down the stretch. He posted a 2.76 ERA from June 1 on and got his ERA below 4.00 by season’s end. He also struck out 147 batters in 140 innings in those starts.
He’s impressed me this season, keeping his K/9 above 9.00 and his ERA close to 3.00. His fastball velocity is still hanging in the high-90s, and his spin rate is actually up on his fastballs.
Image credit: Baseball Savant
The Rays have been rather un-Ray-like this year, posting exactly a league-average offense to date (100 wRC+). But some of their major contributors have major spent time on the IL, including Wander Franco and Brandon Lowe.
The offense should start to put up more runs as the season progresses. Tampa is coming off a big road series against the Red Sox where they stole two of three behind big-run performances and the lineup has now posted a 120 wRC+ over the last two weeks.
Keep an eye on Ji-Man Choi, who has posted a 150 OPS+ on the season and has slashed .315/.425/.493 over his last 20 games.
Cincinnati Reds Starting Lineup
L. Castillo R
3-4 3.09 ERA
2B J. India R
DH B. Drury R
LF T. Pham R
1B J. Votto L
SS K. Farmer R
3B D. Solano R
CF N. Senzel R
RF A. Almora R
C M. Papierski S
Cincinnati Reds vs Shane McClanahan
McClanahan is currently the betting favorite for AL Cy Young and is the main reason the Rays have managed to hang onto a Wildcard spot so far.
He strikes out so many batters, over 12 per nine innings and over 35% of those faced. He also has kept his walks down below 1.5 per nine innings and under 5%. Among pitchers that have pitched at least 75 innings this year, McClanahan trails only Aaron Nola in K/BB ratio (7.8) and only Corbin Burnes in Whiff rate (36.4%).
It’s been a masterclass. Combine his four-seam (35.6%) with his curveball (25.4%), changeup (23.4%), and slider (15.6%) and you get a combined -23 Run Value.
Image credit: Baseball Savant
The Reds are consistently one of the worst offenses in baseball, and the lineup has put up an 84 wRC+ over the last two weeks. However, that’s actually a marked improvement from the first month of the season.
Votto has a .862 OPS since returning from injury on May 20. That’s not great for a perennial All-Star, but it’s better than the .122/.278/.135 slash line he put up in April.
Tampa Bay Rays vs Cincinnati Reds Pick and Prediction
My picks: Rays ML (-125 at DraftKings)
This line is going to move and move rapidly. But getting the Rays with McClanahan on the mound against a team like the Reds at such short odds is too good to pass up.
The Rays have the advantage in the starting pitching matchup, on offense, and in the bullpen as well. Over the last month, the Reds are dead last in reliever xFIP (5.05).
At anything better than about -140, I’m targeting the Rays.