With one team in the thick of a playoff chase, but the other all but eliminated, both of these squads are in very different places right now. Nevertheless, while the Rays’ players are fighting for October, Detroit’s will be fighting for a roster spot next year, so motivation will be high on both sides. Let’s take a look at the odds for this inter-division matchup, where my prediction is a Rays win and for the over to hit at -110 odds for a total of 9 runs
Rays vs. Tigers Prediction
The American League East this season has been one of the most competitive divisions we’ve ever seen since the league shifted to its current alignment system in 1995. Every single team is above .500 and the Rays, who are 21 games over that mark, are two games out of first.
They had a historic start to the season, but have been more or less average beyond the opening month or so, punctuated by an atrocious August in which they won 8 games and lost 16. They’re well within safety for a Wild Card spot, but certainly still have division-topping aspirations after an unusually active trade deadline, in which they acted as definitive buyers.
By contrast to the ultra-stacked East, the AL Central has been a total disaster this year. Every single team in the East would be leading the Central, and at times, there have been no teams at or above .500. That is not the case right now, as the first-place Twins have a winning record, but the Tigers are actually just 6.5 games out despite sitting 12 games below .500. Things don’t look particularly good, but they’re technically not done yet- a run of a few wins paired with continued mediocrity from the competition could mean a minor miracle in Detroit.
The starting pitching matchup for this game is also pretty interesting, as the Tigers will be rolling out an inexperienced arm, while the Rays will be rolling with an opener. This isn’t necessarily a good or bad thing for Tampa, who pioneered this very approach to pitching several years ago. Their bullpen is more or less average, and should be fresh after an off day on Thursday.
Detroit’s starter will be rookie Reese Olson, who has had a bunch of good starts interspersed with some pretty problematic ones. He has a lot of control, impressive especially given his level of experience, but not overpowering stuff, a bit of a concern for his ceiling going forward. Detroit has lost each of his last five outings, one of which was out of the bullpen, and he has allowed 9 runs across the most recent two.
The moneyline is a simple call here. The Rays aren’t hot, but they’re stabilizing, and certainly the better overall team here. With pitching-related question marks on both sides, it’s also not the toughest choice in the world to back the over, even with a slightly higher number than we might want to see.
Rays vs. Tigers Prediction: Rays ML (-148), o9 runs (-110)
Rays vs. Tigers Odds
The Rays are big road favorites with -148 odds compared to +124 for the Tigers. For a total of 9 runs, the over and under are both set at -110 odds.
Rays vs. Tigers Key Matchups
Zack Littell vs. Top Of The Lineup
Littell, a righty, doesn’t have much of a platoon split, but probably won’t be too excited to be facing 3 lefties in the first 4 batters of the Tigers lineup. That group starts with Zach McKinstry in the leadoff spot, and he too actually has a reverse split and prefers to hit fellow left-handers.
He’s followed up by Riley Greene, who is crushing right-handed pitching with a .880 OPS, and all 9 of his home runs on the season. Greene could potentially be a tough out, and get something started early for Detroit. Lastly, after the righty Spencer Torkelson is Kerry Carpenter, whose OPS is over 150 points higher against righties than against lefties. Considering Littell isn’t supposed to pitch for very long, these first few hitters could take up a major chunk of his day, and jeopardize all of the planning Tampa has done for this bullpen day.
Reese Olson Vs. Left-Handed Hitters
Olson, on the other hand, actually does have a pretty significant platoon split, with a gap of 135 points between the opponent OPS against him for righties and lefties, the latter performing much better. The first “lefty” he’s likely to face isn’t a true lefty at all, it’s Wander Franco, a switch-hitter. He’s done most of his work, much of which is excellent, against righties, but definitely prefers to hit from the right side against a lefty.
Next up is Brandon Lowe, who has such a dramatic platoon split that he legitimately does sometimes get platooned out when Tampa faces a lefty. He has a strong preference for hitting against right-handers, which could prove problematic for Olson. Confusingly enough, Josh Lowe is also a Tampa lefty, but less confusingly, he also rips against righties with an OPS over .800.
Lastly is Luke Raley, whose breakout season has also included a mastery of righties, against whom he is OPS’ing just short of .900. From top to bottom, this lineup has a lot of hitters who can make things tough for Olson, and its depth is a key reason I have the Rays hitting their -148 moneyline in my Rays vs. Tigers prediction.
Rays vs. Tigers Starting Lineups
Rays Starting Lineup
1B Y. Diaz R
SS W. Franco S
2B B. Lowe L
DH R. Arozarena
3B I. Paredes R
LF L. Raley L
CF M. Margot R
RF J. Lowe L
C R. Pinto R
Tigers Starting Lineup
3B Z. McKinstry L
CF R. Greene L
1B S. Torkelson R
DH K. Carpenter L
RF M. Vierling R
SS J. Baez R
2B N. Maton L
LF A. Baddoo L
C J. Rogers R