The Rays and Orioles kick off a four-game series in Baltimore on Thursday night that will have major implications on the American League playoff race and both teams’ World Series odds. The pitching matchup could not be much better, as Orioles ace Kyle Bradish faces the Rays’ ace-caliber starter Aaron Civale.
Betting odds have the Orioles as the favorite at -140 on the moneyline, while the over/under is set at 8 runs. Find out below why we’re predicting that the Orioles win and the under hits.
Rays vs. Orioles Prediction
Starting pitchers: RHP Aaron Civale (7-3, 2.96 ERA) vs. RHP Kyle Bradish (11-6, 3.03 ERA)
This series has an October feel to it, and it will have as big an impact on this season’s outcome as any series until the playoffs begin in just over 2 weeks.
The Rays sit 2 games back of the Orioles in the AL East standings with 15 games to go (17 for Baltimore). For Tampa, anything worse than a split in this series will likely cost them a chance at the division crown and the ability to avoid playing a Wild Card series.
Considering Baltimore has a much easier schedule the rest of the way (@Astros, @Guardians, Nationals, Red Sox), the Rays really need to win at least 3 games in this series to have a realistic chance at winning the division. They should have a pitching edge in each of the next three games, so winning this first game would set them up with an excellent chance at doing just that. Tampa needs to win all 4 games to win the season series and gain a potential AL East tiebreaker.
Today’s game should have the best pitching matchup of the series, but the edge goes to Baltimore with Kyle Bradish on the mound. Bradish has taken his game to a new level in his second season and has had a breakout campaign as the best pitcher on the best team in the AL.
After a couple of rough outings to start the season, Bradish has a 2.68 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and .263 wOBA allowed since May 1, all of which rank in the top 3 over that timeframe (minimum 100 innings). In two starts against the Rays this season, Bradish has allowed 4 runs on 10 hits over 11 innings.
Opposing Bradish for the Rays, Aaron Civale has also been among the best pitchers in baseball this season and is just a few spots behind Bradish in most of those aforementioned metrics (2.97 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, .278 wOBA allowed). However, he has not performed quite so well since the Rays acquired him from the Guardians at the trade deadline. In 7 starts for the Rays, Civale has a 4.29 ERA, 1.29 WHIP and .308 wOBA allowed – all of which are outside the top 50 over that span.
Civale’s job will be slightly easier today thanks to an injury to Baltimore’s Ryan Mountcastle, who left last night’s game in the 3rd inning with a shoulder issue. That’s a big blow for Baltimore, especially in this game, as Mountcastle is 5-for-6 lifetime against Civale with two home runs. The Orioles have called up their No. 3 prospect Heston Kjerstad to make his MLB debut tonight in Mountcastle’s absence.
The Orioles are calling up Heston Kjerstad, per @afkostka
The second overall pick in the 2020 draft, Kjerstad is No. 24 in MLB Pipeline’s Prospect Rankings pic.twitter.com/rvna6cPbx4
— Talkin’ Baseball (@TalkinBaseball_) September 14, 2023
These are two of the best offenses in baseball, and they have both been excellent over the last few weeks, although Baltimore went quiet in its last 2 games with just 2 runs (and 2 losses) against the Cardinals. That makes Civale’s performance the biggest variable in this game. If he can regain the form he showed for most of the season with Cleveland, then this will be a low-scoring game that could go either way. But if Civale continues to struggle, then the Orioles should be able to start this pivotal series with a win.
Given such a tight matchup, the better value is on the Rays’ moneyline at +120, but we need to see more from Civale before we can trust him in such a big spot. Therefore the recommended play here is to back Bradish in this game and take the Orioles’ moneyline at -140.
We’re also going to trust both pitchers and these clubs’ strong bullpens to do enough against these two great offenses to keep the total under 8 runs. In the 9 games these teams have played this season, the total has gone under 8 five times and has averaged out to 7.1 runs per game.
Rays vs. Orioles Prediction: Orioles moneyline (-140), under 8 runs (+100)
Rays vs. Orioles Odds
The Orioles are the betting favorites in the first game of the series with -140 moneyline odds, while the Rays are at +120 on the moneyline.
The Orioles are laying -1.5 runs on the spread at +145 odds, while the Rays are getting +1.5 runs at -175 odds.
The total in this game is set at 8 runs with -120 odds on the over and +100 odds on the under, indicating a lean towards the over by oddsmakers.
Rays vs. Orioles Key Matchups
Here are the key matchups that could decide Rays vs. Orioles.
Aaron Civale vs. Orioles’ lefties
One of the biggest reasons we picked Baltimore’s moneyline in our Rays vs. Orioles prediction is that we have more confidence in Kyle Bradish than Aaron Civale. The latter’s performance is the biggest variable in this game, as he has been shaky since arriving in Tampa Bay on July 31.
Civale’s platoon splits are not particularly dramatic. He has been slightly better against righties this season (.222 average, .588 OPS) than he has against lefties (.233 average, .654 OPS), but in his career he has actually been better against lefties. He will have to contend with several dangerous lefties in the Orioles’ lineup, particularly Gunnar Henderson, Ryan O’Hearn and Cedric Mullins.
Mullins in particular could be a pivotal matchup for Civale. He only has six career at-bats against him, but in those at-bats Mullins is 4-for-6 with 2 home runs.
Civale’s overall performance in this game could decide the outcome, and his battles with these three hitters will be critical to a good performance.
These are two of the best bullpens in the league, and this game could come down to the final few outs, making the relievers a critical part of the story. In the first 5 games these teams played this season, one of the starting pitchers ended up getting the win, but in their 4-game series in July, 3 games came down to the bullpen, with the Orioles winning all 3 times.
The Orioles’ have the 2nd-best bullpen in the league based on ERA (3.25) and the best according to FIP (3.48). Tampa Bay isn’t far behind with a 3.74 ERA (10th) and 4.03 FIP (10th).
Baltimore has hardly missed a beat since losing All-Star closer Félix Bautista on August 26. Their numbers since then mostly match their season-long performance with their dominant closer, though his absence certainly cannot be discounted.
Tampa has had the best relief staff in the league over the last month, with a league-leading 2.23 ERA and 2.66 FIP. Given that recent performance, the edge goes to the Rays here, especially with Bautista out. That could become especially important if Civale can’t go deep into this game.
Rays vs. Orioles Starting Lineups (Projected)
Rays Starting Lineup
1B Yandy Diaz (R)
2B Brandon Lowe (L)
LF Randy Arozarena (R)
3B Isaac Paredes (R)
RF Josh Lowe (R)
DH Harold Ramirez (R)
CF Luke Raley (L)
SS Taylor Walls (S)
C Christian Bethancourt (R)
Orioles Starting Lineup
C Adley Rutschman (S)
SS Gunnar Henderson (L)
RF Anthony Santander (S)
DH Ryan O’Hearn (L)
LF Austin Hays (R)
CF Cedric Mullins (L)
1B Heston Kjerstad (L)
2B Adam Frazier (L)
3B Jordan Westburg (R)