Red Sox-Rays: Uncertainty Surrounding Snell, Price Could Provide Value
USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Blake Snell
First things first, it’s a pleasure to be working with the Action Network providing my favorite plays on baseball totals.
With Opening Day in the books, we’re ready to get down to the nitty-gritty of the baseball season and what better way to start than with a good over/under spot at Tropicana Field.
Boston Red Sox @ Tampa Bay Rays
7:10 p.m. ET
Probable Pitchers: David Price vs. Blake Snell
Before delving into this game, it is important to note when exactly to bet it. Right now, the over/under line is 7.5, but you’re best off waiting it out for a potential uptick to 8. You know it won’t go down to 7 — which is what the total was for yesterday’s Chris Sale vs. Chris Archer opener — so you might as well wait up until first pitch if necessary, since there is a legitimate chance it does move.
Anyway, the potential increase with this total might come as a result of the unique starting pitching matchup on tap for Friday evening. David Price, despite churning out generally good work in his time with the Red Sox, has drawn criticism since arriving in Boston for not living up to the mega expectations of his $217 million contract. His counterpart for tonight, Blake Snell, meanwhile, has failed to reach the lofty heights set for him while he was a top prospect, pitching to a 11-15 record with a 3.83 ERA and 1.45 WHIP in his two seasons in the big leagues.
We can take advantage of the fact that Price and Snell are question marks, so to speak, coming into the season. Also, it seems that both pitchers are coming into the season in good form and seem to be without any signs of nerves for tonight’s assignment, which should enable them to each be on their game.
Price has raved about having a full spring training for the first time in years and claims to be feeling better physically than he can ever remember. That makes sense since he’s coming off a strong spring that saw him strike out 13 batters in 12 innings of work, yielding just five hits in the process. He should be extra comfortable at Tropicana Field, his old stomping grounds, where he owns a superb 2.88 ERA and 1.08 WHIP in 89 career starts (and two relief appearances).
Snell was also excellent during spring training, punching out a whopping 27 batters in only 17.1 innings, while holding opponents to a .206 batting average against and a 1.04 WHIP. The emerging hurler is in a favorable spot, too, considering he’s nearly a full run-and-a-half better at home in his career (3.20 ERA) than on the road (4.54 ERA).
We’ll also benefit from both teams’ lack of success against left-handed pitching in the recent past. Last year, Tampa Bay ranked second-to-last in the American League with a .239 batting average against southpaws. The Rays also struggled to hit for power against lefties. Of their 228 dingers last season, only 49 of them came against left-handed pitchers. The Red Sox, as potent as their lineup looks, managed just a .406 slugging percentage facing lefties last year.
With both starters carrying a high ceiling into tonight’s game, the ‘under’ looks like a bet worth rolling with for my first MLB over/under of 2018. Hopefully there isn’t another bullpen meltdown like Boston experienced yesterday, though we can likely consider that an anomaly. Last year, Boston’s bullpens had the second-best ERA (3.15) in the Majors. Price and Snell figure to lead the way here in their season debuts, which ideally will deliver this ‘under’ wager. Just remember to wait to see if the line goes up a half-run.
Play: UNDER 7.5/8
Pictured above: Blake Snell
Photo: Kim Klement, USA Today Sports