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Rays vs. Astros Betting Picks, Odds & Predictions: Public Perception Favors the Wrong Team

Rays vs. Astros Betting Picks, Odds & Predictions: Public Perception Favors the Wrong Team article feature image

Peter G. Aiken, USA Today Sports

Astros vs. Rays Game 3 Betting Picks, Odds & Predictions

Probable starters: Zack Greinke (18-5, 2.93 ERA) vs. Charlie Morton (16-6, 3.05 ERA)

  • Astros odds: -150
  • Rays odds: +130
  • Over/Under:  7.5
  • First pitch:  1:05 p.m. ET on MLB Network

Odds as of Monday morning. Check out PointsBet, where Action Network users get an exclusive 200% deposit match (deposit $50, bet with $150).

To beat the Houston Astros, you need to play nine flawless innings of baseball, and the Tampa Bay Rays have made sloppy mistakes that have directly harmed their chances in the first two games of this series.

The Rays return home on Monday, for one guaranteed game at Tropicana Field – with the chance to earn another home game with a win over the World Series favorite Astros.

All eyes will be on Charlie Morton in Tampa’s second consecutive elimination game after he led the Rays to a win in the AL Wild Card game in Oakland last Wednesday.

Morton became the first pitcher to win three winner-take-all elimination games; having previously won Game 7’s in both the 2017 ALCS and World Series for the Astros.

Can Morton pitch his new team past his previous one while facing future Hall of Famer Zack Greinke; the pitcher who occupies his old spot in Houston’s rotation?

The Starters 

The batted ball data from this pair of righties is strikingly similar, but I give the slight edge to Morton due to his strikeout ability.

Before the AL Wild Card Game, I analyzed Morton’s overwhelming curveball usage (37.3% – most amongst starters) and overall dominance; ranking behind only Max Scherzer, Jacob deGrom, and Gerrit Cole in FIP this season.

After leaving Houston as a free agent in the offseason, some prognosticators expected regression outside of the Astros system. Morton responded with a career year, throwing his curveball more than ever before while continuing to increase his strikeout rate:

He has faced the Astros twice this season:

  • March 29 (4-2 Win): 5 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 8 K
  • August 27 (15-1 Loss): 4 IP, 7 H, 6 R, 2 BB, 4 K

It’s hard to tell anything from a small sample, but it’s worth remembering that the Astors know Morton as well as, or even better than the Rays do. And maybe they’re sitting on some tendency or pitch tipping tell that they have been waiting to exploit against him.

But he has been an Ace for three years running, and I see tremendous value in backing Morton as a home underdog.

Zack Greinke went 8-1 with a 3.02 ERA (3.28 FIP, 3.72 xFIP) in 10 starts with Houston after the trade deadline. In his most recent outing on Sept. 25, he carried a no-hitter into the ninth inning against the Mariners.

Greinke ranks in the 12th percentile in fastball velocity, but he allows soft contact and rarely walks the opposition – with the third-lowest walk rate this season:

He attacks the zone early (67.3% first-pitch strikes, 7th in MLB) before moving to his secondary offerings to get hitters to chase pitches outside of the strike zone.

Greinke has the same career chase rate or outside swing rate (33%) as Stephen Strasburg – but Strasburg induces whiffs on those swings about 10% more frequently.

Greinke is also incredibly frustrating for pitch classification purposes, adding to and subtracting from all of his offerings to the point where they become almost indistinguishable:

Zack Greinke, 87mph Fastball and 88mph Changeup.

Remember: It’s Zack Greinke. It doesn’t have to make sense.

— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) August 18, 2019

Most importantly, Greinke is keeping the eephus curveball alive, throwing the pitch 15% of the time at an average speed of 70 mph:

69 Seconds of Zack Greinke Slow Curves.

— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) February 14, 2019

He’s also a five-time Gold Glove award winner and is considered to be the best defensive pitcher in baseball.

The Bullpens

On the season, the Astros bullpen ranks 11th in FIP, 1st in xFIP, and 1st in K-BB%. By the same metrics, the Rays rank 1st, 3rd, and 2nd.

Will Harris and Roberto Osuna pitched a perfect 1.1 innings to finish off Game 1 for Houston, but Harris had to come on for a laboring Osuna to preserve the save in Game 2.

Fatigue could be an issue for Osuna, who threw 39 pitches over those two outings and looked shaky on Saturday, but he should be available on Monday after the day of rest.

Kevin Cash only used one reliever (Collin Poche) back-to-back in Games 1 and 2 – and Poche threw three just three pitches in his second appearance.

Cash split up 8.1 innings of relief between eight Rays pitchers over two games, and everyone in their bullpen should have a fresh arm on Monday.

The only exception could be Diego Castillo, who threw 21 pitches in Game 2 after going two innings (33 pitches) behind Charlie Morton in the AL Wild Card game on Wednesday.

Projected Lineups

Data per FantasyLabs

Umpire and Weather Report

Data per Sports Insights

Tropicana Field in Tampa Bay is a closed dome, so the weather will not be an issue.

Closed domes generally lead to fewer runs, and the Trop is no exception.

The under is 626-546-50 (53.4%) at Tropicana Field since 2005; suitable for a profit of +$3,523 for a consistent $100 bettor.

Mark Wegner looks set to work as the plate umpire, but his trends are pretty neutral.

Unders are 4-1 in Wegner’s postseason games and 220-224-41 (49.5%), including the regular season. Home teams have won fewer than 52% of their games with Wegner behind the plate.

Trends to Know

The under is 12-3 at Tropicana Field in postseason games.

The Rays are the most profitable home underdog in our database, with a 181-188 record (49.1%), generating a consistent $100 bettor +$3,710 (10.1% ROI).

Over the past three seasons, the Rays are 41-28 (59.4%, +$2,344) as a home underdog – suitable for a 34% return on investment.

Zack Greinke is the most profitable pitcher as an F5 favorite in our database, with a 157-78-42 (66.8%) record, suitable for a profit of +$1,933.

It’s worth noting, however, that Charlie Morton is 53-24-20 (68.8%) on the F5 moneyline over the past three years.

Model Projected Odds

Favorite Bet

I projected the Rays as a -120 favorite in this game, and I set the total at 7.27 runs. Therefore, I see considerable value on the Rays moneyline, but I am not interested in playing the total unless the number touches 8.

The public’s affinity for Houston has passed the point of reason after two close wins.

I show the Rays as a 54% favorite on Monday, both in the first five innings and over the full game, and I backed them in each half to avoid the three-game sweep at home.

Their listed odds at +130 implies a winning percentage of 43.5%, meaning that I see a gap of more than 10% between my projection and what the market says the Rays chances are in this game.

That’s a substantial difference, and my only hesitancy is the Astros familiarity with Morton.

Hopefully, the Rays can avoid the silly mistakes that plagued them in the first two games of this series.

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