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Rangers vs. Rays MLB Odds & Picks: Target the Total With Anemic Offenses in Tampa (Thursday, April 15)

Rangers vs. Rays MLB Odds & Picks: Target the Total With Anemic Offenses in Tampa (Thursday, April 15) article feature image

Julio Aguilar/Getty Images. Pictured: Rich Hill of the Rays.

  • Two of the American League's worst offenses meet for the final time of a four-game series.
  • Rich Hill takes the mound for Tampa opposing right-hander Jordan Lyles for Texas.
  • Jeff Hicks explains how to target the total without having to stick around for the whole game.

Rangers vs. Rays Odds

Rangers Odds +159
Rays Odds -174
Over/Under 8.5
Time 7:10 p.m. ET
Odds as of Wednesday Night and via PointsBet.

It feels like Thursday’s contest between Texas and Tampa Bay is a matchup between the moveable force and the stoppable object. Both teams have minus run differentials in the double digits, while the Rays have two home wins to the Rangers two road wins. Only two teams in the American League have scored fewer runs.

That is all before I mention the pitchers – Jordan Lyles and Rich Hill. One is a known mediocre thrower, while the other has had unbelievably bad luck to start 2021.

This game could be tough to watch, but let’s see if there is a way to bet this and make it more interesting, or at least find a way to bet and dash.

Texas Rangers

Jordan Lyles is not a good starting pitcher and has never finished a season with an ERA below 4.11. He gets a good job/good effort from me for having one season with an Expected ERA (xERA) below 4.0. 2020 was the first time in four seasons he played for only one team. I think you get it, he’s exploitable.

What makes Lyles’ outlook more bleak is the offense charged with saving his bacon. The Rangers hitters are bottom five in Strikeout Rate (the worst), Walk Rate, slugging percentage, and Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+). It is also troublesome that Texas leads the majors with 12 stolen bases and sports a league-best 1.1 BsR (FanGraphs’ all-encompassing baserunning statistic) and cannot score runs.

Since score 10 runs Opening Day, the Rangers have topped five runs three times and have been shut out thrice. The Rangers will have to get a little luck to score enough runs to top Tampa’s top 10 offense based on Offensive WAR.

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Tampa Bay Rays

Rich Hill has had terrible luck. Age aside, Hill deserves better results than what he has earned prior to 2021. The 41-year old has a 36.6 Left On Base Percentage (LOB%), second-worst this season among pitchers with 10-plus innings pitched. His career percentage is 74.3%. His 7.20 ERA dwarfs his 2.81 xERA and 3.65 Expected Fielder Independent Pitching (xFIP). One last stat that has some promise: Hill’s Hard Hit Percentage is more than acceptable at 29.6% and is on par with his career mark. Hill won’t be confused for an ace, but positive regression is coming.

Offense is unsurprisingly down to start 2021 as 10 teams clock in with a positive Offensive WAR heading into Wednesday night’s games. Tampa is not one of them, but their -2.1 rating is 15th. The Rays are also more proficient at getting on base and slugging than the Rangers, and Lyles is a flyball pitcher, starting 2021 with a 32.1% groundball rate.

I say all of this with little conviction since Tampa had scored only four runs in the first two games of this four-game set against Texas. At least there is promise.

Rangers-Rays Pick

Neither team inspires much confidence, but one thing I found researching these mediocre teams is they score runs in the first three innings. The Rangers average 0.91 runs in the first inning, including 1.40 on the road. The Rays average 0.73 runs in the second inning, including 1.20 at home. Both teams are top 10 in runs scored in the third inning. Let’s hope Wednesday’s game is another low-scoring snooze fest because I have found a bet that keeps this game interesting without having to watch it in its entirety.

Pick: Over 2.5 Runs in First 3 Innings (-115 on PointsBet, bet to -130)

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