Rays vs. Nationals Odds, Predictions & Preview: The Betting Value To Target Tuesday

Rays vs. Nationals Odds, Predictions & Preview: The Betting Value To Target Tuesday article feature image
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Getty Images. Pictured: Washington’s Jon Lester and Tampa Bay’s Tyler Glasnow

  • The Washington Nationals and Tampa Bay Rays begin a series on Tuesday night in St. Petersburg.
  • Tampa is a heavy betting favorite given its place in the standings relative to Washington's.
  • Is this game as big of a mismatch as the oddsmakers say? MLB betting analyst Jeff Hicks breaks it down below.

Nationals vs. Rays Odds

Nationals Odds +179
Rays Odds -196
Over/Under 7.5
Time 7:10 p.m. ET
TV FS1
Odds as of Monday evening and via PointsBet.

One ace takes the mound while a former looks to bulldog his way through the twilight of his career. On paper and based on betting lines, this game would not appear to be close. The Rays have a top-10 Offensive WAR, while the Nationals sit 19th, 30 points below Tampa Bay.

The Rays enter the series as one of the top teams in the league while the Nationals are scuffling along in the NL East. Is this game as big of a mismatch as it would appear, or does Washington have a shot as considerable underdogs? Let’s find out.

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Lester, Nats Haven’t Looked Good

It’s not too often that a team prefers playing on the road than at home, but that is the 2021 Washington Nationals in a nutshell. The offense has a 17-point difference in Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+) at home (78) against right-handed pitching compared to on the road (95). Their 95 wRC+ is tied for 10th in that situation, one of many signs that offense is down this season.

The Nationals are bottom-10 in strikeout rate in the same situation, which speaks to their ability to remain close to average on the road. One of the correlations I look for and hope to avoid when betting is a strong Hard Hit percentage (Hard%) combined with a high Groundball-to-Flyball ratio (GB/FB).

Washington is top-five in both away from home. Tyler Glasnow is not upset about this.

Despite a slow start to 2021, Juan Soto is second on the team in Offensive and Total WAR, trailing Trea Turner. The two are the only Nationals position players with a WAR over 0.7. Glasnow is not upset about this either. Shut down Turner and Soto, and the Nationals are vulnerable.

Jon Lester is as tough a person to play baseball as I have seen. His best ball is behind him and he is on his way to a third-straight season with more hits allowed than innings pitched. Lester’s expected numbers are not inflated from his 4.37 ERA because the Nationals’ defense has the third-best Defensive WAR in baseball. He is back near his career Barrel percentage (Barrel%) despite allowing his second-highest Hard Hit percentage (HardHit%) of his career.

Those number are well and good, but the 37-year-old has a 4.91 ERA in 11 road innings, including a .605 slugging percentage and .389 Weighted On Base Average (wOBA). Lester needs to get through the Rays’ lineup once (6.14 ERA first time through) before his numbers dip in his favor.

Lester is either going to get shellacked or throw six innings of three-hit baseball.

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Rays’ Results Have Lacked Against Lefties

The Rays are high on hitting the ball hard against left-handed pitching at home, but short on results. They possess a top-10 Hard% but only the 18th Home Run-to-Flyball ratio (HR/FB). Tampa has three players with double-digit home runs, and only one of them (Austin Meadows) is hitting better than .200. Mike Zunino is the only of the trio hitting better than .183 against southpaws. There is no consistent threat in the Rays’ batting order.

Tampa Bay is one of 10 offenses with a wRC+ below 100 at home against lefties.

Glasnow’s ERA is 1.55 runs better at home than on the road and has allowed a .155/.204/.256 slash line in baseball’s favorite dome. In four fewer innings pitched at home, Glasnow has allowed six fewer hits, nine fewer runs, four fewer home runs, nine fewer walks, and has struck out four more batters. Like Lester, Glasnow is best after his first time through a lineup.

The Rays’ ace has not allowed a baserunner to score in four outings, three of them were at home.

Nationals-Rays Pick

Despite their poor home showing, I would give the Nationals a better chance of beating Glasnow at home than on the road. Glasnow’s splits are more pronounced than Lester’s. It is easier to believe he gets topped on the road than Glasnow at home. The moneyline numbers are not ideal or enticing for me.

I want to give more credence to Tampa’s ability to disappear at home. Glasnow only has 28 runs in support of his work and average 3.75 runs per home game. The Nationals average 4.3 runs in road games. Taking into account Glasnow’s home dominance and Lester’s road concerns, 7.5 runs is a solid line, but at -118 on PointsBet, is a good number to lock in. Beyond that, this game is difficult to bet.

Pick: Under 7.5 Runs (-118, bet to -125 or fade)

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