Pirates vs Rays Prediction Today | MLB Odds, Expert Picks for Wednesday, May 3

Pirates vs Rays Prediction Today | MLB Odds, Expert Picks for Wednesday, May 3 article feature image

Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images. Pictured: Mitch Keller.

  • The Pirates are road underdogs tonight against the Rays.
  • Just as everyone expected would be the case in early May, this matchup features the best record in both leagues.
  • Mike Ianniello breaks down the matchup and makes his betting pick below.

Pirates vs. Rays Odds

Wednesday, May 3
6:40 p.m. ET
Pirates Odds
MoneylineTotalRun Line
-110 / -110
Rays Odds
MoneylineTotalRun Line
-110 / -110
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute MLB odds here.

A month into the season and the two teams with the most wins in the league will face off. Just like everybody expected, that is the Tampa Bay Rays and Pittsburgh Pirates.

So here we are, making a Pirates vs. Rays pick.

The Rays have flown out of the gate like a Kentucky Derby winner and the Battlin’ Buccos are surprisingly 10 games over .500 after 30 games. Pittsburgh dropped the first game of the three-game on Tuesday night and will look to bounce back as both teams start their ace.

Pittsburgh Pirates

Pittsburgh fans have been waiting for Mitch Keller to break out for a while now. He has shown flashes of brilliance and was the team’s No. 1 prospect from 2018-20 but has never fully put it all together.

Well, Keller got the ball on Opening Day this season and appears to have established himself as the team’s ace.

The Pirates have won five of Keller’s six starts this season and he holds a 3.53 ERA. The right-hander mixes a 4-seam fastball with a cutter and sinker that all look similar out of his hand before moving late. Last season, he added a sweeper to his arsenal as well.

Opponents have struggled to square up Keller this year. He is allowing just a 24% hard-hit rate, the lowest in the league among all qualified pitchers.

Mitch Keller, Wicked 85mph Sweeper…and Sword ⚔️

16" of horizontal break pic.twitter.com/tsQ7BM5D66

— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 27, 2023

At the plate, Pittsburgh has seemingly been rejuvenated by the return of Andrew McCutchen. The Buccos rank third in wOBA and fourth in wRC+, and they're in the top 10 in scoring. They're patient at the plate, ranking second in walks, and rarely strike out.

The Bucco’s bats are led by All-Star outfielder Bryan Reynolds, who's batting .330 and earned an eight-year contract extension last month. Jack Suwinski has been great, as well, leading the team with a .421 wOBA and six home runs.

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Tampa Bay Rays

Tampa Bay’s ace Shane McClanahan has cemented himself firmly as an American League Cy Young Award candidate, entering Wednesday with the third favorite for the award. The Rays have won all six of his starts, which makes sense since he has a 2.12 ERA that ranks him in the top 10 of MLB.

Mixing a 97-mph fastball with a changeup as his main strikeout pitch has given McClanahan an 11.30 strikeout-per-nine rate. He has gone at least five innings in each start and is yet to allow more than two runs. The one potential weakness for McClanahan this season has been a 10.3% walk rate. He has issued 14 free passes in his six starts.

As good as the Pirates have been at the plate, this Tampa Bay offense has been better. They currently have a team wOBA of .377 and wRC+ of 148. The next closest teams sit at .348 and 119. To put those numbers in perspective, the 1998 Yankees had a wOBA of .360 and wRC+ of 116.

If Tampa Bay keeps this pace up all season, it'd have the best team wOBA since the 1953 Brooklyn Dodgers and the best wRC+ in baseball history.

A wRC+ of over 100 is considered above average and Tampa Bay has 11 players with a wRC+ over 100 with Jose Lowe, Harold Ramirez, Yandy Diaz, Taylor Wells, Randy Arozarena, and Wander Franco all sitting above 150.

Pirates vs. Rays Pick

So, why am I going to bet against this historically great offense with their dominating ace on the mound? Stupidity? Probably. But this number for Pittsburgh is just too good to pass up.

The Pirates have been undervalued all season because, well, they’re the Pirates. If you had blindly bet $100 on Pittsburgh in every game it has played this season, you’d be up $1,169, making the Buccos the most profitable team by more than $450.

The Pirates are the most profitable team to bet on as an underdog, and when they have been an underdog of +160 or more, they are 2-0.

Also, Keller has been the most profitable pitcher in MLB. The Pirates won five of his six starts, and the one loss came in extra innings. Four of those wins came as an underdog.

As good as Tampa Bay has been at the plate, it isn't as strong against right-handed pitching. Pittsburgh, though, has better splits against left-handed pitching. The Pirates have the third-best wRC+ against southpaws.

The line as of Tuesday night (+194) implies that the Pirates only win this game 34% of the time. Wake up, people. This Pirates team is actually good.

I’ll take Pittsburgh at this number against any team in the league, including the league-leading Rays. The Pirates have already raised the Jolly Roger 20 times this year, so let’s hope they #RaiseIt a 21st time on Wednesday.

Pick: Pirates ML +194 (Play to +170)

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