Rays vs. Indians Odds, Picks, Predictions: Tampa Bats Will Get to Mejia (July 24)
Jason Miller/Getty Images. Pictured: Nelson Cruz
Rays vs. Indians Odds
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|Odds as of Thursday and via DraftKings
Nelson Cruz didn't take much time to settle in as Tampa's newly acquired slugger hit an opposite-field home run in just his second at-bat with the Rays on Friday night against the Indians.
Although it was Cruz's only hit of the day, he can still fill out a box score. Cruz scored two runs in the ballgame and also chipped in with a walk. The game was actually tied heading into the ninth inning, but Tampa Bay plated six runs to put it out of reach.
The victory not only gives the Rays a perfect 5-0 mark on the year against the Indians, but it's also their 10th straight win against them dating back to the 2019 season. Tampa Bay is guaranteed at least a series split with two games remaining.
While the Rays have yet to officially list a starter, I'm not sure it'll matter too much who takes the mound considering how well this is lineup can hit.
Rasmussen In or Out for Rays
As I'm writing this, DraftKings is still listing Ryan Yarbrough as the Rays starter. They must not have checked with Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.
— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) July 24, 2021
And while I'm a bit hesitant since Drew Rasmussen still isn't listed on the MLB site, I'm going to take Topkin at his word since he's on the Tampa Bay beat.
If Rasmussen does get the start, then it's essentially a bullpen game for the Rays. The right-hander hasn't been used for more than two innings in any outing this season. But that doesn't mean he won't be around long enough to get into some trouble with the Indians.
Granted, Cleveland's lineup only has 10 at-bats against Rasmussen but got to him for four runs. That all happened on July 5, when he was brought on to pitch in the fourth inning of a 4-1 ballgame.
To his credit, he's only allowed one run in six innings since that outing.
Rays Bullpen Should Be Ready To Go
Overall, Rasmussen has pitched better than his 4.55 ERA would suggest when you consider his 3.57 xERA points to some positive regression. But with multiple relievers expected to pitch in this game, an overview of the state of Rays bullpen is really what this handicap calls for.
Tampa Bay's bullpen is well equipped to handle a bullpen game. After all, Major League Baseball can thank the Rays for popularizing the strategy during the 2017 season. Tampa Bay's 416.2 innings are the second-most by any team. Some of that is by design because the Rays' relievers are also second with a 3.15 ERA and first with 36 bullpen wins.
If any team can navigate this type of game, it's the Rays. They'll likely stay away from Matt Wisler, who has thrown 61 pitches in the last three days. The remainder of Tampa Bay's relievers should be available, according to Rotowire's bullpen usage.
Rays Can Take Advantage Of A Slumping Mejia
J.C Mejia is Cleveland's probable starter, and he's coming off a rough stretch of three straight games where he's failed to complete five innings. In fact, he only pitched 11 innings in those games and allowed 16 earned runs.
Mejia's ERA now sits at 7.53, and while his 5.22 xERA also points to some positive regression, that number is still too high for my liking.
He's walking 3.38 hitters per nine innings and has a 20.7 HR/FB rate. He's also allowed four home runs in his last 11 innings and was chased after allowing six runs in 2 2/3 innings against the Rays on July 7.
That outing was Mejia's only start against the Rays, and while they only managed four hits in 13 at-bats, their .615 SLG and .385 ISO could prove problematic for a pitcher currently mired in a slump.
Tampa Bay is ranked 10th in the league with an above-average .168 ISO this season. It's also 10th with a wRC+ value of 102, while the Indians are 25th with a value of 88.
Before, the Indians could mask some of their hitting flaws with Shane Bieber and Aaron Civale in the rotation.
But now, with both of them sidelined, Mejia is what they're left with, and that's not enough to get the job done.
Rays vs. Indians Pick
Adding Cruz will give the Rays a massive boost for the rest of the year. He slots in nicely in the three-hole and has the highest batting average on the team, even at 40 years old.
Cruz doesn't get enough credit as a situational hitter, and that's the dimension of his game that could really benefit a Rays team that's ranked 24th with a .232 batting average despite being 20 games above .500 (59-39).
I think the offensive gap between these two teams widened even more with his addition, and I'd expect another good performance at the plate from the Rays.
I'll swallow the juice and back them at -155 over at BetMGM. I also like the Rays over 2.5 runs in the first five innings at DraftKings (-125).
Pick: Rays ML (-155)