Wednesday MLB Odds, Picks, Predictions: Rays vs. Nationals Betting Preview (June 30)
Will Newton/Getty Images. Pictured: Kyle Schwarber high-fives Juan Soto after another home run.
- The Nationals have been on fire entering Wednesday's series finale against the Rays, thanks in large part to Kyle Schwarber.
- Jon Lester takes the mound for the Nats while Tampa is set to deploy an opener once again.
- Mike Ianniello breaks down the matchup and makes his Rays vs. Nats pick below.
Rays vs. Nationals Odds
|Time||4:05 p.m. ET|
The Washington Nationals will look to make it four straight wins and complete the two-game mini-sweep of the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday afternoon.
Washington took the first game of the series 4-3 Tuesday night and continues to play great baseball. The Nationals are 13-3 in their last 16 games and have climbed into second place in the NL East, just three games behind the Mets.
Tampa Bay has cooled off a little bit after their incredible May. They have fallen to second place in the AL East and have lost nine of its last 13 games. The Rays still have a +84 run differential this season, the fourth-best in the league.
Tampa Bay To Employ Opener Against Nats
Tampa Bay will once again go with the opener method on Wednesday. Right-hander Drew Rasmussen will get the start as the opener, likely followed by right-hander Michael Wacha for bulk innings afterward.
Rasmussen is just 25-years-old and in his second big league season. He started the season with the Milwaukee Brewers before being traded to Tampa Bay as part of the Willy Adames deal on May 21. The Rays optioned him to the Triple-A Durham Bulls, but recalled him last week. Rasmussen has made three appearances out of the bullpen for Tampa Bay, and has yet to allow a run, giving up just one hit in 3 2/3 innings. Rasmussen has never started a game in his career.
Following the opener will be the veteran Wacha. He has made 13 appearances this season, and has a 4.66 ERA and 5.72 xERA. Wacha has struggled this season, but has been even worse in relief. In 11 1/3 innings over four outings out of the bullpen, he has allowed 10 runs and has a 7.94 ERA. Wacha ranks in the bottom 5% of the league in xBA, xwOBA, xSLG and xERA.
Tampa Bay is one of the few teams that is much better offensively on the road. The Rays average 4.26 runs per game at home and are second in the league with 5.55 runs per game in away games. They are tied for eighth in the league in road OPS this year and have the third-most home runs.
The Rays don’t have a single player batting over .300 on the season. However, they are patient at the plate and fourth in the league in walks. They also have a lot of guys with power and Austin Meadows, Brandon Lowe and Mike Zunino all have more than 15 home runs this season.
Schwarber Continues To Be The Story in D.C.
I normally start with talking about the starting pitcher for each team. But right now the story is all about Kyle Schwarber. What he is doing right now is nothing short of remarkable. Schwarber has hit 12 home runs in his last 10 games and 16 bombs in his last 18 games. He has a .339 batting average and 1.369 OPS over the last two weeks. He is now third in the league with 25 home runs on the season.
It hasn’t just been Schwarber who has turned things around, though. Over the last two weeks, the Nationals are tied for eighth in the league in runs, sixth in batting average, fifth in wOBA and fourth in wRC+
Starting for Washington on Wednesday will be Schwarber’s teammate with the Cubs, left-hander Jon Lester. The veteran has been a super confusing pitcher this year. He started the year with five shutout innings in his season debut. Then things got shaky and he allowed 15 runs in the next four starts. After that, he was able to settle in and allowed two runs or fewer in his next five starts. But his last outing was his worst of the season, allowing seven runs in fewer than three innings.
Now 37-years-old, Lester’s strikeout rate is down to 6.19 K/9, the lowest in his career. His walk and home run rates are also up this season. To combat his loss of velocity, Lester is throwing his changeup at the highest clip in his career. He is throwing it 18.5% and allowing just a .167 batting average and .200 wOBA. However, his four-seamer, cutter and sinker are all allowing a batting average over .300.
This is a game I would normally stay away from, as Lester has been so inconsistent this year. However, if I had to make a play I would lean Washington here. As bad as Lester has looked at times, prior to his last start he had five straight games allowing two runs or fewer.
He has a solid 3.82 ERA at home this season and while he has had a couple of bad starts, both his expected ERA (4.39 to 4.99) and xwOBA (.328 to .355) are better than his actual numbers, indicating he hasn’t been as bad as it appears.
Tampa Bay’s bats struggle against left-handing pitching, ranking just 23rd in the league in wOBA and 21st in wRC+ against lefties. Tampa Bay is also ranks just 20th against changeups, which is Lester’s best pitch.
Rasmussen has been solid out of the bullpen this year, but he has never started a ball game before and who knows how he will handle the new situation. After him, I don’t trust Wacha at all and expect Washington’s hot bats to jump all over him.
With Tuesday night’s win against the Rays, the Nationals climbed above .500 for the first time since they started the year 1-0. They have been playing great over the last couple weeks and Schwarber is playing like a video game cheat code right now.
Washington has all the momentum here and if I had to play this game, I think they keep rolling and like them as the slight underdog.
Lean: Washington Nationals ML +105 (Like to +100)
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