Rays vs. Phillies Odds, Preview, Prediction: Can Zack Wheeler Get Philadelphia Back On Track? (Wednesday, August 25)
Rich Schultz/Getty Images. Pictured: Zack Wheeler
Rays vs. Phillies Odds
|Over/Under||8 (-120 / +100)|
|Time||7:05 p.m. ET|
|Odds as of Wednesday afternoon and via BetMGM.|
The Phillies’ chase for the postseason will continue on Wednesday, when they play their second of a three-game set against the Tampa Bay Rays. After their offense was stymied once again in a loss Tuesday, Philly will have its eyes on left-hander Ryan Yarbrough as it searches for a way back into this series, and a way back into the NL East race.
The Phillies will counter with Cy Young hopeful Zack Wheeler, who will look to quiet a hot offense which has maintained a four-game lead in the AL East despite a strong charge from the Yankees.
Will the stronger offense, or the stronger pitcher prevail? Let’s have a look at the numbers and find some value here.
Rays Remain In Front
In many ways, it’s quite remarkable that the Rays are still leading the AL East, and doing so by four games. The New York Yankees have now won 11 straight, and even then haven’t been able to close the gap against Tampa Bay, which has won seven of 10. Though a sweep of the Orioles isn’t all that exciting, taking two of three from the White Sox was, and a win on Wednesday would wrap yet another impressive series win.
It’s been quite the ride for this offense over the last two weeks, posting a 124 wRC+ to rank fourth in baseball over that span. Though the strikeouts are still high, the Rays have posted a stellar .224 ISO to go along with a .267 average, showing the ability to blend contact and power seamlessly.
The big boys have certainly done their part — Mike Zunino has five homers and Nelson Cruz three — while Brandon Lowe has brought consistency from the left side of the plate with a 1.009 OPS in a team-high 54 plate appearances over the last two weeks.
Yarbrough’s been an interesting case for Tampa Bay. He’s had some great outings, like his latest start against the Orioles where he allowed just one hit in five scoreless innings, or his seven inning of one-run ball against the Indians a few weeks ago.
He’s also been knocked around for 10 earned runs in 10 innings in the two starts in between. It’s quite poetic, then, that the left-hander continues to dominate in the exit velocity and walk columns, yet can’t find consistency. You just have to kill this guy with singles.
Phillies Look To Rebound With Wheeler
That last 14-game split? It’s not the Phillies’ friend. In that time, Philadelphia has the lowest wRC+ in baseball at just 64 (average would be 100). The Phillies have killed absolutely nobody with singles, hitting just .187 (again, the worst mark in baseball over that span), and have wasted a 9.9% walk rate by doing nothing with those runners.
A 78.5% contact rate during that time inspires some confidence, though, as does a .221 BABIP which clashes with a season-long mark of .287. It seems the Phillies could just be getting unlucky here at the plate, and facing a pitch-to-contact starter could help things turn.
Wheeler will get the ball for Philadelphia, and it’s difficult to continue waxing poetic about him with the way he’s pitched lately. The righty has allowed 14 runs over his last four starts, and even with a complete game shutout mixed in still has a 4.34 ERA for the month. He’s given up three home runs in that span and a boatload of hits.
Though he’s giving up 7% more hard-hit balls in August than normal, it’s still hard to blame his struggles on consistent mistakes punished for big hits with just a 6.7% barrel rate this month. I’m looking more at a 78.5% contact rate which jives with his season-long 75.4% contact rate. He’s simply not missing as many bats.
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Despite Wheeler’s poor form, it’s hard to find a fatal flaw in his performance this month. It’s not as if one number jumps out at you, and if anything he’s been the victim of a little bad luck.
Luck is where I’ll turn with the Phillies’ offense as well, which has consistently made contact but has posted the worst batting average in baseball over the last two weeks. With how up-and-down Yarbrough has been, it’s tough to say the Phillies will keep struggling at the plate, and even with a strong Rays offense on the other side you’d think Wheeler gets right in this spot without bloated exit velocity and barrel numbers.
I think there’s value on the Phillies here as short home favorites, a place where they’ve played their best baseball this year.
Pick: Phillies ML (-135)