Friday MLB Betting Odds, Picks, Predictions for Rays vs. White Sox: Betting Value on Tampa Bay?

Friday MLB Betting Odds, Picks, Predictions for Rays vs. White Sox: Betting Value on Tampa Bay? article feature image

Julio Aguilar/Getty Images. Pictured: Wander Franco.

  • The Tampa Bay Rays travel to Chicago to take on the White Sox in Friday night MLB action.
  • The Rays bring with them a two-game losing streak- but they've been adept at avoiding three-game slides in the past.
  • Read on for Michael Arinze's top betting pick for Friday night's battle.

Rays vs. White Sox Odds

Rays Odds+120
White Sox Odds-150
Over/Under8 (-104 / -121)
Time7:10 p.m. ET
TVApple TV+
Odds via Unibet. Get up-to-the-minute MLB odds here.

The Rays carry a two-game losing streak to Chicago, where they'll take on the White Sox after dropping three of their last four games. Even more surprising is that those losses came against an Athletics team with the second-lowest projected win total at 68.5 games.

Tampa Bay will hope to stop the losing streak when they hand the ball to Drew Rasmussen on Friday night. Rasmussen will be up against Dylan Cease, who was impressive in his first start of the season.

Cease has only one career start against the Rays, and Rasmussen has yet to face the White Sox.

While the lack of batter vs. pitcher data is disappointing for our analysis, the Rays might have the advantage if we approach this game from a situational handicap.

Is the Rays Offense Worth Backing?

Every baseball team has played at least six games, which means a second turn in the rotation for starting pitchers. And with the shortened spring training this season, I've been more partial to backing teams that are having success at the plate instead of on the mound.

Despite Tampa Bay's recent skid, it's still ranked eighth in wRC+ (114). Against right-handers, the Rays are even better as that number improves to 122. In 2021, they also ranked third with a wRC+ of 109.

The biggest surprise to me is that the Rays aren't drawing as many walks as we've seen in the past. Tampa Bay ranks 22nd with an 8.3% walk rate — down from a 9.4% walk rate in the previous season. Against Cease, the Rays should have an opportunity to get more men on base, given that he has a career 4.17 BB/9 ratio and allowed three walks in five innings in his first start.

Cease's only appearance against the Rays came in 2019, and in the second inning of the game, he walked two batters before serving up a grand slam. The right-hander finished the game with four walks in five innings as the Rays went on to a 4-2 win.

If we turn to the Rays' starter, Rasmussen might fancy his chances against a White Sox team he's never faced before. Backup catcher Reese McGuire is the only batter to face Rasmussen while a member of another team. But McGuire won't have much to offer his White Sox teammates, as he's only had one at-bat against Cease.

According to FanGraphs, Rasmussen's best pitches are his fastball (42.2%) and slider (32.8%). He also mixes in the occasional changeup and curveball. However, in his first start this year, he introduced a cutter that he threw 21.9% of the time.

Shortly after acquiring Rasmussen from the Brewers last year, Tampa Bay deployed him as an opener. After stretching him out, he's now able to pitch at least five innings per game.

The Rays can compete with the big boys in the AL East despite playing in a small market because their scouting department isn't afraid to think outside the box. As a result, the transformation of Rasmussen from reliever to starter is just another confirmation of their success.

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What Can Cease Do for Chicago?

With injuries starting to mount for Chicago, it's even more critical for the White Sox to get something out of Cease's outings.

Lucas Giolito, who started on Opening Day, is now on the 10-day IL with an abdominal strain. Giolito started because Chicago's ace, Lance Lynn, is already out until mid-May as he recovers from knee surgery.

The good news for Chicago fans is Cease does possess the qualities to be an ace given his power arm. The White Sox right-hander has a plus-fastball that averages 96.5 mph. He can also miss bats, as evidenced by a called plus swinging (CSW) strike rate of 30.3% in 2021. His advanced numbers indeed point to further success, given that he ended the season with a lower SIERA (3.57) than his traditional ERA (3.91).

Tampa Bay has only four hitters on its roster who have faced Cease, and in nine at-bats, they have a combined .125/.333/.125 line. Since that sample size isn't enough to form a definitive conclusion, let's look at Cease's pitch mix to see how the Rays' hitters might fair in this matchup.

Like Rasmussen, Cease is predominantly a fastball (43%)/slider (45.6%) pitcher. He's also known to mix in the occasional curveball and changeup. The slider is his best pitch, as FanGraphs rates it 16.6 runs above average over his career. However, his fastball sits 15.4 runs below average during that span. It's a pitch that was barely above average for him in 2021.

This season, Tampa Bay comes in 3.4 runs above average against the fastball and 1.8 runs above average against the slider. This past year, Tampa Bay also finished above average against both pitches. Through six games, the Rays rank sixth against both pitches in the majors.

I think command remains Cease's biggest challenge, as he needs to get ahead of the Rays' hitters to avoid giving free passes to first base. I'll be watching this game closely to determine whether we can start to expect the Rays to draw more walks or if there's been a change to their hitting approach at the plate.

Rays-White Sox Pick

While Cease's upside is promising, I think the Rays have an edge in other areas, such as their lineup and bullpen.

If we look at the head-to-head numbers, both teams split their six-game series in 2021, and the Rays are 5-5 against the White Sox in the past 10 meetings. As a result, I don't think there's a lot that separates these two teams.

Situationally, the Rays probably need this game a bit more to stop their two-game losing streak. The good teams always seem to find a way to stop the bleeding, and the Rays are no exception.

Tampa Bay is a perfect 6-0 in this spot when facing a possible three-game losing streak. The data suggests these teams are probably closer than the market projects, as Chicago is as high as a -136 favorite.

However, the best price available on the Rays is +118 at Unibet, though it's slightly lower than my model projections. Thus, Tampa Bay remains a lean for me at the moment unless I can find closer to +125 in the market.

Lean: Rays +118

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