MLB Playoff Picks & Predictions: How We’re Betting Rays vs. Yankees on Thursday

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Alex Trautwig/MLB Photos via Getty Images. Pictured: Aaron Judge

  • On the brink of elimination, the Yankees are still favorites in Thursday night's ALDS Game 4 against the Rays (7:10 p.m. ET on TBS), but our experts don't necessarily agree with that assessment.
  • Below you'll find our betting picks on the first-five-innings and full-game moneylines, as well as a series price worth betting.

With four elimination games set for Thursday, there’s a possibility that we’ll have Championship Series matchups set by the time the night is through.

As such, our staff is not wasting the chance to bet on another day full of baseball. Let’s take a look at their picks.


Advanced Stats Glossary

FIP or Fielding Independent Pitching measures what a pitcher’s ERA would look like if the pitcher experienced league-average defense and luck. xFIP is a regressed version of FIP that adjusts or “normalizes’ the home run component based on park factors.

wRC+ or Weighted Runs Created Plus takes the statistic Runs Created and adjusts that number to account for critical external factors — like ballpark or era. It’s adjusted, so a wRC+ of 100 is league average, and 150 would be 50 percent above league average.

wOBA or Weighted On-Base Average is a catch-all hitting metric with more predictive value than on-base percentage. An average MLB hitter can be expected to post a .320 wOBA. xwOBA is a regressed version of wOBA that accounts for variables like park factors.

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Sean Zerillo: Rays F5 (+116), Moneyline (+116), Series Price (-245)

The Rays will open with Ryan Thompson (3.75 xFIP) on Thursday, and likely piggyback with Ryan Yarbrough (4.33 xFIP) against the Yankees’ Jordan Montgomery (3.65 xFIP) in a crucial Game 4.

Tampa Bay’s chances of winning the series improved by 23% to 77% following their Game 3 win, and I would consider betting their series moneyline at -285 or better, which represents a 3% edge relative to my projection.

You can currently bet the Rays at -240 (implied 70.6%) to win the series, and I played them to win another half unit (have 1u at +130 from before Game 1).

Furthermore, the Rays offer betting value yet again in Game 3, listed as an underdog in the betting market when I show them as a small favorite. You can play the Rays F5 moneyline down to +106, and their full game moneyline down to +114.

Montgomery was excellent for the Yankees this season, showing that he is all the way back from 2018 Tommy John surgery. He owned a career-best fastball velocity (92.5 mph), which he paired with a solid changeup (25.6%, 83.3 mph), curveball (22.1%, 80.5 mph), and an occasional cutter (5.6%, 89.5 mph).

Montgomery’s walk rate (4.7%) was tied with Yu Darvish, ranking in the top 12 for starting pitchers, and his 19.7% strikeout-minus-walk rate ranked 28th amongst starters, ahead of both Carlos Carrasco and Zac Gallen (19.6%)

The southpaw offers strong command, but the metrics indicate that he doesn’t have a true signature pitch, even though his curveball (which returned a negative pitch value in 2020) is eye-catching:

Yarbrough is also a southpaw with excellent command — posting the sixth lowest walk rate (4%) amongst pitchers to throw more than 100 combined innings over the past two seasons. That ranks just behind Kyle Hendricks (3.8%) and Zack Greinke (3.6%), and ahead of Hyun-jin Ryu (4.1%).

In fact, Yarbrough is very comparable to Hendricks, aside from his throwing arm, relying on an array of “slower” pitches (averages 87.4 mph on his fastball) in order to deceive hitters, and primarily upon his cutter (36%, 83 mph) and changeup (30%, 78.6 mph):

Most importantly, Yarbrough is a lefty without any platoon split (career .294 wOBA vs. L; .296 vs. R), which allows the Rays to bring him in against virtually any lineup.

Montgomery has shown a noticeable platoon split, however (career .261 wOBA vs. L; .313 vs. R) and the Rays shown have the platoon advantage with their depth and ability and manipulate their lineup.

[Bet the Rays today at PointsBet and win $125 if they get at least 1 hit.]

BJ Cunningham: Rays Moneyline (+120) vs. Yankees

Tampa Bay has blown the doors open, hitting seven home runs and scoring 15 runs in the last two games of this series.

The Rays offense has been above average all season long, ranking 10th in majors with a .325 wOBA and 109 wRC+. Brandon Lowe has been the clear leader this season, hitting 13 homers and driving in 36 runs. The Rays crushed lefties this season, finishing sixth in both wOBA (.343) and wRC+ (115) against southpaws.

On the flip side, Jordan Montgomery hasn’t been great in 2020, posting a 5.11 ERA and allowing a 1.66 HR/9 rate.

Montgomery has struggled with his fastball and sinker so far this season, as both pitches have combined to allow a .329 average to opponents. Where Montgomery has excelled is with his curveball and changeup. His two off-speed pitches are holding opponents under a .260 wOBA. He’ll have an interesting matchup against this Rays lineup that struggles versus fastballs/sinkers, but crushes off-speed pitches. Either way, he’ll need to be on point with his control against this Rays lineup that seemingly can’t stop hitting home runs.

Tampa Bay is going with a bullpen game on Thursday and for good reason, because the Rays have one of the best bullpens in baseball. Collectively, the they ranked second in ERA (3.37) and sixth in xFIP (4.16) during the regular season. Nick Anderson and Jalen Beeks have by far been their best two relievers this year posting xFIPs below 3. Anderson, specifically, has been almost un-hittable, allowing five hits in 16.1 innings.

The Yankees’ bullpen has been a disappointment this year. Their relievers finished with the 16th-best ERA (4.51) and xFIP (4.52) in the league. Those issues have showed up in this series as their bullpen has allowed nine runs in the last two games.

The biggest issue has been New York’s middle relief. Jonathan Holder, Luis Cessa and Jonathan Loaisiga all have xFIPs well above 4.75 and have been the Achilles’ heel of the pen this season.

Tampa Bay has the advantage in the bullpen department in this game, so the Yankees had better hope Montgomery can go deep into this game and allow them to skip the middle part of their pen.

I have the Rays projected as favorites in this game, so I think there is value on them at +120 to close out the series.

[Bet the Rays today at PointsBet and win $125 if they get at least 1 hit.]

Michael Arinze: Marlins F5 Moneyline (+104) vs. Braves

I’m surprised the Marlins are underdogs in this spot, particularly with their playoff lives on the line and a talented prospect like Sixto Sanchez on the mound. In just his first year in the majors, Sanchez already has a postseason start under his belt, in which he pitched five shutout innings against the Cubs in the Wild Card round.

Sanchez has faced the Braves twice this season with mixed results. His first start was stellar, as he pitched six shutout innings to lead the Marlins to an 8-0 win. However, in his last start against Atlanta, he only lasted three innings after allowing four runs and four walks before the bullpen took the loss with a five-run implosion the very next inning.

Despite those mixed outings, Sanchez is the better of the two Game 3 starters when you consider that Atlanta will throw Kyle Wright in the matchup.

Wright is 0-2 in his career against the Marlins with a 6.92 ERA. In fact, the Braves have never beaten the Marlins with Wright as a starter. Atlanta is 0-3 all-time in those outings and has been outscored, 20-4.

Wright finished the season 2-4 with a 5.21 ERA and 5.90 FIP. The Braves didn’t feature him in the Wild Card round against the Reds so that means it’s been 13 days since he last pitched competitively.

In 28 at-bats against Wright, Miami hitters have a .357 AVG / .471 OBP / .821 slash line with an outrageous .464 ISO. Whereas in 27 at-bats against Sanchez, Atlanta hitters have a .185 AVG / .333 OBP / .222 SLG slash line and a .037 ISO.

My model actually makes Miami a -130 favorite with Sanchez on the mound against Wright. I prefer to isolate Wright in this matchup and so I’ll limit my wager to a first-five play on the Marlins.

DraftKings is offering Miami as an underdog at +104 and that’s just too much value for me to pass up at a plus-price.

[Bet the Marlins today at PointsBet and win $125 if they get at least 1 hit.]

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