Red Sox vs Rays – MLB Pick for May 24th
On the shoulders of a 4-game winning streak, the Boston Red Sox have once again seized control of the AL East. The Sox enter Thursday’s action with a 1.5-game lead over the Yankees in the division, with the next closest team a whopping 11 games back. This is shaping up to be a fierce 2-horse battle all year long.
Boston has the chance to put some additional distance between themselves and the Yankees tonight in St. Petersburg, where they’ll be looking for a 3-game sweep of the Rays. Rick Porcello will take the mound for the Sox against lefty Blake Snell for Tampa Bay.
After a ghastly 2017 campaign, Porcello has been solid thus far in 2018. The former AL Cy Young winner is 6-1 with a 3.39 ERA through 10 starts. This will already be the fourth start for Porcello against the Rays this season. He’s fared well in this matchup, with a record of 2-0 and an ERA of 3.10. Porcello’s 3.29 SIERA suggests the ERA isn’t much of a fluke, either.
There’s no one remarkable stat about Porcello. He’s been keeping the hard contact way down compared to last season (about a 10 percent decrease) while ramping up the Ks. Porcello has a strikeout rate of 24.4 percent so far this season, up from 20.5 percent a year ago. The right-hander has been about a league average K guy during his time with Boston, so this season’s number may be due for a bit of regression.
He has also been keeping the ball on the ground more, and he’s been effective against right-handed hitters. Porcello as coughed up 5 homers this year, all off the bats of lefties. Left-handers also have a wOBA of .305, compared to a .244 mark for righties. The Tampa Bay lineup isn’t all that daunting on paper, but the Rays are quietly 10th in wOBA (.320) and wRC+ (103) on the year against right-handed pitching.
Snell has also been in fine form this season. The young southpaw is 5-3 with a 3.07 ERA in his first 10 games of the year. He has an excellent strikeout rate north of 26 percent, and he’s kept walks down from where they were last season. Control has always been Snell’s main concern. He still walks too many hitters, but at least it hasn’t ruined him this season.
Snell has shown a pretty severe fly ball lean at the big league level. While that is passable in a spacious park like Tropicana Field, a date with a powerful and right-handed heavy Red Sox lineup isn’t ideal. As is the case with most lefties, Snell has a very wide split. He has been almost unhittable against LHBs (.181 wOBA, 1 home run), while righties have been far more successful (.312 wOBA, 7 home runs).
This will be the third head-to-head clash between Snell and the Sox (good band name, by the way) this season. He’s shut them down thus far to the tune of a 1.38 ERA, allowing just 2 earned runs on 8 hits in 13 innings of action.
We can’t let a sample that small sway us. The Red Sox have been the most potent lineup in the league against left-handed pitching all season long (first in wOBA, wRC+, slugging, home runs, you name it), and it’s just a lineup that doesn’t have many weak spots. While I’m a believer in Snell’s talent, I have a hard time believing he’s going to keep shutting down this talented group of hitters.
It’s a somewhat risky proposition considering we have a pair of solid pitchers going toe-to-toe in a pitcher-friendly park, but I like the over on this game. 7 runs is just too low a total, especially for a game featuring an offense as powerful as the Red Sox. Take the over.
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