As of today, the 2020 Major League Baseball season is exactly a week old. While the first week hasn’t been without its fair share of bumps in the road, to say the least, the season has come off for most teams without a hitch thus far. The Miami Marlins and Philadelphia Phillies are in limbo, but every other team is gearing up for the second weekend of baseball.
The Tampa Bay Rays and Atlanta Braves have split their week between Florida and Georgia. The Rays took care of business by sweeping the Braves in their two-game miniseries in St. Petersburg to begin the week, but the Braves shot back with a win over Tampa Bay in Atlanta on Wednesday night. The two teams will play the last game of their four-game interleague series on Thursday night in the ATL.
We’ll have a battle of young lefties on tap for the finale. Max Fried will get the ball for his second start for the Braves, while Ryan Yarbrough will make his first road appearance of the year for Tampa Bay. The Braves are -144 moneyline favorites at home with an over/under of 8.5 runs.
Fried’s Breakout Campaign
The Braves are among the more exciting young teams in baseball, but fans tend to notice the bats. Ronald Acuna Jr. and Ozzie Albies are a couple of the more promising young hitters in the league, and veterans like Freddie Freeman and Marcell Ozuna make this lineup downright fearsome. However, don’t overlook the quality young arms in the rotation, either.
Max Fried quietly had a solid 2019 season. The 26-year-old lefty went 17-6 across 33 appearances with a 4.02 ERA in his first full season in an MLB rotation. Fried posted a stable 24.6 percent strikeout rate, but arguably the most impressive aspect of his season was his control. After walking more than 14 percent of hitters during his limited 2018 tenure in the big leagues, Fried lowered his walk rate to just 6.7 percent in 2019.
He allowed 21 homers in those 33 games, but the Tampa Bay lineup he’ll be facing tonight does have its fair share of right-handed power.
Fried limited lefties to a wOBA of just .280, but righties posted a .326 mark and accounted for 17 of those 21 long balls. In Hunter Renfroe, Jose Martinez, and Yandy Diaz, the Rays’ lineup boasts some quality right-handed power threats. Those have been Fried’s weak spot in the past.
Yarbrough Starting Full-Time
For most of last season, Ryan Yarbrough came into work in long relief after the Rays deployed an opener. This year, though, he’s getting the chance to serve as a regular starter. Half of Yarbrough’s 28 appearances last season came as a traditional starting pitcher. He put up a solid campaign, finishing with a record of 11-6 with a 4.13 ERA and a 4.24 xFIP.
Yarbrough isn’t a pitcher that racks up a ton of strikeouts. He had a K-rate of 20.8 percent last year, which is about average. He’s a left-hander that tends to limit his walks, but he’s also a guy that will succumb to right-handed power, as is the case with Fried.
Yarbrough has held hitters of either handedness to the same .293 wOBA in his career, but righties have hit 24 of the 33 homers he’s given up.
The Braves’ lineup is loaded with righty power bats, which makes this a pretty terrible spot for a lefty like Yarbrough. Acuna, Albies, Ozuna, Austin Riley, and Adam Duvall give Atlanta a cavalcade of home run-hitting right-handed hitters, while Freeman has fared admirably well against lefties in his career, too. Even the role players, like Dansby Swanson, Johan Camargo, and Tyler Flowers, have done damage against southpaws historically.
Rays at Braves Pick
Even though we have a couple of above-average left-handers pitching tonight, I like the offenses in this game. The Braves and Rays are two of the more potent offenses in all of baseball, and both teams will send righty-heavy lineups out there this evening. It’s also expected to be a classic humid and warm midsummer night in Atlanta, which makes for prime hitting conditions.
In case you couldn’t tell, I’m trying to make the argument for betting the over on this game. While the ball hasn’t been flying as easily early this season as it was in 2019, I still trust the bats in this game to come to life. Neither pitcher is exactly ace-caliber, either, and the 8.5 total on this game looks a little too low.
There’s a little more juice (-115) on the over on 8.5 runs, and with good reason. There’s value to be had in the over, so bet it while you still can.
Taylor Smith has been a staff writer with GamblingSites.org since early 2017. Taylor is primarily a sports writer, though he will occasionally dabble in other things like politics and entertainment betting. His primary specialties are writing about the NBA, Major League Baseball, NFL and domestic and international soccer. Fringe sports like golf and horse racing aren’t exactly his cup of tea, bu ...
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