March Madness and the NBA Playoffs delayed the start of baseball season here at SBL but after a little rest following a solid run through the NBA postseason, we’re ready to offer up some advice on the bases.
I came out backing Tampa Bay early and often this season, which paid off in April and May. June has been a different story, especially of late. The Rays haven’t really been healthy since the start of last month but all the names shifting in and out of the lineup are just starting to wear on the roster. Tampa has lost five out of its last seven, headed into another road series beginning tonight in Minnesota.
The Twins have lost five of their last eight and are dealing with injuries of their own to Byron Buxton, Marwin Gonzalez, Jonathan Schoop, and Mitch Garver. Of the four, Garver is the most likely to return tonight, followed by Schoop. The latter two won’t be in the lineup this week.
But tonight is about the starting pitching matchup, which I believe has us in store for a low-scoring game at Target Field. Blake Snell is set to face Kyle Gibson with a surprisingly high total of 9.5.
Snell has been inconsistent this season, in terms of the runs he has allowed. He was just better than average in the two seasons prior to winning the Cy Young in 2018 and, according to ERA at least, he’s average again this season.
I believe he’s still elite because of his strikeout-to-walk numbers. He’s actually fanning 12 batters per nine innings this season, up from 11 last season, and his walks have stayed constant (just over 3.0). What pitcher with those kind of peripherals ends the season with a league-average ERA? Snell is going to rip off a couple of dominant months sooner or later and what better time to start after getting one out at Yankee Stadium six days ago? While others may feel shaky about backing Snell, I urge you to remain steadfast in your belief of him as one of the game’s best pitchers.
Kyle Gibson wasn’t good the last time out either but he was up against a hot Boston lineup and, more importantly, he’s been excellent on the whole this season. He faced Tampa Bay on the first day of this month and went five innings, giving up one unearned run. Yandy Diaz is one of Tampa Bay’s main offensive threats, alongside Austin Meadows, Tommy Pham, Brandon Lowe, and Ji-Man Choi. That’s a lot of weapons to contend with and in a way, I’d like to just back Tampa Bay.
One concern with that, and with playing the under, is that both Diego Castillo and Jose Alvarado are unavailable out of the Rays’ bullpen. Minnesota doesn’t have a good relief corps either. Thing is, even average relievers are as good as some of the best starters, in terms of ERA. A couple of shops are offering 9.5, rather than a 9.0-flat with juice on the over.
This game feels like a first-to-four or first-to-five type of matchup so I’m happy to get the hook and play it under 9.5, even with two capable offenses and shaky bullpens. You’ve got to give a little to get a little.
Play: Under 9.5
Austin Meadows • Blake Snell • Jorge Polanco • Kyle Gibson • Minnesota Twins • Tampa Bay Rays