After finishing up a series in Boston on Thursday, the Cleveland Guardians continue their tour of the AL East when they begin a three-game series with the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday. While the Rays are technically home favorites based on the run line, the moneyline for both teams is set at -110. The game also has an over/under of just 6.5 runs.
The Rays have had a tough time getting going since the all-star break. They have lost series to both the Royals and Orioles, going 2-5 over their last seven games. That stretch has put Tampa 13.5 games back in the AL East, although the Rays are still holding onto the final Wild Card spot in the American League.
Meanwhile, the Guardians are in the middle of a tight race in the AL Central with three teams separated by three games. Cleveland is 4-4 since the all-star break, as the Guardians are struggling to find must traction or positive momentum. Of course, in addition to being two games out in the AL Central, the Guardians are 2.5 games behind the Rays in the Wild Card standings, making this a big series for them.
Former Cy Young winner Shane Bieber will get the ball for the Guardians on Friday. The 27-year-old ace is just 4-6 over his 18 starts, although he’s rocking a 3.55 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP. However, Bieber is experiencing a rough patch, allowing at least three runs in five of his last seven starts and at least five runs in two of his last three starts, contributing to his 5.23 ERA in July.
Meanwhile, the Cleveland lineup is running hot and cold these days, scoring at least seven runs in four of their eight games since the all-star break but also scoring two runs or less twice during their four games in Boston this week. Outside of all-stars Jose Ramirez and Andres Gimenez, the Guardians have struggled to get consistent production this year. However, Josh Naylor, Steven Kwan, and Amed Rosario have started to get it going, giving the Cleveland lineup a little more depth.
The Rays will have Jeffrey Springs on the mound for Friday’s game to help them get back on track. In 12 starts and eight relief outings this season, the lefty is 3-2 with a 2.50 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP. However, Springs allowed eight hits over 4.1 innings against the Royals last week in his return from the IL, so he may not yet be back at the top of his game.
That’s bad news for the Rays, who are scuffling offensively with Mike Zunino, Francisco Mejia, Harold Ramirez, Wander Franco, and Manuel Margot on the IL. After getting shut out on Thursday, the Rays are averaging just 3.1 runs per game since the all-star break. Randy Arozarena and Yandy Diaz are trying to hold the lineup together, but outside help has been hard to come by for Tampa.
In a toss-up game, Tampa’s injury woes could end up being the difference. The Cleveland lineup might be the more potent lineup right now, especially with Springs still coming back from injury. Bet on the Guardians to take the series opener in Tampa on Friday night.
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