Both the Tampa Bay Rays and Seattle Mariners find themselves in the playoff hunt in the American League this season, with the Rays being at the top of the AL East standings and the Mariners still in the Wild Card chase. But the two teams have been very different in terms of their recent performances.
Here, the Rays and Mariners open up their series to start the first week of August with momentum and playoff positioning on the line.
Mariners Hoping For Better Luck
The Seattle Mariners have lost four of their last five games, all to division opponents in the AL West. Seattle lost two games to the Houston Astros before dropping two of three to the lowly Texas Rangers, including two one-run games in a row to close out that series. On Monday, the Mariners hope that they can get back into the win column and start making up the 3.5-game deficit they face in the race for the second Wild Card spot.
Fortunately for the Mariners, they send one of their best arms to the mound to take on Tampa Bay on Monday night. Chris Flexen is 9-5 on the year and has a sub-4.00 ERA, and has looked impressive in recent starts, including against the Los Angeles Angels. Flexen will need to be on his game against a Tampa team that is one of the hottest in baseball entering this series.
Tampa Bay Riding Wave of Momentum
For the Tampa Bay Rays, nothing could have been better than a three-game sweep over the weekend against the Boston Red Sox. By winning all three games of that series, the Rays leapfrogged the Sox for first place in the AL East, which Tampa now leads by a game and a half. Here, the Rays will look to protect their lead over Boston while attempting to improve their superlative 34-20 home record on the season.
The series against the Red Sox showcased Tampa’s ability to beat teams in multiple ways. They won the first two games of the series by scoring a combined 16 runs, with Saturday’s game being a 9-5 slugfest where the Rays pulled away late. But Tampa Bay was also able to win a pitcher’s duel in the series, taking Sunday’s finale 3-2 thanks to a solid outing by Shane McClanahan.
On Monday, the key for the Rays will be pitching once again. Michael Wacha starts for the Rays, who have been inconsistent this year with an ERA near 5.00. While the Mariners aren’t the most explosive team in the league, they are capable of making pitchers pay when they don’t have their best stuff.
Mariners vs. Rays Pick: Mariners +170 to win
Seattle has an advantage in the starting pitching department in this game, and they should have a heightened sense of urgency given their need to make up ground in the Wild Card chase. This game should be tighter than expected, as Flexen should be able to keep Tampa at bay in the early innings. There is some value on the Mariners at nearly 2/1 odds.
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