Rays vs Astros Picks and Predictions: Rays of Light

The Rays have everything to play for, and with an edge on the mound and several stars potentially resting for the basically-clinched Astros, could an upset be in the works? Find out with our MLB betting picks.

Last Updated: Sep 30, 2022 2:13 PM ET Read Time: 4 min
Drew Rasmussen Tampa Bay Rays MLB picks
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The Houston Astros and Tampa Bay Rays meet for a three-game series beginning tonight

The Rays can clinch a playoff spot with a win after some things went their way last night. They come into tonight on a 3-7 slide in their previous 10 games, including a loss to the Cleveland Guardians yesterday. The Astros have virtually clinched the American League No. 1 seed, and have won three of their last four.

Who will grab the victory in this one? Find out our MLB picks and predictions for Houston Astros vs. Tampa Bay Rays on Friday, September 30.

Rays vs Astros best odds

Rays vs Astros picks and predictions

Another late-season game with another late-season "spot" play. How can you not like the Rays here? They’re in the playoffs with one win, and their opponent has virtually nothing to play for. That situational aspect alone naturally pushes you to one side. However, there's much more to like here with the Rays than just that.

Framber Valdez has managed to keep an impressive ERA when the metrics haven't precisely aligned. An xERA that's an entire run higher than his actual ERA is good evidence. Along with that are a hard-hit rate and average exit velocity set near the bottom of the league. 

Valdez makes his hay by being one of the best groundball pitchers in the league. It's mind-blowing when you see a player with a groundball rate approaching 70%, but that's precisely what Valdez has done this season. The handicap for him is generally pretty simple: Does the team he's facing hit a lot of groundballs? If the answer is yes, then he will dominate. If it's no, then things get a bit murky. 

The Rays are an interesting case in this respect. Throughout the majority of the season, they've hit near the league average of groundballs. However, over the last month, there's been a change. I'm not sure what adjustment has been made, but they've managed to hit the second-fewest groundballs in the league in that time. They'll give Valdez some problems if they continue to bat with this "new-wave" approach. 

As far as Drew Rasmussen goes, I'm not crazy about this matchup, but I still think he can fare fine. Tampa comes into this series with a bullpen in good shape, so the hook could be short for him. He saw Houston in August and gave up four earned runs through six innings. He's yet to give up more than four runs against the same team more than once this season. It's hard to envision that happening here against a team just ready for the playoffs. I expect Rasmussen to lean on a fastball that's produced a -11 run value this season and be dominant.

My projections for this one like the Rays. They like them a ton, actually. They have them priced as slight favorites, which is a massive edge given their current price. I expect Tampa's urgency to solidify their playoff position to help them get the job done here. I believe the advantage on the mound is clear as well. What's not to like? Especially at the current price.

My best bet: Rays moneyline (+150 at BetMGM)

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Rays vs Astros moneyline analysis

We're backing Tampa here, as we talked about above. I can't get past a price this attractive when a pitching matchup is— at best— even while the two teams are playing for different things. 

The Astros are unlikely to send out a typical lineup. Big bat Yordan Alvarez has already sat multiple times post-clinching and likely will be out today. There's also been talk of resting others, like veteran Jose Altuve. Houston's focus is on ensuring every key player is well-rested and healthy. The focus for Tampa is ensuring they win one more game to secure a playoff spot. That's a huge difference in mentality and part of what will open up value.

Before we wrap up this analysis, let's note a few trends:

  • First, the Astros are 5-12 in their last 17 meetings in Tampa Bay.
  • The Rays are 11-2 in their last 13 after scoring two or fewer runs in their previous game. 

Both the value and right side align with the Rays here. Their late-season struggles have opened up value tonight. They have an edge in pitching and a massive advantage in the situational aspect of the game. Grab them at this price.

Rays vs Astros Over/Under analysis

I don't have a significant handle on this number and won't take a side because of it. However, if Valdez is pulled early, you may see some bullpen arms from the Astros that you don't see often. In that case, things will tilt heavily towards the Over. However, the trends suggest that the Under is the right side:

The Under is 4-0 in the Astros' last four games vs. a team with a winning record, and 22-8 in the last 32 meetings between these two teams, including 27-8 in the previous 37 in Tampa.

You see my dilemma? This total is very much set on a knife's edge. Get an unfocused Valdez on the mound, and this one may go well Over. But if you don't, we may see only three or four runs. So, if you want action here, the best thing to do is to look live. If Valdez is pulled quickly or looks to be missing his spots, then attack the Over. Otherwise, I think the best decision is to stay away altogether. 

Rays vs Astros trend to know

The Astros are 5-12 in their last 17 meetings in Tampa. Find more MLB betting trends for Rays vs. Astros

Rays vs Astros game info

Location: Minute Maid Park, Houston, TX
Date: Friday, September 30, 2022
First pitch: 8:10 p.m. ET
TV: Bally Sports Sun, AT&T SportsNet Southwest

Starting pitchers

Drew Rasmussen (10-7, 2.85 ERA): Valdez has been the absolute groundball king this season, once again. He has a groundball rate that hangs near 70%, which is the best in the league. Valdez relies heavily on two pitches in the sinker and curveball. 

September has been another excellent month for Valdez. He's posted an even 3.0 ERA in an even three starts. His last one was his worst of the three when he went five innings and gave up four earned runs against the Orioles.

Framber Valdez (16-5, 2.69 ERA): Rasmussen dropped a little bit from his potential Cy Young pace, but he's still been quite good for the Rays this season. His most impressive attribute is how he balances an elite chase rate without walking almost anyone. In addition to that, he has one of the highest fastball velocities in baseball.

In three September starts, Rasmussen has posted a 3.63 ERA. He's done that against some big bats, including the Astros and Blue Jays. His last start came against those Jays, and he posted a one-run, six-inning start.

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