The Tampa Bay Rays went into this pivotal three-game set against Boston trailing the Red Sox by 1.5 games for the AL East lead.
After taking the first two games of this series, the Rays are now in first place and can put a little distance between them and the Sox — and send an emphatic message — by completing the sweep on Sunday Night Baseball.
MLB betting lines have the Rays as sizeable home favorites to bring out the brooms, with Tampa sending an electric rookie to the mound while Boston counters with a struggling arm.
Here are our best free MLB picks and predictions for Red Sox vs. Rays on Sunday, August 1, with first pitch set for 7:08 p.m. ET
Red Sox vs Rays game info
• Location: Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, FL
• Date: Sunday, August 1, 2021
• Time: 7:08 p.m. ET
• TV: ESPN
Red Sox vs Rays odds
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Red Sox vs Rays betting preview
Nick Pivetta (8-4, 4.51 ERA): The veteran righty is having the best year of his career in 2021, but he's hit a rough patch lately. Pivetta has coughed up exactly four earned runs (and one homer) in each of his last three starts — while also seeing his strikeout totals drop — and has actually given up three or more earned runs in five of his last seven outings. The one positive for Pivetta is that he has pitched well against the Rays this year, throwing 11 2-3 shutout innings with 12 strikeouts.
Shane McClanahan (4-4, 3.93 ERA): The 2018 first-round pick has been electric in his maiden MLB season, combining a high-90s fastball with a hard (mid-90s) slider, plus a curveball and changeup. The lefty generates a lot of strikeouts as well (10.65 K/9), but when opponents do make contact it can be trouble, as McClanahan has a .324 BAbip. He's pitched at least five innings in six of his last seven outings and has given up more than three earned runs just one since mid-May.
Be sure to monitor the gametime conditions with our MLB weather info.
Red Sox: Kyle Schwarber OF (Out), Danny Santana OF (Out), Marwin Gonzalez 2B (Out), Christian Arroyo 3B (Out).
Rays: Pete Fairbanks RP (Out), Jeffrey Springs RP (Out), Nick Anderson RP (Out).
Find our latest MLB injury reports.
Betting trend to know
The Rays are 6-1 in their last seven games after scoring 5+ runs the previous game. Find more MLB betting trends for Red Sox vs. Rays.
Tampa Bay has taken the first two games of this series, making it four straight wins in the head-to-head matchup — all at the Trop. The wins have pushed the Rays into first in the AL East, and they have done so by outslugging the Sox.
The Rays have punched out 19 hits, including five home runs, and scored 16 runs through the first two games. They have done most of their damage against Boston's starters, logging 12 of the runs against Martin Perez and Nate Eovaldi, and are looking to keep the good times rolling against Nick Pivetta.
Tampa has struggled in two games against the Boston righty this year, managing just four hits and zero runs in 11 2-3 innings, but Pivetta has hit a bit of a rough patch lately, giving up 32 hits and 18 earned runs in 26 2-3 innings over his last five starts. Plus, those numbers are boosted by an outlier start where he went seven innings and yielded just two hits and zero runs.
In addition to giving up a lot of hits, Pivetta's strikeout totals have also dropped, meaning he may not be able to exploit Tampa's biggest weakness (it leads the Majors in Ks).
On the flip side, the entirety of Boston's eight runs this weekend has come off the previous two Tampa southpaw starters, but Shane McClanahan is a slightly different beast. Ryan Yarbrough tops out around 89 mph on his fastball and Josh Fleming sits around 91 mph — velocities that McClanahan can beat with his slider. The rookie's fourseamer can touch triple digits, and his 10.69 K/9 is significantly higher than what the BoSox have faced thus far.
McClanahan has been pitching well lately too, as he has given up more than five hits just once in his last six outings, so we're not expecting Boston to put up a big number on him. After the electric lefty, Tampa will trot out its stable of fireballing relievers, which has held Boston to six hits, zero runs, and logged 12 strikeouts in eight innings.
Boston has found life tough at the Trop this season and with a major pitching advantage, we don't see it stopping tonight. Give us the Rays on the runline tonight as they emphatically complete the sweep.
PREDICTION: Rays -1.5 (+122)
The Rays have cashed the Over in three straight games and have done so almost singlehandedly, scoring 14, seven, and nine runs in those games. Before this outburst, they had gone 1-5 O/U in the six games prior as the pitching staff has held foes to four runs or fewer in six of the last seven contests.
Boston, meanwhile, has also seen three straight Overs hit — but due to giving up a combined 29 runs in those games — but also had gone Under-heavy (1-10-1 O/U) prior to that.
So with tonight's total of 8.5, we're likely going to need Tampa to again do the majority of the heavy lifting... and we think they're up to the task.
Pivetta's recent high-hit/low-strikeout trend does not seem like a good formula against the league's fourth-highest scoring offense. And while McClanahan should produce a better effort than Tampa's first two starters, it wouldn't be shocking to see the Sox (fifth in the MLB in runs per game) to scratch a couple across tonight.
It'll be tight, but we see this just squeaking across the number on Sunday Night Baseball.
PREDICTION: Over 8.5 (-120)
Red Sox vs Rays betting card
- Rays -1.5 (+122)
- Over 8.5 (-120)
Picks made on 8/1/2021 at 11:50 a.m. ET
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