AL East supremacy is at stake when the Boston Red Sox visit the Tampa Bay Rays Friday to kick off a three-game series at Tropicana Field.
Boston holds a 1.5-game lead over Tampa for first place in the division but is coming off an ugly 13-1 loss to Toronto yesterday, while the Rays just pasted the Yankees in a 14-0 laugher.
MLB betting lines have installed the Rays as home favorites for tonight's tilt, with two mediocre southpaws taking the mound.
Who will draw first blood in this clash of divisional titans? Get our thoughts in our free MLB picks and predictions for Red Sox vs. Rays on Friday, July 30, with first pitch set for 7:10 p.m. ET.
Red Sox vs Rays game info
• Location: Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, FL
• Date: Friday, July 30, 2021
• Time: 7:10 p.m. ET
• TV: Bally Sports Sun, NESN
Red Sox vs Rays odds
Odds via the Covers Line, an average comprised of odds from multiple sportsbooks.
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Red Sox vs Rays betting preview
Martin Perez (7-6, 4.18 ERA): The veteran southpaw has been consistent for Boston lately: consistently mediocre. Perez has surrendered exactly three earned runs in three straight starts but his last outing, against the Yankees, was the first time he had completed six innings in a game since the beginning of June. Perez has a five-pitch mix but opponents hit nearly everything well — as evidenced by his career-worst 8.1 opponent barrel percentage, 40.3 percent hard-hit rate, plus a .333 BAbip — although he has been much better on the road this season (2.47 ERA).
Josh Fleming (7-5, 4.07 ERA): Fleming has been a solid arm for the Rays this year... when pitching from the comforts of home. The 25-year-old lefty has very staunch home/road splits — a 6.39 ERA and 1.42 WHIP on the road, compared to 1.83 ERA/0.864 WHIP at home — but thankfully for him, today's matchup is at the Trop. Fleming has given up a combined 10 earned runs in his last two outings (8 1-3 innings), but again, both of those were road appearances, as he has allowed just two ER over his last 20 innings pitched at home.
Be sure to monitor the gametime conditions with our MLB weather info.
Red Sox: Rafael Devers 3B (Day-to-Day), Kyle Schwarber OF (Out), Danny Santana OF (Out), Christian Arroyo 1B (Out), Marwin Gonzalez 2B (Out).
Rays: Nelson Cruz DH (Day-to-Day), Nick Anderson RP (Out).
Find our latest MLB injury reports.
Betting trend to know
The Under is 5-2-2 in Boston's last nine road games. Find more MLB betting trends for Red Sox vs. Rays.
If you looked at our injury report and thought "wait... Kyle Schwarber and Nelson Cruz?" Then all we can say is "welcome to the trade deadline!"
We're prefacing this article by saying that by the time this game starts, both clubs could have additional big names added to the roster. Or they could not, but anything is possible.
The bad news is both of these big names might not play tonight, as the mashing Schwarber (who was acquired last night) is still on the IL while the ageless wonder Cruz is questionable after he fouled a pitch off his foot a few days ago.
Now, on to the players that are playing today. After playing 11 straight games against Toronto and New York, Boston is probably happy to be facing a different team for the first time in two weeks. Although this might not be the best time for the Sox to roll into Tampa: Boston went just 6-5 in this recent divisional stretch (including two improbable late comeback wins against the Yankees).
It will try to fend off the Rays, who are coming off a 14-0 beating of those same Yankees, although they needed that win to avoid a sweep — and snap a three-game losing skid. Tampa Bay is also 2-4 against Boston this season, but both of those wins came at home, where Tampa has given up two total runs in its last two games against the Sox.
With these teams evenly matched in almost all aspects — they're fifth and sixth in the MLB in offense, Top 10 in bullpen ERAs, are both stumbling a little bit right now, and have similar starters on the mound — our only option is really to go where the value is.
And tonight, that lies with the Red Sox, who have won 61.2 percent of road games this year and are available at plus money.
PREDICTION: Red Sox (+124)
We mentioned above that both of tonight's starting arms are incredibly unexciting, but it is worth noting that both pitchers are in favorable situations.
Fleming is significantly better at home this season, giving up just two earned runs in his last 20 innings pitched at the Trop, plus Boston is hitting just .200 as a team in three games at St. Petersburg this season — and may not have All-Star Rafael Devers, who missed yesterday's contest with a quad injury.
Perez, on the flip side, loves pitching anywhere but Fenway Park, with a 2.47 ERA, .245 opponent batting average, and just three home runs allowed in eight road outings — against a 5.65 mark, .322 OBA and 10 long balls surrendered in 12 home starts. Add in that the Rays, also potentially without Cruz, hit just .225 as a team against southpaws.
With the Under cashing in seven of Boston's last eight games, and four of Tampa Bay's last five, we're going to back it here in what should be a playoff-atmosphere type of game.
PREDICTION: Under 9 (-110)
Red Sox vs Rays betting card
- Red Sox ML (+124)
- Under 9 (-110)
Picks made on 7/30/2021 at 9:19 a.m. ET
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