We’re living in a world of empty stadiums, cardboard cutout fans, and fabricated crowd noise. The novel coronavirus has the entire world engaged in behaviors that, at first glance, resemble a bizarre alternate reality. It is certainly within reason to think that, inside this surreal landscape, the Rays and Braves could be the two teams facing off in the World Series this October. Perhaps they’ll be locked in a grudge match Game 7 on Halloween night while a zombie apocalypse commences on the streets of Atlanta. Below we’ll be highlighting this Rays vs Braves match.
Logic leads us to a Yankees/ Dodgers World Series, but where has logic gotten us so far in 2020? The Rays (+1400) and Braves (+1800) are both in the top six when discussing the betting odds to win the World Series this season.
Gritty Tampa Team Consistently & Quietly Competes for the Title
Despite having no superstars on the roster, the Rays always seem to be sniffing around the postseason hunt, ready to snipe a favored team. Last season, they won 96 games, scraping and clawing themselves into a Wild Card playoff game with the Oakland A’s, whom they promptly rolled 5-1 behind the power of four home runs (two by 3B Yandy Diaz) and SP Charlie Morton’s steady arm. Tampa went on to lose to the Houston Astros in five games in the ALDS, but they went down swinging.
Tampa Bay Rays’ Lineup
If healthy enough, the Rays’ top three starting pitchers are all capable of competing for the Cy Young Award this season. SP Charlie Morton got beat up on Opening Day and SP Blake Snell (2018 Cy Young winner) is out at least one month with an elbow injury, but these are just bumps in the road. SP Tyler Glasnow and the Tampa Bay bullpen combined to strike out 19 Atlanta Braves in a 14-5 victory on July 27th. “The next man up” philosophy is alive and well in Tampa Bay and the relief pitching is truly solid.
2019 All-Star LF Austin Meadows is still recovering from COVID-19, but he may return for this game vs. the Braves. The Rays have decent production throughout the entirety of their lineup, led by 2019 All-Star 2B Brandon Lowe, who is tearing it up so far this season. SS Willy Adames and C Mike Zunino are hot out of the gates, and RF Hunter Renfroe hit his first two homers as a Ray in the 14-5 romp of the Braves the other day. The Rays are relatively healthy and ready to be a force again in 2020.
Depleted Braves Squad Strives for Playoff Push
Bad news first. The Atlanta Braves roster has taken major hits from player opt-outs and injuries, but they are still somehow in the discussion to win the NL East and make some noise in the postseason. SP Felix Hernandez and LF Nick Markakis both opted out of playing this year. SP Cole Hamels is on the 60-day IL with a triceps injury, and All-Star closer Will Smith is just returning to the team after clearing the league’s COVID-19 protocols. Backup closer Mark Melancon is day-to-day with a back issue. Both viable options at catcher, Travis d’Arnaud and Tyler Flowers, are out with the coronavirus…
Atlanta Braves’ Lineup
The good news is that 4-time All-Star 1B Freddie Freeman is back in action, after “praying for his life” during his battle with COVID-19. RF Ronald Acuña Jr. is a candidate to win MVP, he´s that good. LF Marcell Ozuna is working to find his 2017 form (.312/37/124) and 2B Ozzie Albies is a budding powerhouse.
Atlanta ace SP Mike Soroka is hoping to maintain his position as a Cy Young Award candidate and is formidable. He pitched six scoreless innings in a 1-0 Opening Day loss to Jacob deGrom and the Mets, and he’s looking to notch his first win of the year in Atlanta against the Rays on the back end of a home-and-home at Truist Park on July 29th.
Behind Soroka, we find an intriguing starting rotation that includes SP Mike Foltynewicz, SP Max Fried, and SP Sean Newcomb. Foltynewicz hopes to repeat the success he experienced in his career-best 2018 season (13-10 with a 2.85 ERA and 202 strikeouts). Fried needs to realize his potential, and Newcomb is trying to show why he belongs in the rotation. There is a great deal of upside to this Braves team, but a lot has to go right for them to finish on top.
Tampa Bay Rays vs Atlanta Braves Head-to-Head
The all-time series between these two teams stands at 21-12, Braves out in front. However, the most recent contests on July 27th and 28th resulted in Atlanta getting pounded 14-5 and losing 5-2, respectively. The Rays are much healthier than the Braves and are firing on all cylinders right now.
Tampa’s ace SP Charlie Morton was originally drafted by the Braves in the 3rd round of the 2002 draft. The Braves were the first team to give up on Morton when they traded him to Pittsburgh in a package deal for OF Nate McLouth. He’d love nothing more than to stick it them for his first victory of the year.
In a marquee pitching duel between Morton and Soroka, the expectation is that we’ll see a low-scoring game with the road team having a good chance at emerging victorious. The Rays might spoil the Braves 2020 home opener with no tomahawk-chopping fans in attendance.
The Rays +1.5 runs, on the hot streak they’re on, is a solid wager. If I were a betting man, I’d consider the value of a parlay which includes the Rays +1.5 and the Under for total runs scored. If someone bets $50 on that pretty parlay and wins, they get their $50 back AND $100 on top of that.
Not a bad day at the office.
Rays vs Braves BetUS Free MLB Parlay Pick:
Rays +1.5 (-175)
Under 8.5 Total Runs (-110)