Boston Red Sox vs. Tampa Bay Rays Game 1 Pick
Boston Red Sox (93-70) vs. Tampa Bay Rays (100-62)
When: 8:08 p.m., Thursday, October 7
Where: Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, Fla.
Moneyline: BOS +135/TB -160 (Find Dimelines >>>)
Runline: Red Sox +1.5/Rays -1.5
Starting Pitchers: Eduardo Rodriguez (13-8, 4.74 ERA, 1.39 WHIP) vs. Shane McClanahan (10-6, 3.43 ERA, 1.27 WHIP)
Struggles Down South
It’s no secret that this hasn’t been the enjoyable trip to Florida that it used to be for Boston long ago, as the Rays have long since proven themselves to be one of the most well-run teams in the game. But the Red Sox are supposed to be better than this, as they’ve managed to win just two of their past nine trips to Tampa Bay and are just 4-11 in the past 15 matchups between the teams overall.
That was the biggest reason why the Red Sox saw their lead in the AL East evaporate, and it’s the main reason why Tampa Bay is the big favorite to win this series. The Red Sox might have a bit of an edge in crowd support, as the Rays still struggle to make a dent in the Tampa Bay sports landscape, but that likely won’t be enough to get them through this matchup.
So far, Alex Cora has been pretty effective when managing in the playoffs. He hasn’t yet lost a playoff series as a manager, having won the World Series in 2018 and following that up by besting the Yankees in the wild card game to start the week. Counting the wild card game, the Red Sox are now 9-1 in their past 10 playoff games and have gone 7-1 in their past eight playoff games on the road.
But the Rays have proven to be pretty difficult to handle in their own right in the postseason, having won five of their past six playoff games at Tropicana Field. The Rays didn’t get a true home field advantage last year after the first round because of pandemic rules, but they did get to play two games at home with Toronto and won them both. The last time the Rays lost a playoff game was 2013, when the Red Sox edged them to move on in the ALDS. That Boston team went on to win the World Series after earning MLB’s best record; this time, the roles are reversed, with the Rays sitting No. 1 in the American League.
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Bring on the Bats
Eduardo Rodriguez certainly isn’t long on playoff experience, nor has he had a lot of success against the Rays’ offense. In his one postseason start, he pitched well against the Dodgers for five innings, but eventually gave up four runs in the sixth inning once the Dodgers got comfortable enough with his pitches. Tampa Bay shouldn’t need that much of an adjustment, as the Rays have seen Rodriguez plenty and proven that they can hit him. Plus, Rodriguez isn’t going on full uninterrupted rest in this start. With Boston desperate to avoid a playoff with Toronto, the Red Sox had to turn to Rodriguez in relief on Sunday against the Nationals, giving him an inning of work after he started on Friday.
While Boston throws a starter who isn’t on normal rest, the Red Sox should be able to mitigate that damage with their bats. The Red Sox averaged just under 5.5 runs per game in 19 games against the Rays during the regular season, and they should be able to hit here.
- The Red Sox are 9-1 in their past 10 playoff games.
- The Red Sox are 9-2 in their past 11 games following a win.
- The Rays are 4-0 in their past four against a left-handed starter.
- The Rays are 4-1 in their past five series openers.
- The under is 6-0 in the Red Sox’s past six against a left-handed starter.
- The under is 5-1 in the Red Sox’s past six road games.
- The under is 7-1 in the Rays’ past eight against a team above .500.
- The under is 6-1 in the Rays’ past seven overall.
- The Rays have won seven of the past nine in St. Petersburg.
- The over is 24-10-2 in the past 36 meetings.
Inside the Rays’ dome, there’s no worries about weather.
The Rays have shown they have the upper hand in this matchup and will have no fear of Rodriguez, who might struggle to get through five innings. These teams know each other well and shouldn’t have any problems hitting against each other in a game I expect will be fairly high scoring.
Give me Tampa Bay to open the ALDS with a win.