We’ve got an early one here in the series finale between the Baltimore Orioles and the Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays head on up to Cleveland after the game, while the Orioles will enjoy an off day on Thursday.
Teams like the Rays have to understand the importance of these games in a huge favorite role. These are almost must-win types of games when you are a team in the playoff picture. They shouldn’t take these games for granted like we’ve seen other teams in their position do in the past. They are a big favorite up in the -210 range, but deservedly so, even with Michael Wacha on the mound.
Keegan Akin needs an opener. The Orioles left-hander has allowed a .403/.457/.758 slash with a .503 wOBA the second time through the order this season in 70 plate appearances. Not that he’s been great the first time through either with a .373 wOBA, at least as a starter. The Orioles are in a position to let him learn on the job and that is what he seems to be doing.
Akin started out okay, but things have completed fallen apart of late. Since June 11, Akin has an 11.44 ERA with a 6.10 FIP. He’s allowed 36 runs on 47 hits in 28.1 innings of work. He’s given up seven home runs and walked 16 batters against 28 strikeouts. He hasn’t had much luck on the batted ball or sequencing fronts, but you also can’t make your own breaks when you have no command whatsoever. Akin’s Hard Hit% is 49% in that span and his Barrel% is extreme at 14.3%.
You won’t find me praising Michael Wacha all that often, but Wacha does draw a lineup that definitely excels against lefties while struggling against righties. Wacha also has a .298 wOBA against and a 3.90 ERA in 27.2 innings at Tropicana Field. He has a .382 wOBA and a 6.15 ERA in his road starts, where he has allowed eight homers in just 33.2 innings.
Wacha has pitched a lot better at home. The caliber of competition has helped a bit, but he’s also facing a bad offense in this start as well. The Orioles are a top-five offense against lefties, but the 30th-ranked offense by wOBA against righties.
It can be tough to lay run line prices with a total of 8, but I really don’t see the Rays having too much of a problem in this game. Wacha’s full-season numbers and perception are keeping this line lower for us. No, he’s not a very good pitcher, but he is decidedly better at home and he gets a really favorable matchup here. The Rays also have the better bullpen, as we know.
With an early start, we’ll have to jump on this one quickly, but it looks like the Rays by multiple runs today is a pick.