Free Picks: Tampa Bay Rays vs Washington Nationals

Rays vs Nationals Week 14
Tampa Bay Rays vs Washington Nationals, MLB, Nationals Park

The Tampa Bay Rays (47-32) will face the Washington Nationals (37-38) to open up a two-game set on Tuesday, when both teams are scrapping to take over the leads in their respective divisions. Tampa Bay is only a half-game out of first in the American League East, thanks to a 4-6 stretch lately. Washington has won seven of 10, which was good enough to move them into second in the National League East despite their sub-.500 record. These teams are 1-1 against each other this season with a run differential of zero.

Recent mediocrity makes Rays an unexpected value play

If you’ve bet against the Rays this season, you’ve lost quite a bit more than you’ve won. Tampa Bay is 15 games over .500, with one of the best records in baseball, coming off its AL pennant a season ago. They’re considered one of baseball’s brainiest operations — yet also one of the thriftiest — and the results pretty much speak for themselves.

The Rays have had a few more downs than ups lately, though. Not only did they lose ace Tyler Glasnow to the 60-day injured list with a partially torn elbow ligament, but the Rays have lost six of their past 10 games — dragging them just outside first place in their division. 

As such, oddsmakers have recalibrated their current feelings for the Rays, who are slim -116 money line favorites (10Bet) among Tuesday’s MLB picks. The Nationals sit back as -105 money line underdogs (10Bet), which is in recognition of a nice little run they’re on recently.

Washington has won seven of its past 10 games, with all of those wins coming against NL East divisional foes to help launch the Nationals into second in the standings. They’ve won in high-scoring environments (a 13-12 win over the Phillies) and in low-scoring environments (a 1-0 win over the Mets). The team that went on a magical title run in 2019 still has a long way to go to compete this October, but lately they’re showing flashes of how they can get there.

Of course, you can look at this one of two ways: are the supposed juggernaut Rays really deserving of this line; or can bettors take advantage of a fluky funk and enjoy better value with the Rays than usual?

We think the latter, and here’s why: even with their 4-6 record of late, the Rays have still won their past two series (against the Angels and the AL East-leading Red Sox). Also, they’ve got lefty Rich Hill on the mound, who was astoundingly good last month — earning “Pitcher of the Month” honors in May with a 0.78 ERA — and is having a stellar season overall. In his past seven starts, the 41-year-old is 4-1 with a 2.79 ERA.

The Nationals are expected to counter with righty Joe Ross, though as of Monday night that move had not been confirmed (it’s his turn to throw). Ross has been a rollercoaster of a pitcher lately: In his past six starts, he has allowed four-plus runs three times and zero runs three times. That’s a difficult guy to put your money behind.

So we’re not going to advise you to do that. Our BetPicks prediction is that the Rays will prove they’re better than their recent results show, and this -116 money line value is worth every penny. 

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  • Tampa Bay is 6-4 on the money line in its past 10
  • The OVER has cashed in six of the Rays’ past 10 games
  • Washington is 4-6 on the money line in its past 10
  • The UNDER has cashed in six of the Nationals’ past 10 games

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Jordan Horrobin is a freelance sports journalist based in Toronto, Ontario, who enjoys sports-related research and telling engaging stories. His work can also be found at Sportsnet, Forbes and elsewhere. Though he abandoned most of his team-specific fandoms in the interest of unbiased analysis, Jordan roots hard for his fantasy football/hockey teams (and he's a complete homer for all things Ohio University).