With just a half a game lead in the NL East, the (19-14) Atlanta Braves head out to Florida for a quick two-game series against the (15-17) Tampa Bay Rays (Game 1, Today, Tuesday @ 7:10 PM ET; Game 2, Wednesday @ 7:10 PM ET), who could use a series win themselves.
The Rays are currently in fourth place, nine games back of the Boston Red Sox for the lead in the AL East. In the NL East, the Braves are in first but just barely. Atlanta has just a half game lead over the second place Philadelphia Phillies and just a two game lead over the fourth place Washington Nationals. While the Rays may already be out of the race to win their division, the Braves are very much in the thick of the things. Fortunately for Atlanta, they have a better record on the road than at home.
The series in Tampa starts out a seven-game road trip for the Braves, who are 11-7 on the road and just 8-7 at home. On their most recent road trip, the Braves went 7-3. The Rays meanwhile opened the season with a rough start but have started to play better as of late. Tampa Bay is 11-4 over their last 15 and is coming off a series win against the Toronto Blue Jays most recently.
Game 1: (ATL) Sean Newcomb vs (TB) Blake Snell
The 24-year-old Sean Newcomb has been having a solid sophomore season in the big leagues and most recently, is coming off the best start of his career. Newcomb struck out eight and allowed just two hits in seven shut-out innings against the rival New York Mets. On the season, Newcomb is 2-1 with a 3.38 ERA. Most impressive however is Newcomb’s strikeout rate: the young lefty has struck out 42 batters in just 34.2 innings.
His counterpart is another young pitcher off to a strong start, in third year starter, Blake Snell. The 25-year-old Snell was drafted in the first round in 2011 by Tampa Bay and made his debut with the organization five years later. He finished his rookie season with a 3.54 ERA, followed up by a 4.04 ERA in his second year in the bigs. So far in 2018, he is off to his best start and is on pace to finish with his best year yet. Snell has a 4-1 record with just a 2.55 ERA in seven starts. Snell has surrendered just 12 walks and has 45 strikeouts in 42.1 innings pitched. He is also allowing his opponents to bat just .190 against him.
Newcomb has never faced the Rays and Snell has never faced the Braves in their young careers. Only Denard Span for the Rays, has any at bats against Newcomb among the entire Tampa Bay lineup. Conversely, only Kurt Suzuki and Jose Bautista have had at bats against Snell. For the most part, this is going to be the first time that many of these batters are seeing these two young pitchers.
Game 2: (ATL) Julio Tehran vs (TB) TBA
Julio Tehran struggled to open the season, giving up nine earned runs in his first eight innings pitched against the Phillies and Nationals. But following those starts, it was like Tehran flipped a switch and he has been lights out ever since. Tehran has given up three or less runs in each of his last five starts and has allowed no more than six hits in any of those outings as well. Since giving up four home runs in those first eight innings, Tehran has only surrendered two in his last 29. Tehran opened the season with a 6.35 ERA but thanks to his recent rebound, the 27-year-old righty has gotten that down to 3.65.
It is unknown who will be opposing Tehran at the time of writing this preview, as Tampa Bay has not chosen a starter for Game 2.
Atlanta Braves at Tampa Bay Rays Picks & Betting Predictions for this Preview
The Braves, 6-4 in their last 10, have played well enough to keep their divisional lead, at least for the time being. The Phillies, Mets and Nationals are all hot on their tail however and any ground Atlanta can gain from this series will help keep them one step ahead of their opponents.
Despite their record however, the Rays won’t be an easy opponent especially at home. Tampa Bay is 8-8 at Tropicana Field, but are 6-4 in their last 10. Much like the Braves, the Rays have played well recently. Unfortunately for Tampa Bay, they just so happen to be in the same division as two of the best and hottest teams in baseball.
From this point forward, the Rays are already in a position where they must win and this series is no exception. With their recent rise in the level of play, the Rays at the very least, will be competitive in their division and give themselves a realistic chance to win a wildcard spot. It is still early but this series could very well make the difference for one of these teams and their playoff hopes.
Here are our preview’s Atlanta Braves at Tampa Bay Rays Game 1 betting predictions with odds from the bookies that are best to bet USA sports:
- The Rays are favored at home in Game 1 by 1.5 runs and our pick is to bet on Tampa Bay -1.5 @ top odds of +166 with Bookmaker.
- As for the total, look for the over on 7.5. Tampa Bay has a strong offensive core with six guys hitting at a clip of at least 280. The Braves might have the strongest overall offensive lineup in baseball as they boast eight players with a batting average above .280 and an extremely impressive six who are hitting .300 or better. Of those six, only one has less than 46 at bats on the season. Pick over 7.5 @ +100 (evens) with 5Dimes, Bookmaker or BetOnline.
As for the series, expect the two teams to split. Atlanta has an advantage when it comes to their bullpen and with Tampa Bay yet to announce their starter, it could come down to the other pitchers in the game. Craig Kimbrel just set a record as the youngest closer to reach 200 saves. If the game is close and the Braves take a lead late, they will have no trouble keeping it with Kimbrel on the mound.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB, NBA & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.