The Tampa Bay Rays are in the MLB playoffs, while the Philadelphia Phillies are in a battle for one of the final NL Wild-Card spots. Thus, the Phillies need to win Friday’s series opener at Tropicana Field much more than the Rays do.
How to Bet Phillies at Rays MLB Odds & TV Info
- When: Friday, 6:40 PM ET
- Where: Tropicana Field
- Probable pitchers (away/home): Vince Velasquez/Charlie Morton
- TV: MLB Extra Innings
- Stream/gameday audio: ESPN+; https://www.mlb.com/live-stream-games/
- Opening MLB Lines: TBA
Why Bet on Philadelphia? | 2020 MLB Expert Analysis
If the Phillies do make the playoffs, it will be a miracle because they have one of the worst bullpens in MLB history. Washington won a World Series last year despite its bullpen posting a cumulative 5.68 regular-season ERA, the worst in MLB history by a playoff team. Philly entered the final week with a 7.11 bullpen ERA. That’s not only the worst in baseball, that’s the second-worst bullpen ERA in MLB history, behind only the 1930 Phillies, who posted an ERA of 8.01.
While the Phillies’ bullpen underlying numbers aren’t quite as bad as the ERA, that group is dead last in MLB in WPA at minus-6.07. That’s a win and a half worse than the 29th-place Pirates. The Phillies’ bullpen sOPS+ (opponent OPS, compared to other bullpens) is 159, easily the worst in baseball.
Naturally, Brandon Workman blew a save in a huge game earlier this week vs. Washington and the Phillies lost. He recorded only one out, with his season ERA rising to 5.95. As a Phillie, his opponents have hit .377.
Meanwhile, slugger Bryce Harper is having disappointing season. Manager Joe Girardi revealed this week that Harper’s back had previously been an issue this season. Harper got off to a sizzling start this season. In his first 22 games, through August 22, he was hitting .343 and leading the majors with a .714 slugging percentage. Since then, he is hitting below .200. Harper has acknowledged his struggles, saying he’s swinging at too many pitches outside the strike zone and missing too many pitches in it.
It’s scheduled to be Vince Velasquez (1-1) on the mound here. He pitched six innings of one-run ball in Saturday’s 3-1 win over the Blue Jays. Velasquez held the Blue Jays to just two hits while walking three, with the only blemish being a solo homer off the bat of Travis Shaw in the top of the fifth. It was longest start of the season and first win since September 17, 2019.
“A big booster for myself,” Velasquez said. “I definitely needed an outing like this. I got a couple dabs at the end of the game, saying, ‘Hey, man, we needed that out of you.’ I don’t look excited, but I feel that I actually did my part. I kind of started out slow. I’m sure people had their doubts, but it’s all about how you finish.”
Velasquez has a 5.46 ERA, 1.52 WHIP and 40:15 K:BB over 29.2 innings. He has not faced Tampa Bay this year.
Why Bet on Tampa Bay? | 2020 MLB Expert AnalysisThe Rays might not have anything to play for by Friday if they have wrapped up the AL East title (which is likely) and are locked into their playoff seeding. They also are planning ahead for next week, when they will open the playoffs with a best-of-three first-round series, with the Indians or Blue Jays their likely opponent.
First baseman Ji-Man Choi took live at-bats Tuesday at the Rays’ alternate training site but does not appear close to returning. Yandy Diaz (hamstring) did the same, but they have both yet to advance to full-speed running drills and can likely be ruled out for what little remains of the regular season. There’s no certainty that Choi or Diaz will be ready for the first round of the playoffs, either.
“They can still feel it in their hamstrings, they can feel it when they’re running, they can feel it on a take or sometimes on a swing,” manager Kevin Cash said. “So it’s not ideal. We’re definitely not out of the woods.” Cash said they will have to show more progress to be included on the 28-man roster for the opening series.
It’s scheduled to be Charlie Morton on the mound here. He finished third in the 2019 Cy Young race but hasn’t been nearly as good this year, partly due to injuries.
Morton (2-2) allowed one run on five hits over five innings last on Saturday in a win over the Orioles. Morton managed to wriggle out of a bases-loaded jam largely unscathed, drilling Chance Sisco with a two-strike curveball to push a run across, but needed 33 pitches to get through the opening frame. He managed to keep the Orioles off the scoreboard over his final four innings, allowing only five baserunners during that span. His six strikeouts represented his highest single-start total since July 29.
“It’s pretty frustrating to be at  pitches through two innings and then it’s not looking very promising to get through four,” Morton said. “I got into some deep counts, but I’m glad they let me try to finish that fifth inning.”
The 36-year-old veteran righty has recorded an underwhelming 4.64 ERA, 1.36 WHIP and 34/9 K/BB ratio across 33 innings (eight starts). He’s experienced a steep decline in strikeouts. The Rays simply need him healthy entering the postseason so he can be the third piece in a dominant rotation that includes Tyler Glasnow and Blake Snell.Expert PredictionRays 6, Phillies 2
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