Toronto Blue Jays at Tampa Bay Rays
First pitch: 6:10 p.m. ET
Probable pitchers: Robbie Ray (0-1, 1.80 ERA) vs. Brent Honeywell Jr. (0-0, 2.70 ERA)
First of all, the total for tonight’s tilt between American League East rivals is at least a half-run higher from where it should be, given where standard over/under bets at Tropicana Field typically sit.
For instance, last night’s series opener drew a deserved 7 featuring two early-season standouts, one of whom is on the rise (Steven Matz) while the other (Tyler Glasnow) is an established ace right now.
As good as both are, it’s tough to grade them collectively as a full run and a half better than this evening’s matchup, which contains two very respectable starters, albeit one making his second career start.
That would be Honeywell, who has lived quite the story to get to this point. Once a very highly-touted prospect, the 26-year-old missed the prior three seasons (!) due to multiple elbow injuries. As a result, he didn’t get to make his Major League debut until just a couple of weeks ago — in an assignment facing the New York Yankees.
Honeywell flashed right away that he was worth the wait, stifling the Yanks across a pair of perfect innings. He followed that up with a shaky relief outing earlier this week but as Honeywell said afterward, “I didn’t really know how to approach it, honestly.” He was just not comfortable.
Here, though, Honeywell will be in his element, working as the starter. Though it’s only expected to be for two or three frames, I like the pitcher slated to take it from there, Ryan Yarbrough, who has plenty of experience — and success — in this particular role throughout his career.
In fact, Yarbrough serving as the “primary pitcher” after an opener is something he handles with expertise from doing it so often previously. He was slotted back into this role his last time out and responded with five quality innings of one-run ball, this after a concerning couple of starts.
Yarbrough will be back in a position to thrive today — not just because he’s in his familiar role — but also surprisingly related to the opponent. Yarbrough has pitched more innings (51.1) against the Blue Jays than any other team and he’s converted that into a cool 5-1 record alongside a 2.45 ERA and 1.05 WHIP.
Furthermore, while Yarbrough doesn’t throw hard, his skillset will complement Honeywell well as a southpaw that will be ensuing a harder-throwing right-hander.
Then there’s the counterpart, a more traditional starter in Ray. It’s surprising to see his strikeout total so low through two turns, notching only a trey of punch-outs in each of his starts. That won’t continue.
Not only is that K rate inevitably going to rise, but pinpointing such an ascension can begin right here. Tampa is woeful at putting the ball in play when dealing with left-handed pitching. In fact, they struck out once approximately every three at-bats — a trend that’s spilled into 2021.
A known strikeout artist like Ray may potentially feast. He’s already been pretty good out of the gate, having yielded just two runs total to opposing lineups. Now that’s he’s about to pick up the strikeouts, Ray will maintain his usual higher ceiling.
MLB Expert Picks
UNDER 8.5 @ -110 (Click to bet)
MLB Free Picks
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Saturday's MLB Leans
Royals-Tigers Under 8
Brewers-Cubs Under 7.5
Marlins-Giants Under 7
2021 MLB Over/Under Betting Record*: 11-11, -1.27 units
Yesterday’s Result: Marlins-Giants Under 7 (“loss”/horrid bad beat)
*Each bet graded as if it were to win 1 unit