Two of the hottest teams in baseball begin a four-game series Thursday night as the Tampa Bay Rays host the Houston Astros. The Astros took two of three games from the Rays in the Houston Astros are big favorites at -158 over Tampa Bay on Thursday.
Since that series against the Astros last week, the Rays have come home and won five games in a row. They swept the Yankees in a three-game set and then took a pair of games against the Nationals. Tampa is still one game under .500 and 10 games out of a playoff spot, but they playing good baseball at the moment.
Of course, the Astros have been playing good baseball all season, particularly during the month of June. The Astros have won 17 of their last 20 games, including a 12-game winning streak that the Rays snapped last week. Houston continues to hold a comfortable 3.5-game lead atop the AL West and remain tied with the Red Sox for the most wins in the majors.
The Rays will continue their trend of having a relief pitcher start the game and then hand it over to a more traditional starter. Ryne Stanek will start Thursday’s game against the Astros. On the season, he’s posted a 1.99 ERA, including 2.2 scoreless innings in two outings against the Astros last week.
After Stanek, Wilmer Font appears to be next in line to pitch for the Rays. He’s currently pitching to a 6.46 ERA on the season. He also got roughed up against the Astros while pitching with the A’s last month, giving up five runs over 2.2 innings. That being said, Font has been excellent since coming to the Rays. He’s been a whole new pitcher, posting a 1.64 ERA over his first 22 innings in Tampa Bay. Of course, the Astros have scored the most runs in baseball this season. Also, Josh Reddick and Alex Bregman have been scorching hot over the past week.
Need More McCullers
The Astros will send Lance McCullers Jr. to the mound on Thursday as a traditional starter. On the season, McCullers is 8-3 with a 3.82 ERA, as he continues to be a steady mid-rotation starter for Houston. However, it’s been a while since he truly dominated a lineup. He’s allowed at least three runs in four of his last six starts, so he’s far from un-hittable.
McCullers missed the Rays when the teams met last week, so this will be his first time seeing most of Tampa’s hitters. Rookie Jake Bauers could be a challenge for McCullers, as he has an OPS of 1.215 over his last five games, hitting four extra-base hits in that span. Catcher Wilson Ramos and young shortstop Willy Adames are also swinging hot bats at the moment.
Stick with the Champs
The Rays have pitched shutouts in three of their last five games, so it’s tough to go against that. But the Stanek and Font combo may not be able to hold down arguably the best lineup in baseball. McCullers, meanwhile, will at least keep his team in the game and give Houston’s bats a chance to get the Rays. Take the Houston Astros -158 over the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday.