The Tampa Bay Rays look to take another step towards a playoff berth when they travel to the West Coast to start a three-game series with the Los Angeles Angels on Friday. Tampa Bay has dropped two straight coming into this one, while the Angels have a four-game losing streak entering the series.
With its losses, Tampa Bay has seen its lead for the second Wild Card spot in the American League shrink to just a half-game over the Cleveland Indians. The Rays had been in the top spot in the Wild Card chase prior to dropping two straight but now trail Oakland by a half-game. The Rays’ chances at the American League East title appear to be over, as they trail the first-place Yankees by 10 games. The Angels are just playing out the schedule, as they’re 19.5 games behind the Rays for the Wild Card and 27.5 games behind Houston in the American League West.
The moneyline for this contest has the Tampa Bay Rays -135 and the Los Angeles Angels +125. The over/under for the game has been set at 8.
Trying To Get Right
The Rays are hitting a cold spell at the absolute worst time of the season, with both the Athletics and Indians winning at least three in a row heading into the weekend. Veteran right-hander Charlie Morton will make his 31st start of the season in the opener, looking to win his second straight decision for the first time since early July. Morton has been inconsistent over the last two months and has given up at least three earned runs in four of his last six starts. On the season, Morton is 14-6 with a 3.11 ERA.
Tampa Bay’s current two-game losing skid came after the Rays had won 11 of 12, so there’s not a lot of panic, but there’s also very little margin for error at this time of year. The offense has continued to produce over the last two losses, scoring a total of 13 runs in the setbacks. First baseman Ji-Man Choi has been playing well over the last couple of games, reaching base a team-record 10 straight times with seven walks and three hits, including two home runs.
The Angels got the news on Thursday that Shohei Ohtani will miss the rest of the season due to knee surgery. Ohtani was still trying to work back to resuming pitching in 2020, and he’s still hopeful for that after recovering from the surgery. Ohtani may be out, but the Angels may get the return of Mike Trout to the lineup for this series. Trout hasn’t played for nearly a week with a toe injury, but he’s planning to give it a go Friday. Trout, the AL MVP favorite, leads the team with 45 home runs, 104 RBI and a .291 batting average.
Los Angeles will send Andrew Heaney to the mound for the start on Friday. The left-hander is 4-4 on the season in 15 starts, notching a 4.30 ERA to go with 100 strikeouts and 25 walks. Heaney has won three of his last four decisions, including a victory over the White Sox in his last outing in which he went six innings and allowed six hits and four earned runs. Heaney got a no-decision when he faced Tampa Bay earlier this season, going five innings and allowing just two hits and one earned run.
Rays Take Opener
Tampa Bay knows it can’t afford any more slipups, especially against an Angels team that has no motivation other than to play a spoiler role. The Rays are hoping the last two games were just a blip on their drive for a Wild Card spot. It says here that it was, as I’m going with Tampa Bay -135 to get the win Friday.