Back Home Underdog Rays vs. Slumping Indians

Rainman M.

Friday, August 11, 2017 1:52 PM UTC

Friday, Aug. 11, 2017 1:52 PM UTC

The Cleveland Indians are a popular pick to rebound against the Rays at Tropicana Field on Friday night. But Tampa Bay has significant value as a home underdog.

The Cleveland Indians have dropped 4 out of their last 5 but still maintain a slim lead in the AL Central. Offensively, they have struggled in scoring 1 or 2 runs in each of their last 7 games. On Thursday, the Rays broke a streak of 5 straight games scoring 2 or fewer runs. Corey Dickerson ended an 0-for-21 slump by launching a three-run home run to propel the Rays to a 4-1 victory over the Tribe. A late-inning victory can provide a spark plug for a team, and the Rays will look to build off of that win Friday against Indians pitcher Carlos Carrasco. In 76 career at-bats against Carrasco, current Rays batters are hitting just .211 with 4 extra-base hits.


Probable Pitchers

Jacob Faria (5-2 2.81 ERA) starts for Tampa Bay.  His rookie campaign has been up-and-down. He started in June with a 2.23 ERA and 7:1 K:BB ratio. His most effective pitch has been his fastball, which averages a modest 92 mph but enjoys good rising action. Its late explosion deceives hitters, who think that they see a pitch which they can hit, and generates a lot of whiffs. The perceived velocity of his fastball is also enhanced by its collaboration with his change-up, which creates an effective change of pace because it averages about 10 mph less his fastball. He also throws a slider and an impressive change that cuts on the inside of right-handed batters, and rarely mixes in a curveball.

In June, he was able to vary his location of the fastball and, in particular, pound the lower, less hittable part of the strike zone with it. In July, he lost a bit of his explosiveness with this pitch, but especially struggled to locate it. His ERA that month was 3.72 and he was walking about 5 batters for every 7 strikeouts achieved. His last start against Milwaukee was solid; 1 ER allowed in 6 innings and a 9:2 K:BB ratio. He was punished when he left his fastball in the middle of the plate but showed that he can still dominate a lineup when his primary pitch isn’t consistently working for him.

Carrasco (10-5 4.06 ERA) was the victim of bad defense in his last start against the Yankees. He had allowed only 1 run after 5 innings until a very playable ball for outfielder Austin Jackson landed for a 3-run triple. But luck doesn’t completely explain his home/road splits. His FIP (like ERA but factors out luck) is 4.35 at home but 3.08 on the road. At home and on the road he struggles against left-handed batters, who are slugging .517 vs Carrasco. Tropicana Field, a ballpark (like Cleveland’s Progressive Field but only more so) that favors left-handed batters, is a dangerous venue for Carrasco.

This year, opponents are slugging .692 against Carrasco's fastball and yet he has thrown it with almost twice as much frequency than any other pitch. His slider, curve and change-up collaborate to create an effective change of pace with his fastball and each possesses difficult movement that batters have difficulty tracking. His slider, which is his second most frequently thrown pitch, has been virtually impossible to hit, even for left-handed batters. Expect a lot of sliders and change-ups against Tampa Bay’s hitters, who will likely struggle to catch up with these lower-velocity, moving pitches while bracing for his fastball.


The Verdict

The Indians’ lineup is mired in a slump. The team as a whole has been spiraling lately, repeatedly finding ways to lose late in outings. On the contrary, the Rays can build off of Thursday's dramatic victory and have the advantage of facing their second consecutive power fastball pitcher. The comparison between starting pitchers is even, but the Rays can count on their bullpen late in the game. Tommy Hunter was dominant in 1.2 innings Thursday, and having thrown only 19 pitches should be available, as should Steve Cishek, who is enjoying a 9-inning scoreless streak. In a rather even matchup, we are getting the home team at plus odds and an excellent opportunity to be contrarian on our MLB Picks.

Free MLB Pick: Rays +125Best Line Offered: 5Dimes

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