Rays vs. Phillies MLB Preview and Best Bet
The Philadelphia Phillies started the month winning eight straight to take over first place in the National League East. Since then, they’ve lost eight of 12 and now stand four and a half games back in the division. With the first-place Braves playing a series of playoff contenders, the Phillies have a chance to get back in the mix, and it starts with the AL East-leading Rays. Let's check out the MLB odds for this game.
Tampa Bay Rays vs. Philadelphia Phillies
Tuesday, August 24, 2021 - 07:05 PM EDT at Citizens Bank Park
The Philadelphia Phillies started August by winning eight straight games, overtaking the Mets to lead the National League East by as many as two games. Since then, they’ve lost eight of twelve games and fallen four and a half games behind the Atlanta Braves, who have created some breathing room in the East.
Now the Phillies have a chance to get back into the mix. The Braves face consecutive series against the Yankees, Dodgers and Giants, playoff contenders all. That opens the door for Philadelphia to make up ground in what has been a wide-open division all season long.
That starts on Tuesday with a game against another playoff contender—the AL East-leading Tampa Bay Rays, who have a four-game margin and have won seven of 10, including the last two. The Rays have the best record in the American League and third-best in all of baseball.
Lose One, Gain One
The Rays are coming off of a series win over the AL Central-leading White Sox and have won six of seven games. Not all is bright in Tampa, however. The Rays lost one of their trade-deadline pickups when designated hitter Nelson Cruz was placed on the COVID injured list on Sunday. The good news is that his absence may be a brief one.
Cruz has been vaccinated and tested negative, which clears him to return to the team as soon as Tuesday for the start of the series in Philadelphia. Cruz has hit seven home runs in 24 games since arriving from the Twins in late July, although he’s hitting just .198 with the Rays.
Nelson Cruz #23 of the Tampa Bay Rays scores. Julio Aguilar/Getty Images/AFP
While the Rays could get back one bat, they are likely about to lose another one. First baseman Ji-Man Choi left Sunday’s game with tightness in his hamstring. That’s been a recurring problem for him this season, and the team seems to be leaning toward putting him on the injured list and allowing it to recover.
Drew Rasmussen will get the start on Tuesday to open the series in Philly. He’s 1-1, 3.64 on the year. He’s been primarily a reliever this season and will be making just his fifth start in 30 appearances on the year. He gave Tampa four scoreless innings against Baltimore in his last start.
The Power Is Back
The Phillies got a big boost in the power department with the return of slugger Rhys Hoskins, who had been out since Aug. 5 with a groin injury. He was activated on Sunday and made his presence known immediately, hitting two home runs in a series-clinching win over the Padres. Philadelphia had lost its previous three series heading into San Diego but return home to host the Rays having won two of its last three.
Hoskins’ return seems to have lifted everyone in the lineup, with Odubel Herrera and JT Realmuto also homering in the win. The seven runs Philadelphia scored on Sunday were the most the Phillies have had in a game since Aug. 5, the day Hoskins went to the injured list.
“We have a healthy lineup,” Hoskins said. “We’re not relying on one or two guys every single night.”
The Phillies start former reliever Ranger Suarez. He’s 5-4, 1.47 on the year. He’ll be making his fifth start in 32 appearances this year. He had a rough outing in his last start, giving up eight hits and four walks in 4.2 innings to lose to the last-place Diamondbacks.
The series against the Padres, a team struggling even more than they are, was just what the Phillies needed. A red-hot Rays team will be a tougher challenge, however. With Cruz back in the lineup, for our MLB picks, look for Tampa to continue to roll against the shaky Suarez.
MLB Pick: (visit our Sportsbook Review)
*The pick reflects the line at the moment the writer made the play, the odds at the beginning of this article show the live line movement. Since the lines might vary, don’t forget to refer back to our live odds.