Red Sox vs. Rays ALDS Game 1 Preview and Best Bet

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Shane McClanahan #62 of the Tampa Bay Rays. Mike Stobe/Getty Images/AFP

The Tampa Bay Rays should be the right MLB pick for Thursday’s ALDS opener with the Boston Red Sox. It all depends on the books.

Boston Red Sox vs. Tampa Bay Rays

Thursday, October 7, 2021 – 8:07 PM EDT at Tropicana Field

Finally, it’s time for the MLB postseason. This is the time of year when the sharps make their money, and the Tampa Bay Rays (100-62, plus-19.78 betting units) are about as sharp a pick as they come. Put them on the same diamond as the publicly adored Boston Red Sox (92-70, plus-5.12 units) this Thursday night, and you’ve got what should be a profitable bet for Game 1 of the American League Division Series.

Should be. The Red Sox took their sweet, sweet time in announcing Eduardo Rodriguez (3.32 FIP) as their starting pitcher, so the MLB odds are a bit slow to hit the board. However, the Rays are priced at –175 on the overseas lines as we go to press, and if that’s what our BMR-approved online sportsbooks have in store by the time you read this, Tampa Bay looks like the right choice – at least for a small wager.

Sixty-five Percent Of The Time, It Works Every Time

To verify our old-school preference for the small-market Rays, we turn to the fine folks at FiveThirtyEight, who like Tampa Bay to win Thursday’s opener 65 percent of the time. That’s the equivalent of –186 when you run it through the joyous BMR Odds Converter, so as long as you trust Nate Silver’s computers, getting the Rays at –175 or shorter can’t be too far off the mark. Just don’t bet the entire farm on this matchup. A barn, yes, maybe even two. There are other factors working in Tampa’s favor.

They’ll be the fresher of the two teams after the Red Sox had to beat the New York Yankees in Tuesday’s Wild Card tiebreaker. The Rays haven’t played since Sunday, which allows them the luxury of bringing rookie ace Shane McClanahan (3.31 FIP) to the mound on five days of rest. Boston might also be without one of their best hitters, as J.D. Martinez (.867 OPS) was forced to miss Tuesday’s contest with a sprained left ankle. Martinez is expected to be a game-time decision.

Rue McClanahan

As well as the stars align for Tampa, they only made 0.65 units with McClanahan this year on a team record of 15-10, while the Red Sox went 19-12 with Rodriguez and earned 4.90 units – almost their entire profit for the season. Then again, McClanahan was weighed down by a .328 BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play), which was probably just dumb luck; as a whole, the Rays pitching staff produced a more reasonable .281 BABIP.

Poinr, counterpoint: Rodriguez thrived despite a .363 BABIP, way higher than any of his previous five seasons with Boston. He’ll need more than regression to the mean, though, because current Rays hitters have a combined .853 career OPS off the big lefty, while the Sox only managed a tiny .504 OPS in their one season facing McClanahan. Bet accordingly, and may the sphere be with you throughout the playoffs.

MLB Pick: Rays +148 with BetOnline (visit our BetOnline Review)

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Rays +148
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*The line and/or odds on picks in this article might have moved since the content was commissioned. For updated line movements, visit BMR’s free betting odds product.