Tampa Bay Rays vs Kansas City Royals

Tampa Bay Rays vs Kansas City Royals | 2021 MLB Expert Analysis

Written by on April 19, 2021

Off a shocking road sweep of the New York Yankees, the Tampa Bay Rays look to avoid a potential letdown when they visit the Kansas City Royals on Monday to open a three-game series. The Royals are short favorites on the MLB odds.

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Why Bet on Tampa Bay? | 2021 MLB Expert Analysis

The Rays shockingly swept three games at the Yankees over the weekend, finishing things off 4-2 on Sunday. Four pitchers combined on the Rays’ second three-hitter of a series in which New York managed 11 hits in all. New York has lost five straight for the first time since Sept. 4-8, getting outscored 30-14. The Yankees have started 5-10 for the first time since 1997, when they finished second to Baltimore at 99-66.

Jeffrey Springs tossed a perfect ninth inning on Sunday to collect his first career save. There hasn’t been a changing of the guard in Tampa Bay. Springs was summoned to face the bottom of the Yankees’ lineup in the final frame after hard-throwing Diego Castillo mowed down the heart of the order in the eighth inning. The 28-year-old southpaw needed only 12 pitches to slam the door. He’s yielded two runs (one earned) on six hits with a 9/0 K/BB ratio across seven innings this season. Castillo remains the primary closer and struck out two over 1.1 innings Sunday. He has allowed only one run on four hits with a 13/3 K/BB ratio across nine innings this season.

Joey Wendle went 2-for-3 with a solo homer on Sunday. Wendle scored the go-ahead run on teammate Yoshi Tsutsugo’s RBI double against Yankees’ ace Gerrit Cole in the seventh inning, and also brought home a key insurance run with a solo homer off Darren O’Day in the top of the ninth inning. Wendle is red-hot, hitting .340/.365/.600 with 11 runs scored, three homers, and 11 RBI across 52 plate appearances this season.

It’s expected to be lefty Josh Fleming (0-1, 1.80) on the mound here. Making his first start of the season, Josh Fleming yielded one run over five-plus innings last Wednesday in a loss to the Rangers. Fleming allowed only a solo home run to Nate Lowe, but didn’t receive any run support. He pitched well based on his ability to keep the ball on the ground, with nine of his 15 outs coming via groundout.

It is possible that Rays use an opener and then turn to Fleming. The Rays have used a major-league-most 34 players this season and their 19 pitchers used are tied with the Blue Jays for most in the majors.

The Rays are 8-2 when scoring first but 0-6 when their opponent does. They have held a lead in 13 of 16 games but have five blown leads (games eventually lost after having a lead), tied for 3rd in the majors.

Why Bet on Kansas City? | 2021 MLB Expert Analysis

Kansas City has been much better than expected at 9-5 and beat the visiting Blue Jays 2-0 on Sunday. Greg Holland tossed a perfect ninth inning for his second save of the season. Holland registered one strikeout and required only 13 pitches to put the finishing touches on a two-hit shutout. He’s allowed only three runs (two earned) on six hits with a 5/6 K/BB ratio over 6 1/3 innings. Kansas City has won a major league-leading 55 consecutive games when ahead after seven innings.

Whit Merrifield walked twice and stole a pair of bases in Sunday’s win. He walked and swiped second base against Robbie Ray in each of the first two innings of the low-scoring affair. He’s hitting .321/.371/.547 with 10 runs scored, three homers, 11 RBI and five steals across 62 plate appearances.

Salvador Perez blasted a tie-breaking, two-run homer. Perez has a .291/.339/.618 triple-slash line with 10 runs scored, five homers, and 11 RBI across 59 plate appearances this season.

It’s lefty Danny Duffy (2-0, 0.75) on the mound. Duffy struck out six batters over six innings of one-run ball last Tuesday in a win over the Angels. Duffy surrendered eight hits, but a solo homer by Shohei Ohtani in the fifth inning represented the lone tally against him in this one. The 32-year-old has pitched well so far this season, allowing only one run over 12 innings across two starts.

Duffy has won his first two starts of the season for the first time in his career, and he’s the first Royals left hander to begin 2-0 through two starts since former teammate Jason Vargas, who won his first three starts of the 2017 season on his way to an American League-best 18 wins.

In six career starts vs. the Rays, Duffy is 2-1 with a 2.68 ERA (11 ER in 37.0 IP), including a franchise-record 16 strikeouts over 8.0 scoreless innings on Aug. 1, 2016 at Tropicana Field, in which he allowed just one run, joining Randy Johnson as the only left handers since 1901 to record 16 strikeouts in a scoreless start with only one hit allowed. Duffy will be making his 95th career start at Kauffman Stadium, five shy of Larry Gura for sixth most in the 49-year history of the ballpark.

Game Trends

  • Rays are 36-16 in their last 52 Monday games.
  • Rays are 35-17 in their last 52 during game 1 of a series.
  • Royals are 16-5 in their last 21 games as a favorite.
  • Royals are 5-2 in their last 7 during game 1 of a series.
  • Rays are 6-2 in the last 8 meetings in Kansas City.
  • Rays are 12-3 in the last 15 meetings.

Expert Prediction

  • Royals 5, Rays 4

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