Prediction, Preview, and Odds
#959 Tampa Bay Rays vs.
#960 Kansas City Royals
Monday, April 19, 2021 at 8:10pm EDT
Written by Nick Raffoul

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The Tampa Bay Rays will head on the road to Kauffman Stadium on Monday evening for the opening game of their American League series showdown against the Kansas City Royals.

After pulling off an unlikely three-game sweep on the road at Yankee Stadium over the weekend, the Rays will try to keep their momentum going against one of the MLB’s biggest surprises. Kansas City currently leads the American League Central race with a 9-5 overall record while the Rays are in second place in the AL East after getting back to the .500-mark through 16 games.

Can the Royals stay hot at home against the surging Rays on Monday night?

Fleming to pitch in front of family and friends for first time

Tampa Bay completed a three-game sweep on the road against the New York Yankees with a 4-2 win on Sunday afternoon. Yoshi Tsutsugo broke a 2-2 tie with an RBI-double in the second inning to chase Yankees’ starter Gerrit Cole from the game and Joey Wendle added an insurance run with a solo shot in the ninth inning to help Tampa Bay escape with the win.

The Rays will send left-hander Josh Fleming to the hill at Kauffman Stadium for their series opener against the Royals on Monday. The 24-year-old grew up on the Illinois/Missouri border and debuted in 2020 when fans were not in the stands, so he is expected to have 30-plus friends and family to watch him pitch on Monday. In his only start of the season, Fleming allowed just one run in five innings of work versus the Texas Rangers.

As evidenced by his 6.96 K/9 strikeout rate last season, Fleming isn’t the type of pitcher that will blow hitters away with his fastball. However, his heater is clocking in at a healthy 92.2 miles per hour this season, up from 90.6 mph as a rookie in 2020. He went 5-0 with a 2.78 ERA in seven games (five starts) during the 2020 season, thanks in large part to his ability to induce ground balls at an elite rate. He was able to showcase that ability during his lone start of the year versus the Rangers, sporting a 64.7 percent ground ball rate in that game.

This will be Fleming’s first career start against the Royals.

Perez's home run sends Royals to series win vs. Blue Jays

Kansas City won its second straight game 2-0 versus the Toronto Blue Jays on Sunday behind a two-run home run by catcher Salvador Perez. Brady Singer turned in his best start of the year, tossing six scoreless frames with six strikeouts in a no-decision.

Left-hander Danny Duffy is scheduled to take the ball for the series opener against the Rays on Monday night. Duffy has posted quality starts during each of his first two turns of the season. He comes in with a 2-0 record to go along with a sparking 0.75 ERA and 11 strikeouts in 12 combined innings of work. Last time out, the Royals’ lefty gave up just one run on eight hits and a walk in six innings of work to beat the Los Angeles Angels.

After posting a 4.00 ERA or higher in each of the last three seasons, Duffy appears to be trending up in his 11th MLB season. The 32-year-old has increased his fastball velocity by a full mile per hour this season and he’s managed to keep the ball in the ballpark despite sporting a ground ball rate of only 29.4 percent.

The Royals’ lefty has made six career starts against the Rays, going 2-1 with a 2.68 ERA and 1.11 WHIP in 37 combined innings of work. Duffy last saw Tampa Bay during the 2019 season when he surrendered just one run in six innings of work to escape with a no-decision on the night. According to Baseball Savant, current Rays’ batters are hitting just .188 in 35 plate appearances off of Duffy heading into Monday’s matchup.

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It’s hard to argue with Duffy’s career numbers against the Royals. The Royals’ lefty owns a career-2.61 ERA against the Rays coming into this game and he has also shown flashes of improvement through his first two starts of the 2021 season. Duffy’s velocity is up and he’s managed to do a good job of keeping the ball in the ballpark, which will be critical for his success this season. Meanwhile, Fleming has the added pressure of pitching in front of friends and family for the first time in his MLB career and the Rays are coming off of the high of sweeping New York on the road at Yankee Stadium. Look for the Rays to experience a bit of a letdown here and take the Royals to come out on top at home in this AL battle on Monday.

Prediction: Kansas City Royals -114

Full-Game Total Pick

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These two teams are projected for 8.5 runs but that number seems like a bit of a stretch here. Duffy has turned in quality starts in each of his first two outings of the season while Fleming has yet to lose in eight career MLB games (six starts), so runs could be hard to come by for both offenses in this game. These two teams also rank No. 16 and No. 25 in the MLB, respectively, in home runs so far this year, which should help keep the total down in this one. Take this matchup to stay under the projected total on Monday night.

Prediction: Over 8.5

Written By Nick Raffoul , "Nick Raffoul"

Shortly after graduating with an Honors in Business Administration, Nick turned his attention from traditional stocks and bonds to investing in the performance of sports teams. And has now joined our team here at Winners & Whiners. Nick uses a combination of advanced stats and historical data to create sports investment models to identify value and generate consistent profits. Let Nick win for you.