Tampa Bay has raced out to a 1.5-game lead over the Boston Red Sox in the division race after going 39-24 through its first 63 games. Despite owning one of the best records in baseball, the Rays have struggled at home, posting a 16-14 record in 30 games at the Trop. Tampa Bay will have a chance to improve upon that mark this weekend against an Orioles’ squad that enters the series 16 games back in the AL East race with a 22-39 overall record.
Can Tampa Bay open its series versus the Orioles with a win at home on Friday night?
Akin looking to continue success in Orioles' rotationThe Orioles will turn to left-hander Keegan Akin for the first game of their series in Tampa Bay on Friday. The 26-year-old started the season by working out of the bullpen but has earned an extended look in the starting rotation with a pair of strong starts. In his last trip to the mound, Akin held the Cleveland Indians scoreless in five innings of work, allowing just three hits and one walk in a no-decision. He has allowed just one run in 9 ⅔ frames as a starter (0.93 ERA) compared to seven runs in just 9 ⅓ innings as a reliever (6.75 ERA) this year.
Keegan Akin had Yankees hitters guessing all night. pic.twitter.com/SHS7XaWVym— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) September 6, 2020
The Orioles’ lefty has been a bright spot since joining the rotation and owns a career-3.09 ERA in eight career starts dating back to 2020. Akin had a penchant for striking out hitters at a high rate in the minor leagues. While that ability hasn’t quite carried over yet (8.10 K/9), he’s flashed improved command through his first 20 innings, walking just 1.80 batters per nine innings of work.
In his lone appearance against Tampa Bay this season, the southpaw surrendered two runs on five hits in three innings of relief. Per Baseball Savant, current Rays are batting .308 in 14 plate appearances off of Akin ahead of Friday’s start.
Can Yarbrough build off complete game vs. Yankees?The Rays are expected to counter with a left of their own, as Ryan Yarbrough is set to get the start on Friday evening. The Rays’ lefty is 3-3 with a 3.95 ERA in 12 games (eight starts) but is coming off of his best outing of the season. Yarbrough tossed a complete game against the New York Yankees in his previous start, striking out six batters and giving up just two runs in a 9-2 win. While the win was his first as a starter since August 2019, he has completed at least six innings in three of his previous four outings while allowing no more than three earned runs during that span.
Ryan Yarbrough, Painting. 🖌️🎨 pic.twitter.com/2HSuMJBMq8— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) June 3, 2021
Whether starting or appearing out of the bullpen, Yarbrough has turned into a reliable arm for the Rays’ pitching staff. The 29-year-old has walked under two batters per nine innings of work in each of the last three seasons and owns a career-3.94 ERA since 2018.
Yarbrough turned in a quality start in his last against the Orioles on May 19. He allowed six runs (three earned) on seven hits in six innings of work to escape with a no-decision on the night. The Rays’ left-hander has made nine career appearances (four starts) versus the O’s, going 3-1 with a 3.40 ERA in those matchups. According to Baseball Savant, Yarbrough has held the current Orioles’ roster to a slim .193 batting average in 88 plate appearances ahead of Friday’s series opener.
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
With Yarbrough coming off of a complete game and a career-high 113 pitches, you have to like the Orioles in this spot. Akin has performed reasonably well as a starter throughout his career and he’s continued that trend in 2021, giving up just one run in 9 ⅓ frames as a starter this year. Tampa Bay has struggled at home and it owns a .500 record over its last eight games, so Baltimore will be catching the Rays at the right time here. The Orioles knocked Yarbrough around for six runs in the previous meeting and should be able to do some damage off of him once again on Friday night. Take the Orioles to win their series opener at Tropicana Field.
Full-Game Total Pick
These two teams are projected for only eight runs, which seems like a low number in this spot. The Orioles touched Yarbrough for six runs in their previous meeting against him in mid-May and the Rays’ lefty could show signs of fatigue after tossing a complete game against the Yankees in his previous start. Meanwhile, Akin has pitched well as a starter but he throws his fastball more than 60 percent of the time and tends to stay around the zone, which should lead to plenty of run-scoring opportunities for the Rays in this game. Take this matchup to go over the projected total on Friday night.