Rangers vs. Rays Game 2 odds have opened with Tampa as a -138 favorite, needing to force a decisive Game 3 after being shut out in Game 1. If Tampa wants to advance further in this series, they’ll need to perform as they were predicted as favorites to force a decider in game three.
Since joining them as a free agent, Zach Eflin will take the mound for Tampa and has performed far above expectations. Nathan Eovaldi of the Rangers has struggled after returning from an injury, giving Eflin an edge.
Eflin currently owns a 3.50 ERA against a 3.09 xERA on the season, boasting a barrel rate of just 9.1% while his exit velocity allowed was 87.5mph and hard hit rate at 35.1%. Furthermore, 26.5% of batters struck out while only 3.5% walked.
He boasts a 50.4% ground-ball rate and 34% chase rate to keep the Rangers guessing, as evidenced by a 3.25 first-half ERA against 3.82 second-half figures without experiencing the same drop-off that Eovaldi did.
The Rays offer an interesting comparison to the Rangers; since August 1, off right-handed pitching, they had a 119 wRC+ and 779 OPS with a 7.3% walk rate and 23.4% strikeout rate against them. Of their seven bats that exceed.330 xwOBA Yandy Diaz is among their finest bats, with an OBP above 380 being one of them.
The Rangers have the worst bullpen in the playoffs, making starting pitching huge if they want to advance. Eovaldi held an ERA/xERA ratio of 3.63/3.99 during September; his season average exit velocity allowed was 88.9mph with a 7.9% barrel rate and 43.1% hard-hit rate; ground-ball rate stood out as his bread-and-butter with 51.5% ground balls pitched per innings pitched.
After suffering a right forearm strain in July, things quickly went south for him. His performance during September saw a 1.92 WHIP and 9.30 ERA over 20 1/3 innings pitched – significant factors in why the Rangers failed to secure the AL West title and bye into the ALDS playoffs. From April 1 through July 18 alone, he allowed eight homers; since returning from injury, seven homers have been allowed in six starts. Eovaldi will have to pitch better than he has since returning from injury for the Rangers to have any chance to win this game.
The Rangers possess some serious hitting power; since August 1 against righties, they had a.788 OPS and 113 wRC+; their strikeout rate against them is 23.5% while they only walk 10.2% of batters; however, Eflin does not allow walks; hence this may not give them the edge they have been used to having in previous games.
This game will be all about the starting pitching, and that advantage goes clearly to the Rays. The Rangers will struggle to win this game, and the only way I see for them to win is to score more than five runs, which they will have issues with.
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