If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. That’s what Red Sox pitcher Michael Wacha may or may not have said this Winter before signing with Boston – the club that knocked his former team, the Tampa Bay Rays, out of the 2021 playoffs.
Tonight, Tampa Bay get its shot at redemption at home vs. their AL East rival and former teammate.
Wacha might be off to a hot start, but I’m not buying it. Through 2 starts with Boston, he’s held opponents to just 3 hits and 1 run in 9.1 innings pitched. Those numbers are great, but they achieved in much easier matchups vs. Minnesota and Detroit.
The Rays present a much tougher matchup for Wacha from a talent perspective and also strategy – since the Tampa Bay Rays arguably know him better than any other opponent he might face this year.
Wacha doesn’t have over powering stuff. For success, he relies on getting hitters to chase bad pitches outside of the zone, and he’s one of the best at doing that. Last year, he ranked in the Top 8% of MLB in Chase Rate.
The problem for Wacha will be that Tampa knows he relies on making hitters chase bad pitches for success. If they can stay disciplined tonight, he should be in for a rude awakening and potentially short outing featuring plenty of walks and baserunners.
Assuming the Rays can plate a couple runs against Wacha, I like Tampa’s projected starter, two-time Cy Young award winner Corey Kluber, to hold it down and secure victory. He’s got a nice track record vs. this Red Sox lineup, and while he’s not the pitcher he once was, he’s still proving effective through 2 starts this year.
Last year, Tampa owned this series going 11-8 vs. Boston (excluding playoffs). They were embarrassed in the playoffs, but I see tonight as the perfect revenge spot. Love this play for Leg 1.
If you’re feeling risky, you could consider pairing Tampa ML with Kluber to get 5+ Ks or Wander Franco to get 2+ Total Bases. To be safe, I kept it simple with Tampa ML.