The Tampa Bay Rays are finishing up their west coast road trip tonight as they are in Los Angeles for game two of a quick two-game set with the Dodgers. The Dodgers took game one last night 7-5, behind a four-RBI night from Corey Seager. Both teams used a bullpen by committee approach on the mound, and we saw a total of sixteen pitchers in game one!
The Rays badly need to find a way to win tonight as they hold just a half of a game lead over the Cleveland Indians for the second wild card in the American League. After starting out the month of September red-hot, winning eight out of their first nine games, the Rays have all the sudden hit a wall as they have lost four out of their last six. With losses coming to out of contention teams like the Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Angels.
The Rays must find a way to win tonight, as the schedule lays out as a tough one the rest of the way out. Tampa has series against the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees after this, before finishing up in Toronto, against the Blue Jays.
For Los Angeles, they have a lot to play for as well, as they are battling the Atlanta Braves for the number one overall seed in the National League. The Dodgers have taken advantage of the Braves slipping up just a bit recently and have opened up a five-game lead for the top seed and need to find a way to lock it down soon, so they can best set their rotation for the playoffs.
Starting tonight for the Dodgers is Tony Gonsolin (3-2 2.83 ERA), and for the Rays it is Brendan McKay (2-4 5.27 ERA). The game total over-under is set at eight and a half runs. The Dodgers are -127 home favorites. First pitch is scheduled for 5:10 PM PST from Dodgers Stadium in Los Angeles.
This is a fun matchup this evening with a couple of promising young rookie pitchers on the mound, with a lot to play for. Both of these teams are jockeying for playoff positioning, and we should see a playoff-like atmosphere tonight in LA.
Tony Gonsolin didn’t join this Dodgers team until late June and wasn’t a regular part of this rotation until August. But he has made a great impression in a short period of time. In six starts, he has an ERA of just 2.03, and he has yet to allow more than two earned runs in any single start this season. He hasn’t been used to get deep into games, as he is being used more as a hybrid starter/opener, generally pitching four or five innings max.
But that has been less about his results or his ability to throw a lot of pitches, and more so that the Dodgers have spent the last month or so experimenting with a bunch of young guys trying to see who will end up on the postseason roster. With the way that Gonsolin has been pitching you can expect him to still be pitching in October, whether that is out of the bullpen or as a starter.
Brenden McKay is as blue of a blue-chip prospect as can be. He was the number four overall pick in the 2017 MLB draft and has been on a fast track to the majors ever since. He finally broke through with the big-league team in June, where he made his debut by taking a perfect game into the sixth inning. But since that first start, we have seen some growing pains for McKay.
Since the All-Star break, McKay has really struggled as he is 1-4 with a 6.25 ERA. He is being used similarly to how the Dodgers have used Gonsolin, in that he starts the game, but is never expected to get all that deep. In his last three “starts” he has lasted just a total of nine total innings. In that stretch, he has gotten blasted for ten total runs.
This number makes absolutely no sense. The Dodgers might be the best team in all of baseball. Yeah, the Astros and the Yankees could lay claim to that distinction as well, and you could even make a case for the Braves, but my gut tells me that Los Angeles is the class of the game right now. So, to see them as small favorites in this one is somewhat shocking.
No disrespect to the Rays, they are a talented team, and they are very much in the playoff conversation in the AL, but the Dodgers have a nine-game lead over the Rays right now. And when you look at the starting pitching matchup, Brendan McKay has been dreadfully bad much of the season. His ERA, which isn’t all that great to being with at over fiver runs, is being propped up by that first great start, and the fact that several of the runs he has given up are unearned.
In his last seven starts, he has pitched just thirty-one and two-thirds of an inning, that is an average of just over four innings a start, and he has allowed a total of twenty-six runs. Those are not good numbers. And when you look at who he has played, he has faced mostly bad teams, including the Seattle Mariners, Toronto Blue Jays, Texas Rangers, San Diego Padres, and Chicago White Sox.
Of his ten starts this year, nine of them have come against bad teams that won’t be making the playoffs. His only start against a playoff-caliber team came way back on July 5th, and he got hammered for three runs in only five innings of work against the New York Yankees, and the Rays got blown out. Tonight, he will have to face a Dodgers team that leads the National League in virtually every offensive category.
I think Gonsolin takes advantage of this weak-hitting Rays team and pitches four or five strong innings. And I think the Dodgers will jump all over Brendan McKay. We saw what long stretches of the Rays bullpen looked like last night, and it wasn’t pretty. If McKay can’t find a way to get them at least four or five decent innings, this one could get out of hand.
So, I will lay a little wood tonight and back the Dodgers as small favorites, feeling like they are certainly being undervalued. Give me the Los Angeles Dodgers at home at -127 tonight in game two!