Daily MLB Picks: Atlanta Braves vs. Tampa Bay Rays, Saturday, July 8

Rob Senior previews Atlanta Braves vs. Tampa Bay Rays on July 8, provides his expert prediction and best bets.

Atlanta Braves vs. Tampa Bay Rays

Date & Time:    Saturday, July 8, 7:15 P.M. Eastern
Moneyline:       Atlanta Braves (-150) vs. Tampa Bay Rays (+130)
Runline:           Braves -1.5 (+115)/Rays +1.5 (-135)
Total:                Over 7.5 (-105)/Under 7.5 (-115)
Where:             Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, FL
Weather:          Indoor Stadium

Braves vs. Rays: Preview and Picks

The two best teams in baseball meet for the only time this year (or the first time, if you’re thinking World Series preview) in this weekend’s series in St. Petersburg.

The 58-28 Braves come in off a torrid (25-5) June to battle the Tampa Bay Rays, leading the American League at a mark of 57-33.

Let’s look at Saturday’s interleague showdown.

Atlanta Braves Preview

The Braves are paced by a torrid offense among the league leaders in just about every category. Atlanta ranks:

  • 1st (by a wide margin) in home runs, slugging percentage as well as OPS
  • 2nd in team batting average and on-base percentage
  • 3rd in runs scored and RBI

This is normally the spot where I’d break down their performance against left-handed or right-handed pitching, but the Braves are tops regardless. They’re slaughtering lefties, but merely great against right-handed pitching.

Six different Atlanta hitters have 15 or more home runs already this season, led by 1B Matt Olson’s 29. They’re not only sluggers, however, as RF Ronald Acuna has 41 stolen bases, on pace for the biggest year in swipes MLB has seen in a while.

Furthering their cause is sending 24-year-old Spencer Strider to the mound on Saturday. Strider sports a 10-2 record with a 3.66 ERA in 2023. It also appears to be putting a seesaw month behind him in his past few starts. He averages an unreal 14.2 strikeouts per nine innings pitched, and tops MLB with 155 Ks on the year.

Tampa Bay Rays Preview

Tampa Bay’s offense isn’t used to taking a back seat, as they also rank in the Top 5 of numerous statistical categories.

Their numbers may not be as eye-popping as Atlanta, but the Tampa offense will give any pitcher – including Strider – a workout with top-to-bottom depth led by LF Randy Arozarena (16 HR, 58 RBI) and emerging 1B Yandy Diaz, batting .310 this year with 12 home runs.

But the reason people talk about the Rays as World Series contenders is their pitching. On Saturday, it’s 22-year-old Taj Bradley taking on the Braves with a 5-4 record and an ERA of 5.27.

Bradley is destined to become a top-of-the-line starter for Tampa – someday. Right now, he’s got a little bit of “all-or-nothing” to his game, as he averages 12 strikeouts per nine innings, but has also allowed 10 home runs in just 56 innings.

Prediction for Braves vs. Rays

Just as the Braves and Rays could be a World Series preview, in three years we could see Strider and Bradley matching up as starting pitchers in an All-Star Game. They’re both that good.

But right now, the advantage lies with the electric Spencer Strider. Taj Bradley has made it through the fifth inning in only one of his last five starts. He’ll pile up some strikeouts against the powerful Braves, but this is not the team you want to face when solving your struggles.

Prediction: Atlanta Braves (-150) over Tampa Bay Rays.

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