MLB Thursday best bets: Road warriors

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With less than a week of regular season baseball remaining, the wild-card races are really heating up, particularly in the American League.

There are some crucial AL matchups Thursday night, which we'll attack with our best bets.

Let's dive right in.

Rays (-120) @ Guardians (+100)

The Guardians are scorching hot heading into this game, winning eight of 10 and officially locking up an AL Central division title.

While the Rays aren't in as good of form, they have a nearly identical record and run differential as Cleveland, and their games are a lot more meaningful right now.

The Guardians can't move up or down in the standings, while Tampa Bay is in a tight wild-card race with the Blue Jays and Mariners.

I expect the Rays' usage of players to reflect the significance of each game. More importantly, though, they have plenty of edges even if the circumstances were identical.

Among the day's projected starters, only Shohei Ohtani, Carlos Rodon, and Jon Gray have posted lower FIPs than Jeffrey Springs in the past 30 days.

The Guardians are unlikely to do much damage against Springs, especially considering they sit 25th in wOBA and dead last in ISO against left-handed pitching over the previous four weeks.

Tampa Bay's offense hasn't fared all that great against righties during that time, and Cal Quantrill has been OK. But his 4.04 FIP during that stretch lags a tier behind where Springs has been as of late. The Rays should be able to generate enough offense to get by.

Bet: Rays (-120)

Rangers (+100) @ Mariners (-120)

The Rangers have dropped four of the last five games and sit near the basement of the AL. Even so, I like their chances of getting a win Thursday night against the playoff-bound Mariners.

Texas has a big edge on the mound with the way Gray and Marco Gonzales are pitching right now.

Gray hasn't been going as deep into contests as we'd normally expect, but he's doing a great job of limiting the damage allowed when he's out there.

The 30-year-old pitcher has given up just two earned runs over his last 13 innings of work (three starts), striking out 10 while conceding two walks and zero home runs.

Gray also owns a 2.50 FIP over the last month, indicating his level of play has been full value for the results he's garnered.

It's a much different story for Gonzales. The veteran lefty has allowed at least three runs in four of his last five starts and seven of his last 10. His ERA over the previous 30 days is an unflattering 4.45, and his FIP (5.29) suggests he's been even worse.

The Rangers may not be playing for anything, but they have the starter in much better form and have hit lefties very well lately. In fact, they rank in the top 10 in wOBA and ISO versus left-handed pitching over the past month.

There's value in backing Texas as road underdogs.

Bet: Rangers (+100)

Todd Cordell is a sports betting writer at theScore. Be sure to follow him on Twitter @ToddCordell.

MLB Thursday best bets: Road warriors
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