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Rich Hill isn't an exciting name in the sports world, but he's writing a pretty fun story.
Hill turned 41 years old in March, and he's still pitching well for one of the best teams in baseball. Hill has a 6-2 record, 3.58 ERA and 1.08 WHIP for the Tampa Bay Rays. That won't put him in the Cy Young conversation, but at his age, being an effective starter is an accomplishment.
Hill is starting for the Rays on Tuesday night, and the Rays are slight -105 favorites at BetMGM against the Washington Nationals. It seems like a fine time to back Tampa Bay and its geriatric starter.
The perception of Hill has to be a reason the Rays aren't favored. The Rays are 47-32, far better over the course of the season than the 38-38 Nationals. The Nationals have a -8 run differential, so their .500 record is earned. The Rays are second in the AL at +85. Washington has been hotter lately and that plays into the Nats being favored, but you're still getting a very good Rays team as a slight underdog.
The biggest concern if you back the Rays is if the best version of Joe Ross, Washington's starter, shows up. Ross has given up no earned runs in three of his last four outings. The other start he gave up five. The start before that four-game stretch, he allowed four earned runs. He also has given up eight and 10 runs in outings this season. Ross has been way better than expected (4.12 ERA for the season), but it's hard to know what you'll get out of him from start to start.
Hill isn't immune to blowups but he hasn't given up more than four earned runs in a start this season. He and his 88 mph fastball in the land of young flamethrowers has been steady. The question for Hill over the past few years has never been performance, but health. When he's not on the injured list, he has pitched well.
If you've read previous underdog picks, you've sensed the theme of trying to catch good teams getting value on the betting line, as long as the starting pitching matchup isn't lopsided. The Rays have been a good bet most of the season, and there's no reason to believe they can't be again on Tuesday.
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