A pair of AL East rivals meet for a five-game series starting on Friday, as the Toronto Blue Jays host the Tampa Bay Rays. As of Thursday morning, there were no betting odds for this game because the Rays have yet to announce a starting pitcher. But since these teams are separated by just 1.5 games in the standings, the betting odds are bound to be close when they are set.
It’s the Rays who are 1.5 games behind the Jays in the AL East standings after losing five of their last six series. Since sweeping the Cardinals earlier this month, Tampa has gone 6-11, including a pair of losses against the Brewers earlier this week. The silver lining is the Rays are still six games over .500 and clinging to the final Wild Card spot in the American League despite being fourth in the AL East.
Naturally, the Blue Jays currently have one of those Wild Card spots. Of course, Toronto hasn’t been much better than Tampa during the latter part of June, as the Jays are just 5-8 over their last 13 games. However, the Jays took two of three against the Red Sox earlier this week and can get to 10 games over .500 with a win on Thursday.
Send in the Lefty
The Jays will have Yusei Kikuchi on the mound to open this series on Thursday. The Japanese southpaw is just 2-4 over his first 14 starts, posting a 5.08 ERA and a 1.59 WHIP, both of which are rather disappointing. Things have gotten worse in June, as Kikuchi owns a 9.39 ERA over his five starts, with the Blue Jays going 1-4 in those games.
Oddly enough, Toronto’s lineup has been churning out runs lately despite the Jays struggling to get on track. The Blue Jays are averaging 6.6 runs per game over their last ten games but are just 5-5 in those games despite their potent offense shining. Catcher Alejandro Kirk continues to be a revelation, although Matt Chapman, Lourdes Gurriel, and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. are all in a groove at the moment.
Cooling Off Period
Meanwhile, the Tampa lineup has had a cooling-off period lately, which is part of the reason the Rays are struggling to win games. During the team’s 6-11 stretch, the Rays are averaging just 3.4 runs per game. Even with Randy Arozarena, Yandy Diaz, and Isaac Paredes all heating up, Tampa’s power has disappeared over the last week, especially with other key players for the Rays slumping.
The good news is that lefty Jeffrey Springs is available to start on Thursday, although the Rays have held off on announcing him. The lefty has excelled out of the bullpen and as a member of the rotation this year, going 3-2 with a 2.25 ERA over ten starts and eight relief appearances. He also threw 4.2 scoreless innings against the Blue Jays when he faced them last month.
Neither of these teams has much momentum after the way they’ve played in late June. But the Blue Jays are at least scoring runs with regularity while Tampa’s lineup has struggled. That gives Toronto more value in Thursday’s game regardless of the betting odds.
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