As expected by many making MLB picks including this reporter, Toronto won last evening and tonight will attempt to salvage a tie in this four-game series and move into sole possession of second place.
The overnight MLB odds favored Tampa Bay, but those putting together MLB picks have chimed in and the numbers are on the move. Who should be the favorite and more importantly, who will win this AL East encounter?
Tampa Bay Looks to Take Series
Nobody likes to lose but to Tampa Bay’s credit, they did not give in dropping their first game of the series. Down 12-3 to Toronto, the Rays scored four runs in the ninth inning and at least made the Blue a bit uncomfortable in winning 12-7. That is something manager Kevin Cash can build on going into today, talking about playing all nine innings no matter the score and that type of effort could be rewarded possibly in the very next outing.
Tampa Bay has a winning record despite little from veterans Evan Longoria (.214 BA) and Asdrubal Cabrera (.211 BA), but it has been the young outfielders which have done the most damage in Kevin Kiermaier (.321 BA, 1.117 OPS) and Steve Souza Jr. (.276 BA, .382 OBP). Contributions from this cast could lead to a victory.
Toronto’s Offense in All or Nothing Stage
When dissecting the MLB betting odds, one of the most difficult elements to gauge for MLB baseball handicappers is teams that are up and down on offense. Every team will run into the opposing team’s ace and might just put up a couple runs and later pound a No.5 starter. However, over their last six outings it has not mattered what the quality of the pitcher is for Toronto’s feast or famine offense.
Including last night, in the Blue Jays past three wins, they have posted double digits in each contest and tallied 34 runs. In losing the other trio of games, they have registered only four runs. While no manager can count on a team to score their average every night, John Gibbons would prefer a little most stability and he’s tried to jump start certain players, already moving them around in the lineup like placing Josh Donaldson on the No. 2 slot and he’s responded by going 5 for 9 with three runs batted in.
Pitching Matchup – Archer vs. Sanchez
At 26 years old, the time is now for Chris Archer to be a stud. The right-hander might frustrate some because he’s not picked up a third true pitch, but his upper 90’s fastball has two varieties, the four-seamer he can spot and the two-seamer which can bore in on RH batters. His slider sweeps away from RH hitters and he another version which left-hand a batter will give up on looking like a ball but it catches the outside part of the plate for strikes. Archer is 5-1 with a 1.68 ERA in his past 10 away starts in which the Rays have won nine.
Aaron Sanchez will make his second career start after pitching out of the bullpen for Toronto last season, making 24 appearances. Like Archer, the 22-year Sanchez has serious heat, reaches 97 to 99 MPH when the catcher calls for the No.1 pitch. The issue with Sanchez is command and that was evident in his first start. His secondary pitches are still under construction and when he cannot spot his fastball, at this level he will allow seven hits (two HR’s), three runs and walk two like he did against Baltimore in 3 1/3 innings last Saturday.
Jose Reyes is 9 for 20 against Archer and is 12 for 36 to start the season.
Edwin Encarnacion is hitless in 12 at-bats and is 4 for 41 against Archer, but three of the hits are home runs.
Steven Souza Jr. is 6 for 13 in this series for Tampa Bay, including homers in consecutive games for the first time in his career.
Blue Jays rookie Devon Travis is 5 for 11 in this series.
Evan Longoria is 6 for 28 this season and 1 for 7 in this series with three walks.
Odds and Outcome
Sportsbooks released the Rays at -120 on the money line and baseball bettors have flipped Toronto to a -110 favorite with the total dipping from 8.5 to 8.
With Tampa Bay’s road record of 9-1 with Archer starting, the up and down nature of the Blue Jays offense and the fact the home team is 4-14 after playing in a contest in which 17 or total runs were scored, I’ll throw my support to the visitor to take the series.
MLB Free Pick – Tampa Bay wins