Early Start, Sale on Mound Equal ‘Under’ Bet in Red Sox-Jays Finale

Matthew Jordan

Wednesday, April 19, 2017 7:53 PM UTC

Wednesday, Apr. 19, 2017 7:53 PM UTC

The first pitch on the Major League Baseball schedule for Thursday is scheduled for 12:37 p.m. ET from Toronto as the Boston Red Sox complete a three-game AL East series against the hugely disappointing Blue Jays.

MLB Season Record: 6-4

Boston Red Sox At Toronto Blue Jays (+115, 7.5)

Game 3 of this series Thursday sets up potentially with a few regulars on both sides getting the game off with the 12:37 p.m. ET start from Rogers Centre and the fact that both Boston and Toronto must travel out after. The Red Sox are at co-AL East contender Baltimore on Friday night, while the Blue Jays will fly to Los Angeles as they begin a seven-game road trip at the Angels on Friday.

Toronto entered Wednesday night’s game at 2-11, by far the worst record in baseball. This team went to the ALCS the past two years. That record tied the 1998 Florida Marlins for the worst start to a season by a playoff team from the previous year. The difference being those Marlins had purposefully torn things down heading into 1998. The Jays fully expected to contend again this year.

Injuries haven’t helped the Blue Jays. Their best offensive player is third baseman Josh Donaldson, and he’s on the DL with a calf strain and will miss 2-4 weeks. He was one of the few Blue Jays hitting. Only Kansas City has scored fewer runs than Toronto in the majors entering Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the Jays’ two best pitchers, 2016 All-Star Aaron Sanchez and 20-game winner J.A. Happ, also are on the 10-day DL. The good news is they should only miss the designated amount of time. Neither had pitched close to 2016 numbers. Toronto had the AL’s best team ERA last year. It’s currently 13th. This is the oldest roster in baseball so the Jays could start a sell-off soon.

I want to alert you to something that Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts is doing, even if it ended on Wednesday night. Entering that one, Betts hadn’t struck out in 128 consecutive regular-season plate appearances. It's the longest streak in the majors since Juan Pierre went 147 plate appearances without striking out for the Florida Marlins in 2004. Pierre was a slap hitter; Betts hit 31 dingers last year with a slugging percentage of .489. He struck out only 80 times in 672 at-bats in finishing runner-up in the MVP voting. Betts is off to another great start.


Probable Pitchers

The Red Sox gave up a ton to land Chris Sale in trade from the White Sox this past offseason, but so far Sale has been worth it with a 1.25 ERA, 0.74 WHIP, 29 strikeouts and just 11 hits allowed in 21.2 innings over three starts. He’s only 1-1 due to a lack of run support. Sale has joined Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez in 1998 as the only Red Sox since 1913 to pitch at least seven innings, allow no more than two runs and strike out at least seven batters in his first three games of a season. Pedro finished 19-7 with a 2.89 ERA that year and 251 strikeouts. He was second in the AL Cy Young voting to Toronto’s Roger Clemens. Sale was the +350 Cy favorite on MLB odds entering this year.

Last year with Chicago, Sale was 2-0 with a 1.69 ERA in two starts vs. the Jays, who hit just .170 off him. He is 2-1 with a 1.80 ERA lifetime at Rogers Centre. Donaldson was one of the few current Blue Jays who hits Sale well. Kendrys Morales has two homers in 25 at-bats off Sale but eight strikeouts.

It’s Marco Estrada for Toronto – he’s a possible trade candidate as a pending free agent. Estrada (0-1, 3.50) comes off his best start of the season, shutting out the Orioles on four hits over seven innings with eight strikeouts. It was Estrada’s first home start of 2017. He had a 3.57 home ERA last year and was 2-2 with a 3.18 ERA overall in five starts vs. Boston.

Betts doesn’t hit Estrada well, going 2-for-16. So maybe he gets the game off. Ditto Xander Bogaerts, who is just 2-for-21 off Estrada. Brock Holt is 1-for-14 off him.

With Sale on the mound, the Jays not hitting, a solid Estrada on the bump for the Jays and the early start, the ‘under’ is an easy call on my MLB pick.

MLB Free Pick: ‘Under’ 7.5Best Line Offered: BookMaker

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