The Toronto Blue Jays begin a week long road trip with four games at the Tampa Bay Rays, and SBR will cover the series with previews and free MLB picks.
Thursday's Game Four
By: Willie Bee
For a while Wednesday, it looked like the Toronto Blue Jays were going to win their fourth straight, and third in a row over the Tampa Bay Rays. Then Toronto pitchers took the mound.
Tampa Bay aims for a split in this 4-game set with the Jays when the American League East foes close things out Thursday night at Tropicana Field. In terms of name recognition, it's a battle of staff aces as RA Dickey climbs the hill for Toronto against the Rays' David Price. In terms of how the two have performed this year, it's nothing close to a clash of aces.
The MLB odds at SBR show Tampa Bay laying -150 or higher chalk at the various betting outlets. A 7 run total is taxed heavy to the high side.
Toronto's bats started strong Wednesday night against Rays starter Matt Moore who obviously didn't have his A stuff. The problem was Ricky Romero and Toronto reliever Edgar Gonzalez didn't have anything but BP stuff for Tampa Bay hitters to feast on in a 10-4 Rays victory. Considering how he has looked in two starts for the injured Josh Johnson, we just may have seen the last of Romero for a while.
RA Dickey has been as inconsistent as the flight of his famed knuckleball, and most disturbing are the five homers allowed over the course of his last two outings. We can only imagine he has been reviewing film of his last start against the Rays on this mound about 11 months ago when he went the distance with a 1-hitter, striking out 12 and allowing one unearned run.
Price got banged around in that same contest (5 IP, 7 ER), the only time Toronto beat him in four tries last season. The former Vanderbilt star has been a thorn in the Blue Jays' side over his career, boasting a 2.29 ERA in over 100 innings against them even with that outing, so Price is probably also looking at that same film.
Crew chief Tim Welke completes the umpire rotation behind the plate on Thursday. His last three assignments behind the mask went OVER the total, leaving him 5-2 on the campaign in the O/U columns, 4-3 on the favorites and 5-2 for the visitors.
That 7 run total might look too easy since it would not be surprising to see Dickey and Price get their acts together with a fine pitching duel. I'm not counting on that, however, and will play the OVER to sweep this series. Stay with us this weekend as we stay with the Blue Jays who travel up to Boston for a weekend set with the Red Sox.
My pick: Blue Jays-Rays Over 7 (-120)
Wednesday's Game Three
By: Willie Bee
It was yet another successful comeback for the Toronto Blue Jays Tuesday night as they went up two-love in their 4-game series vs. the Tampa Bay Rays. But the win was overshadowed by a frightening injury to starting pitcher JA Happ, and that scene will no doubt still weigh heavily on the minds of players in both dugouts when they take the field Wednesday.
Tampa Bay is the decided favorite in Game 3 with ace Matt Moore on the mound. The Rays are carrying chalk in the -180 range as they look to snap Toronto's 3-game win streak. Ricky Romero is scheduled for the Jays, and the battle of lefthanders has a 7.5 run total that is leaning OVER at most shops charted by SBR's live MLB odds.
Toronto spotted the Rays a 4-1 lead on Tuesday, will all four Tampa Bay runs scoring in the second inning when Happ was injured. Desmond Jennings' liner hit Happ on the left side of his head and plated two runs while the Toronto hurler went down in a heap on the mound.
Happ was taken off on a stretcher and was conscious, but no word on the extent of his injury was available Wednesday morning. Toronto managed to rally for an eventual 6-4 win just one night after they came back from a 7-0 hole.
Romero made his 2013 debut last Friday at home vs. Seattle and took the loss in a 4-0 Jays setback. The former Cal State Fullerton star worked four innings and allowed three Mariners to cross the pay station. He is 6-5 lifetime vs. the Rays with a 4.22 ERA in 81 innings, and got knocked around his last time at The Trop (May 2012, 6 IP, 4 ER, 7 BB).
Moore is coming off his worst start of 2013 last Friday at Coors Field, but the Rays still got the win and are now a perfect 6-0 with their young lefty on the bump. He has been almost unhittable in two home starts (14 IP, 4 H, 1 R), and the Rays won three of his four assignments vs. Toronto last season.
Scott Barry is set to work the plate for the seventh time this season, and four of his six previous assignment have skipped above the total, including the last three.
Expecting the Jays to win three in a row in this series, especially with Moore on the hill, might sound like we're asking too much from John Gibbons' guys, but that's the way I'm playing it tonight. We also have a preview and pick in the Rangers-Brewers series finale that you'll want to check out.
My pick: Blue Jays +172 at 5Dimes
Tuesday's Game Two
By: Willie Bee
Complacency is a dangerous drug. Just ask the Tampa Bay Rays who thought they had an easy win going in the books Monday night against the Toronto Blue Jays.
It's the Blue Jays who will instead be looking to take a 2-0 lead when their series with the Rays continues Tuesday in St. Pete. Tampa Bay is once again the favorite behind the pitcher formerly known as Fausto Carmona. Roberto Hernandez and the Rays are laying around $1.30 on the morning MLB odds opposite Toronto and JA Happ.
Everything was going Tampa Bay's way Monday after a 3rd-inning eruption vs. Mark Buehrle gave the Rays a 7-0 lead. But the Blue Jays chipped away while Buehrle and the bullpen quieted TB the rest of the way, eventually earning an 8-7 victory to mark just the second time this season Toronto had won back-to-back games.
Happ holds the initial key to the Jays enjoying their first 3-game win streak. Toronto has dropped his last four starts, though two of those defeats can't be heaped on Happ's left arm. He's a nibbler, and that has led to 18 walks in his first 31.2 innings this year, seven of the free passes last Thursday at home in less than four innings against the Red Sox.
The former Northwestern Wildcat has seen the Rays twice before, accumulated an out more than nine innings and allowed nine earned runs.
Hernandez saw his last start rained out in Kansas City before it became official. He had allowed one run in four innings at that point, a far better performance than his last official outing when Hernandez served up three gopher balls in six innings of a 5-4 loss at the White Sox. This will be his first start vs. Toronto since a disastrous outing at Rogers Center in May 2011, and he owns a 3-1 record along with a 4.84 ERA against the Jays over his career.
Marty Foster is in line to call the mound offerings tonight; four of his six plate assignments this season failed to reach the total, along with one game that landed square on the total.
Live MLB odds at SBR show an 8.5 run total for Game 2, and we've now seen five of the last eight between the Rays and Jays go OVER at The Trop. Since it's difficult for me to imagine Happ and Hernandez hooking up in some 4-3 type game, I'm going to play this one on the high side of the total.
My pick: Blue Jays-Rays Over 8.5 (+105) at The Greek
Monday's Series Opener
By: Willie Bee
A batter with a .333 average is considered among the games very best despite failing two-thirds of the time. Teams with a .333 winning percentage rank among the very worst, and in the case of this year's version of the Toronto Blue Jays following a big spending spree last winter, are destined to go down in history as utter failures.
The Blue Jays are doing a little better than .333 as they head out for a weeklong trek that begins Monday with the first of four against the Tampa Bay Rays and ends with three in Boston. In what could be a make-or-break trip for Toronto's season, SBR will follow the Jays the entire trip in hopes of finding some MLB odds winners.
Toronto begins the journey as decided underdogs for Game 1 at Tropicana Field (7:10 PM ET). Tampa Bay is carrying chalk around -150 for the opener that finds Jeremy Hellickson facing Mark Buehrle of the Blue Jays. A 7.5 run total is posted for the first of 18 meetings between the division rivals, and it favors the UNDER though that has nothing to do with the starting pitchers. More on that in a bit.
Toronto managed to climb just above the .333 plateau with a victory on Sunday, just the second in the past 10 games and the second time last week that they stopped a 4-game slide. A 7/2 choice to win the American League on the MLB futures odds board when the 2013 campaign got underway, the Jays are bringing up the rear of the AL East with 9.5 games between them and the Boston Red Sox.
Tampa Bay is doing better than Toronto, but not by much at 14-16 following a 4-5 road trip that took the Rays through Chicago, Kansas City and Denver. They've won just four of 12 from division foes and have proven a bit unlucky with a 2-7 mark in 1-run affairs.
Rays Look to Extend Success Vs. Jays
This is not a great team for Toronto to begin its turnaround against, and it's certainly not a good location. Tampa Bay has ruled this series the past five seasons (61-29 since 2008), winning 30 of the past 42 matchups with the Blue Jays and 10 of the most recent 11 tilts at The Trop. The Rays enter the contest with a 5-game win streak vs. Toronto and can match their longest string of dubyas in the series with a victory on Monday.
Four of the last seven the clubs have played under the St. Pete dome finished OVER the total, but it's tough to imagine where the offense will come from this week. The Blue Jays rank near the bottom of the American League in scoring (3.66 RPG) despite sitting near the top in homers (38). The Rays are also scoring below the league average at 4.37 RPG.
Buehrle, Hellickson Both Off To Slow Starts
Then again, maybe tonight's mound duel will help provide a boost to both lineups. Buehrle and Hellickson each sport 1-2 records and just two quality starts after being expected to be big contributors to their respective staffs.
Buehrle saw the Rays often while he was toiling for the White Sox, but Monday marks his first appearance vs. Tampa Bay in over three years and first at Tropicana Field since April '09. He has surrendered six homers his last two assignments and will be facing a Rays lineup that is 7-2 against lefthanders this season.
Hellickson's biggest trouble has come against left-handed hitters who have hammered all six homers against him in 36.1 IP and are batting 72 points higher than righties. The good news is both of his home starts did result in Rays victories and Tampa Bay is 4-2 in his six career assignments vs. the Jays (2.89 ERA).
As poorly as Buehrle has performed this season, I'm going to ride him and the Blue Jays as road 'dogs on Monday. Check back each and every day this week for continued coverage and free picks for each game of the Toronto and Tampa Bay series.
My MLB pick: Blue Jays +130 at Bookmaker