Baltimore is in a major tailspin right now so its playoff chances are looking slim. Good luck winning Friday's road series opener vs. the juggernaut that is Toronto.
What You Need To Know
Most experts agree that you can determine how truly good at team is by its run differential. I generally agree with that. For example, Toronto has the best run differential in baseball at plus-197 and leads the American League East. St. Louis is at-plus 142 and has the best record in baseball while comfortably leading the NL Central. Every division leader is at least at plus-54.
But then you look at Orioles, who are five games under .500 despite a plus-28 run differential. The Texas Rangers hold down the second AL wild-card spot but are minus-23. So take any statistic with a grain of salt, I suppose is the lesson here.
Baltimore has to make its move now as it's 6.5 games behind the Rangers for the second wild-card spot and with four other teams in between the Orioles and Rangers. You hear that some heads are going to fall in the Baltimore front office with this recent collapse. But Manager Buck Showalter is considered safe. The Birds have lost 12 of 14 -- I correctly picked against them here at SBR at home vs. Tampa Bay on Tuesday and the Rays won 11-2. The Orioles did avoid yet another series sweep Wednesday with a 7-6 victory in 11 innings. Chris Davis hit a walk-off homer on a 3-0 count off Rays reliever Matt Andriese. Maybe that jump starts the Orioles, who also rallied from a 6-4 deficit in the bottom of the ninth. They had been 0-61 when trailing after eight innings. Baltimore still has scored three or fewer runs in 12 of its last 14 games.
The first-place Blue Jays lead the Yankees by 1.5 games, and with New York losing Mark Teixeira for at least two weeks, I fully expect Toronto to win the AL East. The Jays are -400 favorites on MLB odds to do so. Toronto has won five of six entering this one and took two of three at home vs. the Indians to start this week. I don't know how Toronto third baseman Josh Donaldson isn't your AL MVP. He's hitting .304 with 36 homers (third in AL) and 111 RBIs (first in MLB). He's batting.407 with two homers and 10 RBIs over the past seven days.
Toronto leads the series 7-5, but the teams haven't played since June 19-21, meaning the Orioles haven't seen the Blue Jays since they added Troy Tulowitzki, Ben Revere and David Price. The Jays' Jose Bautista is 11-for-33 with three homers and 12 RBIs this season against Baltimore pitching. Edwin Encarnacion is 10-for-47 with four homers and 10 RBIs. Donaldson is 13-for-45 with two dingers and nine RBIs.
For Baltimore, Manny Machado is 19-for-47 with three homers, 12 RBIs and 11 runs scored against the Blue Jays. Adam Jones is 13-for-38 with three home runs and nine knocked in. Davis is 13-for-45 with three homers and six RBIs. Orioles starting catcher Matt Wieters has played only two games vs. Toronto this season as his year got off to a late start coming off Tommy John surgery.
The Orioles go with right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez (9-9, 4.34). They have lost his past two, with Jimenez allowing 11 earned runs and 18 hits over just 11.1 innings. Jimenez has a 7.50 ERA since the All-Star break compared to 2.81 before. He has faced Toronto three times in 2015, obviously all before the break. Jimenez is 2-1 with a 2.84 ERA in 19.0 innings. Jays batters are hitting .194 off him with two homers and 13 hits. Bautista really struggles against Jimenez, with only two hits and six strikeouts in 29 career at-bats. Donaldson is 2-for-15 off him with seven strikeouts. Encarnacion is 6-for-30 with a homer. The Orioles are 1-7 at sportsbooks in Jimenez's past eight road starts vs. teams with a winning record.
Toronto's Drew Hutchison (13-2, 4.87) gets some of the best run support in the majors as you can see by that win total and not great ERA. He was sent down to Triple-A briefly, returned last week and was strong in a win over Detroit, allowing one run and six hits over seven innings. The Jays have won his past seven outings and he hasn't personally lost since July 3. Hutchison is 1-0 with a 6.57 ERA in two starts vs. Baltimore in 2015. The Orioles are batting .229 off him with three homers and 12 strikeouts. Davis is 4-for-20 career off him with a homer and nine strikeouts. Jones is 6-for-26 with a homer. Machado is 4-for-11 with a homer. Toronto is 10-1 in Hutchison's past 11 vs. the AL East.
Final Analysis: Take Toronto and the 'OVER' The Jays are 5-1 in Hutchison's past six vs. Baltimore. The 'over' is 4-1 in his past five vs. teams with a losing record. The 'over' is 5-1 in Jimenez's past six series openers.
MLB Pick: Blue Jays -162 & 'OVER' 9 at BetOnline