The AL East race remains a 4-team race as the Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays head to the rubber game of their MLB odds series at Tropicana Field.
Blue Jays vs. Rays Game 3
By: Willie Bee
Chris Archer had it going on Tuesday, helping the Tampa Bay Rays to a 4-3 win over the Toronto Blue Jays to even up this crucial battle between AL East clubs heading to the decisive third game today. Archer extended his string to nine starts without a loss on his scorecard --Tampa 8-1 -- in an 8-inning, 3-hit performance to do most of the heavy lifting for the Rays. The victory left Tampa Bay 5-0 behind their young hurler in June and left the surprising Rays with a 2-game lead in the division thanks to a Yankees loss.
The set ends with a matinee (12:10 PM (ET), Marco Estrada tossing for Toronto against Tampa's Nathan Karns. GT Bets is in line with most other sports books listing the Rays -110, a 7½ run total strongly favoring the 'under' and likely to move to 7 before first pitch.
Estrada Facing Rays As Starter For 1st Time
Estrada began the season pitching in long relief for the Blue Jays, five of his six calls from the bullpen during April resulting in scoreless baseball. The former Long Beach State star then joined the rotation, and Toronto promptly lost all five of his start in May while Estrada posted an ERA over 5.00. That has since turned around with the Jays a perfect 4-0 behind the righthander in June.
Wednesday will be the first time Estrada has faced Tampa Bay as a starter, all of his previous experience vs. the Rays coming in relief. Including two scoreless appearances against them in April, Estrada has combined for eight innings and only one run crossing the plate.
Karns made his Tampa Bay debut against the Blue Jays in Toronto last September, earning his first major league victory with seven shutout frames while allowing two hits and whiffing eight. A 12th-round pick by the Washington Nationals in 2009, Karns has helped the Rays to three victories in four June assignments, and is looking to correct a home ERA (4.24) that is almost two runs higher than when he takes his turn in the rotation on the road (2.25).
Umpire Notes, Final Thoughts & A Free Pick
Ben May, one of the newest -- and least experienced -- umpires at the major league level is slated to call balls and strikes this afternoon in St. Pete. May is serving as a fill-in for a second consecutive season, taking the place of DJ Reyburn this week on Joe West's crew. The Wisconsin native has worked the plate just twice this year, both games falling short of the MLB odds in games that had totals of 7 or less. It's just the 10th big league game of his career under the mask, and first at Tropicana Field.
At 20-20, the Rays have the worst home record among division leaders, and I'm thinking Tampa Bay gets over. 500 in St. Pete today to cash our free MLB pick.
MLB Pick: Rays -110 at GTBets
Blue Jays vs. Rays Game 2
By: Willie Bee
Once again, Toronto righthander Drew Hutchison didn't really impress anyone with his work on the mound, and once again, Blue Jays hitters bailed him out in an 8-5 victory to get their series with the Tampa Bay Rays started on Monday. It was just the second time in eight tries this year that Toronto managed to send Tampa Bay to defeat, and the Blue Jays now get a chance at winning two in a row over the AL East leaders when the series continues Tuesday evening (7:10 PM ET).
RA Dickey and his dancing knuckler will be the Jays' first line of defense while young Chris Archer looks to continue his fine season for the Rays. MLB odds at The Greek have Tampa Bay -160, a 7 run total priced a little heavier on the 'under' at that shop and most others.
Rays Perfect 4-0 Behind Archer In June
Dickey had a rough Fathers Day weekend away from the club attending his dad's funeral. A veteran of 13 big league seasons, the knuckleballer has had his share of ups and downs along the way, and should be able to put the loss of his father behind him quickly.
It wouldn't be surprising, in fact, to see Dickey turn around what has otherwise been a tough season so far. That reversal is already underway in many ways, the Blue Jays winning five of his last six starts after dropping six of the first eight. Dickey was bombed in his only appearance at The Trop earlier this year, and has lost both assignments vs. Tampa Bay. That leaves him 5-5 with a 4.10 ERA in 12 starts against the Rays since coming to Toronto.
Archer has been among the league's best hurlers all season, and enters this contest helping his squad to four consecutive wins in June. Rough appearances back-to-back against the Rangers and Orioles in early-May seem well behind him with a 1.85 ERA since, and he'll be shooting for his second dubya of 2015 vs. Toronto after tossing seven, 2-hit innings against the Blue Jays in an April assignment at home. The Rays are 6-4 when Archer faces Toronto, the young righthander sporting a 2.98 ERA in 60+ innings.
Must Read: Check out our updated league futures odds
Umpire Notes, Final Thoughts & A Free Pick
Up next to call balls and strikes for this umpire crew should be Rob Drake, the often quick-thumbed field arbiter who has twice led the majors in ejections since first coming up in 1999. The 46-year-old Drake is also one of the best 'under' wagers this year with nine of his 13 plate assignments failing to breach the MLB odds. That record includes a couple of contests at Tropicana Field, both of which stayed 'under' the marks.
Toronto won the first collision of the AL's top lineup against the league's best pitching staff and defense, and I'm liking the Blue Jays once again for my free MLB pick.
MLB Pick: Blue Jays +145 at the Greek
Monday's Series Opener
By: Willie Bee
Three weeks before the 2015 MLB All-Star Game, the AL East race is upside down according to baseball futures odds just before Opening Day. Then, the Boston Red Sox were 7/4 chalk to win the division while the Tampa Bay Rays played the long shot role of the troupe at 8/1.
Tampa Bay leads the division entering the final full week of June, Boston the only squad currently out of the race nine games back in last. Among the teams within three games of the Rays at the top of the heap are the Toronto Blue Jays, a 5/2 pick to win the division in early April, and they'll clash with Tampa Bay the next three days. Monday's opener (7:10 PM ET) has Drew Hutchison and Matt Andriese engaged in the initial mound duel, Bookmaker having the contest even as a pick 'em on the MLB odds and the 'under' favored on an 8 run total.
The Rays have a winning record against only two AL clubs since coming into existence in 1998, and the Blue Jays are one of them. Tampa Bay is 20 games above .500 vs. Toronto, doing all of that damage and then some at home where the Rays are 90-60 (.600) in the series.
They added to that mark by sweeping the previous series from the Jays in the Sunshine State, that set taking place in late-April with two of the three at Tropicana Field failing to reach the totals. Tampa Bay also took three of four in Toronto during the second week of the 2015 MLB betting schedule, all three victories cashing for 'under' bettors. The 'over' was actually a little better wager in St. Pete during the 2014 (5-4 O/U) campaign.
Hutchison Seeking Answers To Road Struggles
Toronto (37-34, +1.3 units) has this road series between a couple of homestands. The Blue Jays dropped the final two games of a weekend series to the Orioles, Sunday's finale a wild 13-9 setback that featured the two clubs combining for 13 runs in the second inning alone.
Hutchison's 6-1 personal record gives him an AL-best .857 win percentage this year, the Blue Jays standing 9-5 in his starts to tally 3.3 units of black ink against the baseball odds. But it has often taken a lot of runs from the Toronto lineup to get those victories with the righty posting a 5.33 ERA so far.
The 24-year-old has been especially vulnerable on the road, often throwing batting practice in his assignments south of the 49th parallel. Away from Toronto, Hutchison's ERA soars to 9.46 in seven starts, opposing hitters batting .350 off him with eight bombs in just over 32 frames. He missed seeing the Rays in the two April matchups, and is 1-2 in three career tries at The Trop, his ERA approaching 7½.
Rays Opening Long Homestand With Visit From Jays
While the Jays are hitting the road following a slugfest to end their homestand, Tampa Bay (40-31, +9.3 units) is coming off a road trip and a pitchers duel on Sunday. The Rays saw their 4-game win streak end in a 1-0 loss at Cleveland, their third 4-game stretch of dubyas this month, and they'll have the Red Sox following Toronto into town before a rematch against the Tribe ends this season-long 10-game homestand.
Andriese has bounced between relief and rotation this year, Monday marking his fifth starting assignment to go with five calls from the 'pen. A 3rd-round pick by the Padres in 2011, Andriese has yet to allow an earned run in almost 10 innings this month, and the Rays have been on the winning side of the final score in each of his last six outings. That streak started with a pair of relief appearances vs. the Blue Jays during the home series in late-April, the righthander combining for five innings while allowing two runs.
With all of these games indoors, we won't have to worry about weather. What we do need to worry about is the clash of strengths, Toronto leading the AL in scoring (5.54 rpg) and Tampa on top allowing the fewest runs (3.45 rpg). I'm liking the Rays at an even-money price for my Game 1 free MLB pick.
MLB Pick: Rays -110 at Bookmaker
Season: 56-42-2 (+14.75)