The Texas Rangers continue their AL East trip across the border this weekend, and SBR has previews and free MLB picks for all three games against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Sunday Game 4
By: Willie Bee
It was a simple plan, and seemed destined to succeed for a while. I could catch the middle game of the set in Toronto between the Blue Jays and Texas Rangers, then get in an afternoon snooze for some extra rest before working a Bob Schneider show at a local concert venue.
But as the old saying goes, the best-laid plans of mice and men...
A two-for-one special was what fans at Rogers Centre were treated to in Saturday's 18-inning marathon that lasted 5½ hours. The home crowd was also treated to a 4-3 victory ultimately, though the win could've come much sooner had Blue Jays closer Casey Janssen not blown a 9th-inning lead.
Toronto will go for the series sweep today behind Josh Johnson, and the Blue Jays are -140 favorites to pull it off for their fourth straight victory. The Rangers wrap up a 6-game road trip with Justin Grimm on the hill, hoping to avoid their first 4-game skid of the season, and the MLB odds have been bouncing between a 9-9.5 run total since the numbers first came out.
Managers are usually very happy to get seven innings from their starting pitchers, so Ron Washington and John Gibbons were pleased with the efforts of Yu Darvish and Mark Buehrle on Saturday. But they both needed a whole lot more work from their bullpens, and that will put both Grimm and Johnson on the spot Sunday.
Grimm is seeing the Blue Jays for the first time in his career and coming off a horrible outing in Boston on Tuesday when the Red Sox pasted a 17-5 mark on Texas. That setback snapped a 3-start win streak for the former Georgia Bulldog who was averaging less than six innings per assignment before getting roughed up.
Johnson looked very good that same night in San Francisco where he made his first start since April 21 following a DL stint for a triceps injury. The big righty took the loss despite allowing two runs (1 earned) over seven innings, and is seeing Texas for just the second time in his career with the other start coming in 2010 while he was with the Marlins (7 IP, 1 ER).
The roof will be open for the contest with no rain in the Toronto forecast and the thermometer climbing into the mid-70s this afternoon. Gary Darling is in line for his 15th plate assignment in the finale and the chief of Crew H has an 8-6 O/U mark so far.
Both teams will be tired from yesterday's affair when they combined to leave 33 runners on base and hit .081 (3-for-37) with runners in scoring position. Each club will also be working on Monday, which will affect how the managers play this one. I'm going to back Texas to avoid Toronto's brooms and play the underdog Rangers.
My pick: Rangers +130 at Bet 365
Saturday's Game Three
By: Willie Bee
The Blue Jays did their part to keep the scoreboard operator busy Friday night at Rogers Centre, but the Rangers didn't hold up their end of the bargain to help those of us playing the OVER in the series opener between the two clubs.
Texas will now turn to ace Yu Darvish to try and even the series in a Saturday matinee, and a quick glance at SBR's live MLB odds shows the Rangers are expected to do just that as -155 favorites. Mark Buehrle will take the mound for Toronto looking for his third win of the year as well as extending the Jays' win streak to three.
Saturday's scoreboard hurdle is 8.5 runs with the UNDER priced at -120 at most betting outlets.
Toronto spotted Texas a 1-0 lead Friday before Esmil Rogers and four relievers shut the Rangers down and gave Blue Jays hitters a chance to shine in the 6-1 victory. Melky Cabrera had three of Toronto's six hits on the evening, including a solo shot in the fourth.
Darvish is seeing the Blue Jays for a fourth time in his career, beating them twice last season with the only loss coming in Toronto despite a fine effort (7 IP, 3 ER, 10 K). The American League leader in strikeouts with 111, Darvish also ranks fourth in WHIP (0.93) and seventh with a 2.77 ERA as he aims for his first victory since May 16.
He tossed seven shutout innings vs. the Royals last Sunday but didn't figure into the decision that eventually went into the win column for the Rangers. Five starts away from home have resulted in a 3-2 record for Texas while Darvish has held batters to an anemic .140 batting average.
Buehrle has a good track record vs. Texas over the years, but will be facing this lineup for the first time since 2010 when the Rangers beat him twice in three tries. The lefty has struggled to find any consistency this season, but has been better of late with four quality starts the last five times out.
There is a slight chance of rain in Toronto's forecast, but we expect the roof at Rogers Centre to be open. First pitch should find the thermometer in the mid-to-upper 60s with a light WNW breeze (in from left). Bruce Dreckman takes up his position behind the plate for the 14th time and has a 6-7 O/U record so far (3-1 O/U with 8.5 run totals).
Texas is struggling on this road trip, and part of that is a banged-up lineup that has Ian Kinsler and Mitch Moreland on the DL plus Nelson Cruz (hamstring) at less than 100%. I'll take my chances with the underdogs in this fight and play the Blue Jays.
My pick: Blue Jays +140 at Bet 365
Friday's Game Two
By: Willie Bee
Life on the road hasn't been too pleasant for the Texas Rangers recently. Then again, Rogers Centre hasn't exactly played like dome, sweet dome for the Toronto Blue Jays this season.
Texas will try and turn around its road woes while Toronto continues to try and turn around an utterly disappointing campaign when the clubs collide in Ontario. The mound clash for Game 1 won't turn any heads or qualify as a must-see matchup with Nick Tepesch and Esmil Rogers perform as the two combatants. But don't fret; Saturday's pitchers will help make up for that.
Let's not jump the gun on Game 2 just yet, however. We need to find a winner for Game 1 first, and the tight MLB odds have Texas a slight favorite on a moneyline we'll call -110 for a consensus. Scoreboard bettors are looking at a 9.5 run total that is taxed a little heavier on the low side at many sportsbooks.
The Rangers arrive in Toronto having dropped two of three in Boston, one of them a sound whipping at the hands of the Red Sox, and just 1-5 in their last six away from the Lone Star State. Texas' lead in the AL West has shrunk to just a half-game over Oakland, but the Rangers still have the best record in the American League which is a far cry from the Blue Jays who sit in the American League East cellar.
Texas Succeeds Despite Injuries, Toronto Struggling With Stars Missing
It's almost like the Blue Jays were set up for failure before the season while the Rangers were primed to exceed expectations, and there's something very wrong about that when Toronto was the club that had missed the playoffs the previous 19 years while Texas played in the last three postseasons and won two AL pennants. The Blue Jays were 40/1 long shots to win the 2013 World Series last November, and 7/1 favorites on New Year's Eve; the Rangers stagnated around 12/1 during the winter before that was adjusted upwards to 16/1 on April 1.
Both teams have suffered key injuries, but Toronto hasn't had nearly as much success with their plug-ins as Texas. The Jays just got Josh Johnson back from the DL, and could see Jose Reyes return in a couple of weeks. The Rangers just got Alexi Ogando back into the rotation, but are still without the right side of their infield as Ian Kinsler rehabs from a rib injury and Mitch Moreland nurses a sore hamstring. They have also been missing several top pieces of the pitching staff most if not all of this season, but have managed to find ample replacements.
Tepesch certainly fits that bill, despite the fact Texas has dropped each of his last three starts. The Missouri native owns a 2.11 ERA in those outings, and could easily be sporting a 7-3 record in his 10 starts with a little run support (1.7 rpg in current 3-game skid).
Rogers is making his second start to go with 23 relief appearances on the year, and is doubtful to throw more than 75 pitches on Friday. He has made four relief appearances vs. Texas over his career, all last season and covering 3.1 IP with one run allowed. Thursday's off day should have Toronto's bullpen ready to work 4-5 innings in Game 1.
Home Field Advantage Reigns In This Series
This has been a very even series over the years with the Rangers owning a slight 195-190 edge over the Blue Jays. That all-time record hides what has been a one-sided affair in favor of the home team, however, as both clubs own roughly a .580 win percentage over the other on their own diamonds.
Texas did manage to split the six games played at Rogers Centre a year ago while sweeping the Blue Jays in the only series played at Rangers Ballpark, which is where the squads will be next weekend for four games to complete their season series. Totals wagering also split 3-3 O/U in Toronto last season.
Scoring is up in Toronto where seven of the last nine at Rogers Centre went past the total, and that's the way I'm going to play the series opener. While you're here perusing previews at SBR, you might as well check out our continuing coverage and free picks for the series between the Yankees and Mariners in Seattle.My pick: Rangers-Blue Jays Over 9.5 (-105) at Bet365