Either team could win the AL East, but only one can win Friday's matchup between the Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays. The MLB odds say it'll be Toronto this time.
Jason's 2015 record as of July 16: 31-24, plus-7.36 units ML; 0-3, minus-3.30 units Total
Things have not gone according to plan in the AL East. The Boston Red Sox were supposed to run away with the division; they were 10-1 third favorites on the early World Series futures market at Bovada. Then it was the Toronto Blue Jays at 25-1. Instead, here we are going into the second half of the 2015 regular season with those two teams at the bottom of the division.
Meanwhile, the Tampa Bay Rays (66-1) are in second place behind the New York Yankees (33-1). But the standings are bunched up closely enough that any team could win the division. The race continues Friday night (7:07 p.m. ET) at the old SkyDome when the Jays host the Rays as –130 favorites on the MLB odds board.
You might remember the Blue Jays (45-46, –4.88 units) from our award-escaping look at three undervalued teams worth following in the second half of the season. In a nutshell, Toronto is all hitting and no pitching, but Friday night, one of their better starters takes the mound in Drew Hutchison (3.65 FIP). The Jays are 11-7 in Hutchison's 18 starts for a profit of 2.88 units.
They'd be doing even better with a little luck. Hutchison has a ridiculous .358 BABIP against this year, leaving the young northpaw with an unsightly 5.33 ERA. Toronto's also 2-4 in one-run games when Hutchison starts. Considering the Jays are third in the majors in hitting at 17.0 WAR, this seems like an opportune time to lay some wood on the T-Dot.
Then again, the Rays (46-45, –0.45 units) respond with the man, the myth, the legend, Jake Odorizzi (2.94 FIP). The sophomore righty has been tremendous in Tampa's injury-plagued rotation; alas, the Rays are only No. 15 in the majors in hitting at 10.7 WAR, and their relief pitching is No. 27 at –0.1 WAR. So much for relief. That leaves Tampa at just 7-6 in Odorizzi's 13 starts for a profit of 0.12 units. Twelve shiny pennies.
Odorizzi, however, seems to have Toronto's number. He's faced the Jays four times, allowing six runs in 27 innings of work with a combined OPS of .361. Jose Bautista (.872 OPS) is hitless against Odorizzi in nine at-bats. Edwin Encarnacion (.778 OPS) is 1-for-8. Josh Donaldson (.884 OPS) is 0-for-5. If you're batting right-handed against Odorizzi, sorry about your damn luck.
The Rays, on the other hand, have a combined .971 OPS versus Hutchison, so that's where our baseball pick lies for Friday. That's also where we find our fantasy pick-up, OF Kevin Kiermaier (.693 OPS). He's understandably owned in just 6% of Yahoo leagues, but Kiermaier is 4-for-7 lifetime against Hutchison with a pair of doubles and a 1.482 OPS. Maybe he'll swipe a bag for us, too.
Free MLB Pick: Take the Rays +123 at Matchbook