Red Sox-Blue Jays Matchup will 'Under'whelm Bettors

Rainman M.

Thursday, April 26, 2018 2:43 PM UTC

Thursday, Apr. 26, 2018 2:43 PM UTC

Bettors shouldn't expect a lot of runs when Toronto hosts Boston tonight. The Red Sox are heavy chalk and the game total is set at 8, but what's the smart play with your MLB picks?

MLB Thursday: Red Sox (17-5, 12-9-1 O/U) vs. Blue Jays (14-8, 10-11-1 O/U)Free MLB Pick: 'Under' 8Best Line Offered: 5Dimes

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Both lineups are struggling. The Red Sox have mustered eight runs in their past four games and Toronto only nine. The pitching matchup makes another case for a fourth consecutive "under" between these two teams in Toronto.

Perennial Cy Young candidate Chris Sale (1-1, 1.86 ERA) starts for Boston. Sale cannot help his poor win-loss record. In one start, he received 14 runs in support. But Boston hitters have otherwise been quiet when he pitches, producing 11 runs combined in his other four starts. Sale will need a strong performance considering this trend and Boston's cold hitting form. Toronto's ballpark is just what he's looking for. Last year, he pitched 22 shutout innings in Toronto, achieving 35 strikeouts while only walking two and surrendering 11 hits.

It is interesting to note that Sale struggled against Toronto last year in Boston. Toronto's lineup is stacked with guys who can hit right-handed. Sale struggles against right-handed power in Boston where he allowed 11 home runs against 295 batters faced. Conversely, he allowed only 10 home runs against 424 batters faced away from Boston. Sale allowed four homers vs Toronto in Boston but none in Toronto. The fly-ball inducing southpaw matches up well in Toronto's ballpark, which unjustly gets touted as hitter-friendly. From 2015 to 2017, Rogers Centre never finished in the upper half in terms of home runs hit. Sale will keep the ball inside the ballpark tonight, especially now that he is back on four days' rest, where his career ERA is at its best, 3.03.

Marco Estrada (2-1, 5.32 ERA) counters for Toronto. Bettors will see his ERA and rush to bet the "over." But hang on. It's true that, as a fly ball pitcher, the key for Estrada is to prevent home runs and that he has allowed six homers in four starts. "Experts" are acting as if Estrada is enduring some titanic crisis, but bettors can't punish Estrada for facing the Yankees twice, against which he has allowed five of those homers. Struggling against the Yanks is nothing new for Estrada, who, in June and July of last year, allowed combined 13 runs against them in two starts -- one in New York and one in Toronto.

Estrada's fly ball and walk rates persist around his career average, which indicates that his mechanics and command are fine. Against his two other opponents, he achieved a 3:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio and an FIP of 3.50 or better. As Estrada struggled later into last year, he dropped the usage of his favorite pitch, the change-up. Currently, the frequency of Estrada's change-up usage is consistent with his career numbers and the pitch continues to be super effective for him, yielding an opposing BA of .200 or lower in three of his four starts. So don't worry about Estrada's form.

A crucial trend justifies bettors' trust in Estrada: Since 2016, Estrada has alternated between producing an ERA of less than and then more than 3.00 in each of his starts against Boston.

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Both bullpens are fresh enough to secure the "under" on the MLB odds board. Boston's ranks second in terms of ERA while Toronto's is inflated due to having to pitch many more innings and Roberto Osuna's recent misfortune. Osuna allowed his first two runs of the season against Boston, whose 1.000 BABIP and Osuna's 2.17 FIP show that he was just unlucky. Last year, Osuna allowed one run and an FIP of less than 2.00 (like ERA, but factors out luck) in four innings against Boston in Toronto. The one true weak link in Toronto's pen who always gets shelled by Boston, Danny Barnes, already pitched Wednesday night and still did not ruin the "under" in our MLB picks.

Two important hitters, Boston's Xander Bogaerts and Toronto's former MVP Josh Donaldson, remain injured.

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