Few expected the Blue Jays to be down 0-2 vs. the Royals as the scenery shifts to Toronto for ALCS Game 3, and runs may be scarce with Marcus Stroman facing Johnny Cueto.
The series favorites before this ALCS could be in trouble after losing the first two games on the road and they may now need to win a pitching duel Monday night to get back into this series when Johnny Cueto and the Kansas City Royals this time pay a visit to Marcus Stroman and those Toronto Blue Jays for Game 3 from Rogers Centre in Toronto, ON Canada at 8:05 ET in a game televised nationally on FOX Sports 1. Kansas City leads the best-of-seven series 2-0.
The posted total at Pinnacle Sports is 8 for this contest with the current odds on the ‘under’ set at -120.
Where is Toronto Offense?
The Blue Jays had the best offense in baseball during the regular season while leading the Major Leagues in scoring, home runs and OPS and also ranking second with a .269 team batting average, but that has not been apparent vs. Kansas City pitching the first two games, with Toronto getting shut out in Game 1 and then three runs not being enough for ace David Price in a 6-3 loss in Game 2.
Thus the Royals have still not been the losing MLB picks in an ALCS game since 1985! The caveat there of course is that Kansas City did not make the playoffs between winning the last three games of that 1985 ALCS vs. these Blue Jays and last season, when they swept the Baltimore Orioles in four games. Thus Kansas City is in pursuit of its 10th straight win in the ALCS here over a span of 30 years.
In Good Hands with Stroman
The Blue Jays were around -150 favorites to win this series, but now their season may rest squarely on the shoulders of Stroman, who actually pitched well in both of his starts during the ALDS vs. the Texas Rangers without getting a decision, first allowing three earned runs in seven innings of Game 2 (but no earned runs while being dominant after the first inning) and then allowing two runs in six innings in the deciding Game 5.
Stroman was a great story this season as the youngster was projected to be the Toronto ace the year after going 11-6 with a fine 3.65 ERA and 111 strikeouts vs. just 28 walks in 130.2 innings as a rookie in 2014, but he then tore his ACL during the exhibition season and it was commonly believed that he was out for the year. However, Stroman vowed that he would be back for the stretch run and sure enough, he kept his word returning for four September starts.
That was an unbelievably fast recovery for such a severe injury, and the best news is that Stroman did not appear to have any lingering effects while going 4-0 with a 1.67 ERA and 18 strikeouts vs. six walks in 27 innings. He has not faced the Royals since recording a Quality Start in his only career outing against them last season allowing just one run in six innings with six strikeouts and no walks.
The Real Cueto?
As for Cueto, the Royals acquired him from the Cincinnati Reds to be their ace, and needless to say he was a huge disappointment during the regular season after coming to the American League going a dismal 4-7 with a 4.76 ERA and 1.45 WHIP, and he then did not pitch well in Game 2 of the ALDS vs. the Houston Astros either, allowing four earned runs on seven hits plus three walks in six innings.
Still, the Royals felt obligated to start Cueto in the decisive Game 5 as that was the reason they acquired him after all, and to his credit he rose up to probably turn in his best effort in a Kansas City uniform when it mattered most, allowing just two runs on two hits in eight innings with eight strikeouts vs. not a single walk in the 7-2 win, as all the damage he allowed came on one swing, a two-run homer by Houston’s Luis Valbuena.
So can Cueto match that kind of form again tonight? Well, it is easy to forget that he did finish second in the National League Cy Young Award voting behind Clayton Kershaw last year when he went 20-9 with a 2.25 ERA and 242 strikeouts in 243.2 innings vs. 65 walks for the Reds, and he had a 2.62 ERA with 120 strikeouts in 130.2 innings vs. just 29 walks for Cincinnat1 at the time Kansas City picked him up this year.
In other words, we may have finally seen the real Cueto last Wednesday and he now may be able to keep the normally potent Toronto bats silent to help keep this a relatively low scoring game.
Trending the ‘under’
Finally, the ‘under’ is 36-15-5 in the Royals last 56 games vs. teams with winning records (18-7-2 in the last 27 such road games) and 7-2 in their last nine games vs. right-handed starters. The ‘under’ is also 8-2-1 in Stroman’s last 11 home starts for the Blue Jays.
The Blue Jays may be approaching the “pressing” stage and Cueto will not make their lives any easier provided his last outing was not a mirage. However, Stroman is also capable of pitching his team to a humongous victory, so we recommend going ‘under’ when Kansas City visits Toronto for Game 3 of the ALCS on Monday.
MLB Pick: Royals, Blue Jays ‘under’ 8 (-120)