The Kansas City Royals have a chance to wrap up the ALCS in Game 5 on the road, but look for the Toronto Blue Jays to take this series back to Kansas City with a multi-run victory.
The ALCS favorites before the series are in dire straits down 3-1, but look for the bats to come alive and for this series to get extended rather emphatically when Edinson Volquez and the Kansas City Royals again pay a visit to fellow right-hander Marco Estrada and the Toronto Blue Jays for Game 5 north of the border at Rogers Centre in Toronto, ON Canada at 4:07 ET in a game televised nationally on FOX Sports 1.
The run line at Pinnacle Sports has Toronto as a home favorite for this contest with the current line at -1½ with odds of +135.
Brink of Elimination
The Blue Jays appeared to have gotten back into this ALCS with their big win in Game 3 Monday, but the Royals may have taken a stranglehold of this series by going up 3-1 with a very emphatic blowout road win 14-2 yesterday! Thus the Royals can close things out again in Toronto today, which would allow them to set up their pitching rotation for the World Series beginning on Tuesday in any manner they see fit.
Still, the Blue Jays do not figure to go down without a fight as this is a team that has been the winning MLB pick 97 times this year thanks to the best offense in baseball, leading the Major Leagues in runs scored, home runs and team OPS during the season while ranking second in batting average. Unfortunately that offense has only presented itself in an 11-run explosion in the Game 3 win in this series, although we suspect we will see another breakout performance today.
Rematch of Game 1
This is a rematch of Game 1 of this series when Volquez and the Royals upset Estrada and the Blue Jays in a 5-0 shutout as +107 underdogs, with Volquez pitching six of those scoreless innings. Estrada did not turn in a terrible effort for Toronto allowing three runs in 5.1 innings with six strikeouts and not a single walk. Still, when a Kansas City starter takes a shutout into the seventh inning, there is not much anyone can do given the great Royals’ bullpen.
In this rematch, we see Estrada as the pitcher more likely to pitch as well as in Game 1, and in his case probably better. Estrada went 13-8 with a 3.13 ERA and 1.04 WHIP while yielding just a .203 batting average during the regular season, and he then pitched well in his only start vs. the Texas Rangers in the ALDS, allowing one run and five hits in 6.1 innings without a walk.
And his Game 1 start notwithstanding, Estrada allowed only four runs and 12 hits plus one walk over 12.1 innings in two regular season starts vs. Kansas City. He figures to be better here with the return home, as he finished 6-4 but with a sparkling 2.95 ERA and 1.00 WHIP in Toronto this season in 13 starts covering 85.1 innings.
Problems in Toronto for Volquez
Volquez allowed just two hits in his six scoreless innings in Game 1 while overcoming a perceived pitching advantage the Blue Jays had in that game. Volquez had respectable overall numbers during the season at 13-9 with a 3.55 ERA, but he outperformed his peripheral stats by a fairly wide margin and he was converging to those sabremetric numbers late in the year when he posted a 5.18 ERA and 1.58 WHIP with a high .304 batting average allowed during the month of September!
Sure, he looked good in Game 1 but it could be a different story for Volquez here in Toronto, where he has not pitched well in two starts going 0-2 with a 6.10 ERA and 1.55 WHIP. Thus, we expect to see a pitcher closer to what we saw in September here as opposed to the Volquez we saw in Game 1, especially with the Blue Jays averaging a whopping 6.12 runs per game vs. right-handed pitching here in Canada this year.
Good Run Line Bets This Year
Finally, the great Toronto offense has made the Blue Jays one of the best Run Line bets in baseball this year at 94-77, +20.90 units overall based on one-unit base plays combining the regular season and playoffs. Also, even with the Game 4 debacle, the Blue Jays are still 6-2 in the last eight head-to-head meetings here at Rogers Centre with only one of those six wins being by less than two runs.
We are expecting the favored Blue Jays to show some pride here by staving off elimination and taking this series back to Kansas City, and their penchant for covering Run Lines combined with the nice odds attached to the -1½ here has us recommending playing Toronto on the Run Line hosting the Royals in Game 5 of the ALCS from Toronto on Wednesday.
MLB Pick: Blue Jays -1½ (+135)