After a busy offseason, Kansas City has been among the biggest surprises in baseball this year. The Royals have raced out to a 7-4 overall record to lead the American League Central standings by a game over the division-rival Cleveland Indians. Meanwhile, Toronto sits three games behind the Boston Red Sox for the top spot in the AL East after winning just six of its first 13 contests.
Can the Blue Jays get back on the winning track against the Royals on Sunday afternoon?
Ray hoping to build off strong 2021 debutToronto will turn to left-hander Robbie Ray for his second start of the season on Sunday. Ray looked good in his return from a left elbow contusion, allowing just two runs in five innings of work in a loss versus the New York Yankees. The lefty walked three batters and struck out three, a sign that he’s not quite back to 100 percent. Ray has morphed into a strikeout pitcher in recent seasons, posting a strikeout rate of at least 11 K/9 in each of the last five seasons. However, command has always been an issue for the lefty, who owns a career walk rate of 4.29 BB/9 in eight MLB seasons.
Ray has just one career start under his belt against the Royals. He allowed a solo home run in 1 ⅔ frames back in 2017. According to Baseball Savant, current Royals batters are hitting a healthy .471 in 17 plate appearances off of the Blue Jays’ lefty heading into Sunday’s matchup.
The bullpen has been an area of strength for the Blue Jays once again this season. Through 14 games, Toronto owns the best bullpen ERA in baseball at just 2.09 despite posting the fourth-lowest strikeout rate (8.84 K/9) among relievers.
Toronto will also have to wait a little longer for outfielder George Springer to make his Blue Jays debut. Springer was on track to play in the team’s first home game but felt tight while running the bases and is now deadline with a quad issue after originally landing on the injured list with a strained left oblique.
Singer to get the call for Kansas CityKansas City is scheduled to counter with right-handed starter Brady Singer in the series finale against the Blue Jays on Sunday. Singer is off to a rough start through two outings, going 0-2 with a 6.48 ERA. The Royals’ right-hander is fresh off of giving up four runs (one earned) on seven hits in just five frames in a loss versus the Los Angeles Angels.
While the 24-year-old owns an unsightly 6.48 ERA through his first two starts, there have been some positive signs on the mound for the young right-hander. Singer’s strikeout rate has jumped from 8.53 batters per nine innings last season to 11.88 batters per nine through his first 8 ⅓ innings in 2021. Bad luck and home runs have been the main culprit behind his ERA but a 2.98 xFIP and .458 BABIP point to some positive regression in the near future.
This will be Singer’s first career start against Toronto.
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
Robbie Ray was a reclamation project when he came to Toronto late in the 2020 season but appears well on his way to returning to form. The veteran lefty still has the stuff to compete as a Major League starter and could be a major steal for the Blue Jays if he finds a way to cut down his walk rate in 2021. I’ll take my chances with the team with the better bullpen here. Take the Blue Jays to come out on top on the road in Kansas City on Sunday afternoon.
Full-Game Total Pick
Toronto’s lineup has been heating up as of late, scoring five runs or more in four of its last five games. During that span, the Blue Jays are averaging a healthy 6.6 runs per contest, which bodes well for the total in this game. Meanwhile, Ray still has plenty left to prove before bettors can be assured that he’s turned the corner in a Blue Jays’ uniform. Walks and home runs remain a major problem for the Blue Jays’ lefty, which should give the Royals plenty of opportunities to score in this game. Take the over with confidence in this AL battle at Kauffman Stadium on Sunday.