The Toronto Blue Jays will look to finish off a three-game interleague sweep of the Cincinnati Reds on Sunday afternoon at Rogers Centre. Toronto has won both games of the set so far including a 3-1 triumph on Saturday to hit as a massive -235 favorite. Cincinnati has the worst record in baseball at 11-28, while the Blue Jays are in third place in the AL East at 22-18.
This is the first series between these teams since May of 2017, when the Blue Jays pulled off a three-game sweep of the Reds at home. Cincinnati's last win over Toronto came way back on June 22, 2014.
Reds hope for offense to get going in finaleCincinnati has been playing much better in general since its awful 3-22 start, but hasn't quite been able to break through in the first two games of this series as it has plated just two total runs. The Reds took the lead in the fourth inning on Saturday on Joey Votto's RBI double, yet that would be it for the offense, which went 1-6 with runners in scoring position.
Rookie Hunter Greene turned in a terrific outing, allowing one run on four hits and two walks while striking out six. Luis Cessa was charged with the loss, allowing two runs in his lone inning. Tyler Naquin went 2-4 with a double and a run scored, while Alejo Lopez also enjoyed a multi-hit game.
The Reds are down a massive amount on the money line with their poor overall record while doing slightly better on the run line at 17-22. Overs are 22-15-2 for the Reds, although five of their last six games have gone under the betting total.
Cincinnati has slowly climbed the leaderboards offensively after a horrible April, now posting an average of 3.97 runs per game on a .645 OPS overall. The pitching has been a bigger problem, ranking dead last with a 5.79 collective ERA including a mark of 4.88 from the bullpen.
Tyler Stephenson has been Cincinnati's best hitter when healthy in 26 games, batting .309/.367/.519 with four homers and 20 RBI. Naquin also has been heating up, now posting a .790 OPS with four homers, three steals and 21 RBI.
Connor Overton was supposed to start, but he was scratched due to back soreness. That means Graham Ashcraft will take the mound, making his major league debt.
Cincinnati is down four players due to the vaccination mandate in Toronto, including one of their best hitters in infielder Brandon Drury plus outfielder Albert Amora Jr., starting pitcher Tyler Mahle and reliever Joel Kunhel. Reigning NL Rookie of the Year Jonathan India (strained hamstring), shortstop Jose Barrero (hamate surgery), infielder Donovan Solano (strained hamstring), outfielder Max Schrock (strained calf), outfielder Jake Fraley (knee inflammation) and outfielder Nick Senzel (COVID) are on the IL. The rotation is missing Justin Dunn (strained shoulder), Nick Lodolo (strained lower back) and Mike Minor (shoulder soreness). Relievers Tejay Antone (Tommy John surgery), Daniel Duarte (elbow inflammation), Lucas Sims (lower back spams) and Justin Wilson (elbow soreness) round out a long Reds IL.
Manoah dominates to lock in series winWhile Toronto still can't seem to get the lineup going, the pitching has been enough to handle this series so far, with Alek Manoah turning in a gem to lead the Blue Jays on Saturday. Bo Bichette got Toronto on the board in the fourth with a solo homer before later providing the game-winning two-run shot in the seventh inning.
Manoah went eight innings, allowing one run on seven hits and no walks while picking up four strikeouts. Jordan Romano struck out the side in the ninth for his 14th save. Bichette had the only multi-hit game for the Blue Jays, as they managed only five singles otherwise.
Toronto is still down very slightly on the money line for the season while going 17-23 on the run line. Overs are only 14-25-1 for the Blue Jays, and none of their last eight games have gone over the betting total.
Expected to be one of the best offenses in baseball, Toronto has really scuffled at the plate with 3.64 runs per game on a 0.678 OPS. The pitching staff has kept Toronto afloat, ranking just outside of the top 10 with a 3.68 ERA including a mark of 4.02 from the bullpen.
George Springer has been Toronto's most effective hitter, posting an .834 OPS with seven homers, 22 RBI and 22 runs scored. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. has also hit well with an .815 OPS, seven homers and 21 runs driven in.
Yusei Kikuchi will make his eighth start in a Blue Jays uniform after beating his old team the Seattle Mariners on Monday with six scoreless innings, allowing just one hit and three walks while striking out six. The 30-year-old has been effectively wild this season, going 2-1 with a 3.38 ERA and a 33:20 K:BB ratio across 32 innings.
Promising young starter Nate Pearson has been unable to pitch in the big leagues this year as he recovers from mononucleosis. Relievers Tim Mayza (forearm inflammation) and Taylor Saucedo (hip discomfort) are on the IL.
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
The Reds are playing much better than their overall record indicates after that horrific start, winning seven of their last 12 games while also being at least competitive in this series against a significantly more talented team. Toronto's offense will get going at some point this summer, but the Blue Jays are getting overvalued given their current performance at the plate, and Kikuchi has also been playing with fire so far this year.
Shockingly, the Blue Jays have a middling 96 wRC+ at the plate this season, and even in this series against baseball's worst pitching staff have only managed four runs in the two games.
Kikuchi won't get away with this ERA forever should he continue to walk 14.7% of opposing batters. as shown by his 119 FIP-. Cincinnati is playing decently enough to challenge the Blue Jays, and we should see another close, low-scoring game here.
Full-Game Total Pick
Kikuchi does generate strikeouts at a 24.3% rate which can help him get out of some of those self-created jams, and opponents are only hitting .221 against him. The Reds only have an 82 wRC+ as a lineup, and while they have been much better in May, that is offset this series by missing Drury (133 wRC+) and Almora Jr. (.296 batting average).
A few bullpen options are slowly but surely emerging for the Reds, including rookie Alexis Diaz (1.02 ERA) and former starter Jeff Hoffman (1.83 ERA) as a multi-inning weapon. We've seen low-scoring games in this series so far, and expect that to continue with Sunday's matchup.