This all-AL East four-game set began with the Tampa Bay Rays (35-15) in first place and the Toronto Blue Jays (26-23) in last place. The first two games of the series were split, and the third is set for Wednesday night. Thursday afternoon is when this game takes place, at 1:10 p.m. EDT. Tropicana Field is set to host, and both teams will bring their best. Here's a look at the final game between Toronto and Tampa until late September.
Blue Jays Looking For Their WingsThings have been brutal for the Blue Jays in May, particularly against division rivals. Tuesday's blowout win over the Rays only pushed them to 2-11 against AL East rivals this month. That's the main reason they fall to last place, although the hit parade could get them back on track. Toronto moved up to 10th in runs per game after the 20-run outburst. They are also ranked top-10 in strikeout rate, stolen bases, batting average, and OBP. The Blue Jays have plenty of dangerous bats in their lineup, and if that sparks something the rest of baseball is in trouble.
Good Morning 😃— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) May 24, 2023
Wake up to 20 runs on 27 hits! #NextLevel pic.twitter.com/4DPSmd5e8H
Toronto's pitching has done its job for the most part, with a top-10 ERA before Wednesday's game. However, Opening Day starter Alek Manoah has been unrecognizable on the mound so far. Following his tremendous 2022, Manoah has been awful in 2o23, with a 1-4 record and 5.15 ERA. His numbers have dipped across the board this season. Tampa already tagged him for seven runs once this season, his worst start of the year, and this time Manoah has to face them on the road. Trusting the bullpen to save him isn't feasible either, as they aren't excelling in many areas outside of strikeouts.
Is Tampa Slowing Down?They still own MLB's top record, but the Rays were only 12-9 in May after Tuesday's loss. Their pitching has faltered, with injuries and a heavy AL East schedule playing a big part. This month, before Wednesday's game, Tampa has a 4.56 ERA, and this season they're at 4.88 against the AL East. Allowing 20 runs in one night certainly ballooned those numbers, but it was a concern beforehand. Zach Eflin's starts have seldom been an issue for Tampa though, as the Rays are 7-1 on those days ahead of this one. At home, Tampa is 5-0 with a +22 run differential when Eflin starts. Tampa's bullpen is vulnerable right now, as they've thrown more innings than any other and are depleted by injuries, so Eflin needs to keep them in it again.
Fans chant Randy's name; Randy homers.— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) May 23, 2023
A classic (and predictable) tale. pic.twitter.com/5AQQzQy7xV
Fortunately, the Rays' offense is one of MLB's scariest this year. Their runs-per-game average dropped below six runs after Tuesday, but they're still second in that statistic. Tampa is still first in home runs, OBP, slugging percentage, OPS, and stolen bases. Randy Arozarena and Wander Franco are the stars, but Yandy Diaz is arguably the best of the bunch. Diaz was second in the league in OPS before playing on Wednesday. Taylor Walls and Josh Lowe have also been dramatically better hitters than they were in 2022. This offense can keep Tampa in any game.
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
Alek Manoah got shelled by Tampa's offense once at home, and there's little reason to think it won't happen again. Manoah has simply been ineffective this season, while the Rays are hitting nearly every pitcher in their path. Meanwhile, Tampa's Zach Eflin has consistently guided the Rays to home wins in 2023, with four of the five outings multi-run victories. Neither bullpen is reliable right now, so this comes down to starting pitching and offense. Both factors favor Tampa at home.
Full-Game Total Pick
Alek Manoah has been giving up three or more runs frequently this season, while Zach Eflin has allowed at least three in his past three outings. Neither one of these bullpens is shutting opposing lineups down right now. Even if they were, it's never easy navigating Toronto or Tampa's lineup. This game should have no issue exceeding eight runs, with how both sides are pitching and hitting. Roll with the getaway day over.