Playoff contenders will meet for an interleague clash on Friday night when the Toronto Blue Jays open up a three-game series against the Milwaukee Brewers at American Family Field. Toronto enters in second place in the AL East at 39-30 after dropping two of three to the Chicago White Sox, avoiding the sweep with a 9-5 win on Wednesday as a -112 favorite. Milwaukee earned a four-game split against the St. Louis Cardinals with a 6-4 win on Thursday as a -122 favorite and is now tied for first in the NL Central at 40-32.
These teams last met back in the 2017 season, when they split four meetings.
Blue Jays avoid sweep thanks to offenseToronto lost its mid-week series to the White Sox despite piling up 22 runs over the three games, but at least took Wednesday's finale by scoring early and often. Alejandro Kirk had both an RBI single and solo homer in the first three innings, and a five-run fourth was highlighted by Bo Bichette's grand slam.
Ross Stripling tossed six strong innings to earn the win, allowing one run on five hits and one walk while striking out five. Teoscar Hernandez had a multi-hit game including a two-run homer in the seventh inning for some insurance.
“This is good. Obviously, we want to be more consistent,” Bichette said via MLB.com. “When your back is against the wall, to play well is a good attribute to have as a team and as an individual, too. This was a good win today."
Toronto is only up very slightly on the money line for the season as it is a huge favorite in most matchups while going 31-38 on the run line. Overs are 36-32-1 for the Blue Jays, with nine of their last 10 games going over the betting total.
After a slow start, the Blue Jays have been on fire at the plate for a few weeks, now averaging 4.68 runs per game overall for the season on a .753 team OPS that is third-best in baseball. Toronto pitching is scuffling a bit with a 4.02 collective ERA including a mark of 4.41 from a bullpen that is the weak point on the roster.
Kirk has developed into an unexpected star, batting .307/.395/.487 with eight homers and 26 RBI. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. continues to put up big numbers as well with an .857 OPS, 17 homers and 42 driven in.
Alek Manoah will be on the mound for the 14th time, hoping to continue an impressive season as he's 8-2 with a 2.00 ERA and 73:15 K:BB ratio across 81 innings. The 24-year-old is coming off a rare loss last Saturday to the New York Yankees, as he allowed four runs on six hits and one walk while striking out five over 5.1 innings.
Catcher Danny Jansen is recovering from a fractured finger. Starting pitcher Nate Pearson has not been in the big leagues this year as he recovers from mononucleosis, while Hyun Jin Ryu will miss the rest of the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Relievers Julian Merryweather (strained oblique), Trevor Richards (strained neck), Taylor Saucedo (hip discomfort) and Andrew Vasquez (sprained ankle) are also out.
Brewers move into tie for first again after splitThe NL Central is shaping up to be a competitive title race between the Cardinals and Brewers, who now have the same record after Milwaukee was able to take the finale of a four-game set on Thursday. Rowdy Tellez got Milwaukee on the board in the bottom of the first with an RBI groundout before Tyrone Taylor provided the big blow on a three-run homer in the fourth, with Willy Adames later going deep.
Jason Alexander picked up the win, allowing four runs on six hits and two walks while striking out five across 5.2 innings. Josh Hader breezed through the ninth inning with two strikeouts, picking up his 21st save. Christian Yelich was on base three times including a double and a run scored.
Milwaukee is still down a fair amount on the money line for the season while going 31-41 on the run line. Overs are an even 33-33-6 for the Brewers after Thursday's game cleared the betting total of 9.5 runs.
The Brewers' offense is right at the league average at 4.32 runs per game on a .707 team OPS. As usual, pitching remains the strength of Milwaukee, with the staff posting a 3.69 ERA to rank eighth in baseball including a mark of 3.48 from a strong bullpen.
Tellez is enjoying a productive season with a .795 OPS, 11 homers and 41 RBI. Adames is also having another strong campaign, posting a .767 OPS with 15 homers and 36 driven in.
Adrian Houser is set to make his 14th start of the season looking to follow up a win over the Cincinnati Reds last Sunday, when he allowed three runs on four hits and four walks over six innings, striking out five. The 29-year-old has thrown 68 innings overall, going 4-7 with a 4.24 ERA.
Second baseman Kolten Wong (strained calf, utilityman Mike Brosseau (sprained ankle) and catcher Alex Jackson (sprained finger) are on the IL. The rotation is missing All-Star Brandon Woodruff (sprained ankle) and Freddy Peralta (strained lat), along with Aaron Ashby (forearm inflammation) and Luis Perdomo (elbow effusion). Relievers Jake Cousins (elbow effusion), Trevor Gott (strained groin), Jandel Gustave (strained calf) and Justin Topa (strained flexor tendon) are on the IL. Catcher Pedro Severino and reliever J.C. Mejia are both serving 80-game PED suspensions.
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
Milwaukee has steadied since an ugly losing streak earlier in June, but this is still a limited offense that is going to be challenged by the terrific Manoah. Toronto will be tough to beat when it gets good pitching, as Manoah will be supported by a loaded lineup that has picked things up over the past few weeks.
After posting middling numbers for the first month of the season, the Blue Jays now look like the offense everyone expected, ranking sixth in baseball with a 112 wRC+. That's more than enough to support a Cy Young contender, as Manoah has maintained excellent metrics like a 72 FIP- and 18.2 K-BB%.
The Brewers will have trouble keeping up with that level of firepower as they have only a 97 wRC+, and the offense was the main culprit in an ugly 1-9 skid that recently ended. Milwaukee's pitching is solid but not enough to make up for the difference between the two offenses here, especially with Manoah on the hill for Toronto.
Full-Game Total Pick
Houser has posted solidly average stats by ERA and FIP, as when he's at his best he generates groundballs at nearly a 60% clip to help him avoid major damage while limiting the long ball, a key against a powerful offense. A terrific bullpen waits in support, as the unhittable back-end duo of Hader and Devin Williams highlights a unit that is 10th in ERA.
One key for Manoah is he has only pitched fewer than six innings in two starts this year, which will limit how much Toronto's shaky bullpen depth has to pitch on Friday. While Toronto is a high-scoring team, the Brewers' pitching staff is up to the challenge, and Manoah will shut down Milwaukee's offense on the other side.