AL East rivals will open a crucial three-game series on Monday night when the Toronto Blue Jays visit the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards. Toronto owns the top AL Wild Card spot at 60-48 after splitting a four-game series with the Minnesota Twins including a 3-2 triumph in extra innings on Sunday to cash in as a -173 favorite. Baltimore took two of three from the Pittsburgh Pirates but missed out on a sweep with an 8-1 defeat on Sunday as a -181 favorite, and is now two games out of a Wild Card spot at 56-52.
This will be just the second series between these divisional foes after they split a four-game set in Toronto back in mid-June.
Blue Jays get split in competitive seriesWhile Toronto was cooled off somewhat from its previous red hot pace, it still managed to split with the first-place Twins thanks to a 10-inning triumph on Sunday. Bo Bichette opened the scoring with an RBI double in the second before Lourdes Gurriel Jr. added an RBI single the next inning, and while Minnesota tied things late, the Blue Jays got the win on Cavan Biggio's sacrifice fly in the 10th that included a controversial call at the plate.
Kevin Gausman tossed six scoreless innings, allowing six hits and no walks while striking out five. Jordan Romano was charged with a blown save for allowing one run in two innings but still earned the win. Teoscar Hernandez had a multi-hit game including a double to help the offense.
Despite the strong record, Toronto is down a big amount on the money line for the season while going 49-59 on the run line. Overs are 56-51-1 for Toronto after Sunday's low-scoring game snapped a run of three straight overs.
This is the third-highest scoring offense in baseball at 4.83 runs per game on a .765 team OPS, also third-best in baseball. Pitching is the question for the Blue Jays, as they are mid-pack with a 3.92 combined ERA including a mark of 3.88 from the bullpen.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is having another stellar year at the plate, posting an .876 OPS with 23 homers and 68 driven in. Alejandro Kirk is a breakout star, batting .299/.385/.461 with 12 homers and 40 driven in.
Yusei Kikuchi will be on the mound for the 19th time, hoping to get a tough season turned around as he's 4-5 with a 4.86 ERA across 74 innings, although he has struck out 84. The 31-year-old went four innings against the Tampa Bay Rays last Wednesday, allowing two runs on three hits and a walk while striking out five.
Toronto suffered a big blow this week as outfielder George Springer went on the IL with elbow inflammation. The rotation is missing Ross Stripling (strained glute), Hyun Jin Ryu (Tommy John surgery) and Nate Pearson (mononucleosis). Relievers Tim Mayza (shoulder dislocation), Julian Merryweather (strained oblique) and Taylor Saucedo (hip discomfort) are also sidelined.
Orioles five-game winning streak comes to an endDespite selling at the trade deadline, the Orioles just continue to hang around in the Wild Card race, although they were blown out on Sunday as they couldn't complete the sweep of the Pirates. Jorge Mateo opened the scoring with a solo homer in the third, but the Pirates went up for good in the fifth inning and dominated the rest of the game.
Spenser Watkins took the loss, allowing four runs on four hits and one walk while striking out five across 5.1 innings of work. Mateo had two of Baltimore's four hits in a tough afternoon for the offense.
No team has been more profitable for bettors on the money line with the Orioles going an outstanding 70-38 on the run line. Overs are 49-53-6 for the Orioles with just one of their last six games going under the betting total.
Offense has not been the strength for the Orioles, who are averaging 4.23 runs per game on a .695 team OPS. Baltimore pitching has been impressive, ranking inside the top 10 with a 3.84 combined ERA including a mark of 3.01 from one of the best bullpens in baseball.
Star rookie Adley Rutschman is already one of the best catchers in baseball, posting 2.6 WAR on an .809 OPS in just 60 games. Anthony Santander has also provided some pop with a .794 OPS, 19 homers and 59 driven in.
Veteran Jordan Lyles will make his 23rd start of the season after going 6.1 strong innings to beat the Texas Rangers last Tuesday, allowing one run on seven hits and one walk while striking out seven. The 31-year-old, who joined the Orioles in free agency last winter, has gone 8-8 with a 4.20 ERA across 124.2 innings.
Infielder Jonathan Arauz is recovering from a fractured finger. Starting pitchers Chris Ellis (shoulder surgery), John Means (Tommy John surgery) and Tyler Wells (strained oblique) are all sidelined. The bullpen is missing Louis Head (shoulder impingement), Travis Lakins Sr. (elbow inflammation) and Alexander Wells (strained elbow).
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
The Orioles aren't going away this season as they continue to exceed expectations, and this is a favorable pitching matchup to open a huge series in front of what should be an energetic crowd. Kikuchi's command hasn't been there all year, and the Orioles' bullpen advantage will prove crucial going up against a loaded Toronto offense.
After showing flashes of great stuff while never quite putting it together in Seattle, the change of scenery hasn't done much for Kikuchi, who has just a 139 FIP- while walking a whopping 13% of opposing batters. Another issue is he can't go deep into games at this point, and the Blue Jays are only a middling bullpen by most stats.
The Orioles can afford to pull Lyles early if needed, as this deep bullpen leads the Majors in reliever WAR while ranking third in ERA. Toronto is the better team overall, but Kikuchi can't be trusted and the Orioles just keep winning in what was supposed to be a rebuilding year.
Full-Game Total Pick
Lyles had done respectably enough as an innings-eating veteran, but ultimately only has a 111 ERA- / 100 FIP- and gets a difficult assignment here. Toronto has the third-most prolific offense in baseball with a 114 wRC+ and only improving as the year goes on, and while the loss of Springer is a blow, trade deadline acquisition Whit Merrifield was heating up prior to joining the Blue Jays and looks like a good fit in the lineup thus far.
Baltimore's offense has been much better lately with a 110 wRC+ as Rutschman has led the charge, living up to the hype as a top prospect already. These starters have not been good overall this season, and the offenses will take advantage.