The two teams battling for second place in the AL East race continue a series on the diamond down in the Sunshine State. We have the Toronto Blue Jays on the road as they make the trip to continue a four-game series with the Tampa Bay Rays Friday night. Toronto split a two-game interleague set with the Phillies in the City of Brotherly Love as they fell 4-3 in 10 innings Wednesday night. Tampa Bay was swept at home in a three-game set by the Astros as they were defeated 5-2 in the series finale Wednesday night. This article was published prior to the conclusion of the opening game of the series at Tropicana Field Thursday night.
Toronto Blue Jays Battling to Secure Playoff PositionToronto couldn’t hold a late lead and ended up losing to Philadelphia on the road Wednesday night, ending up with a split of their short two-game set. The Blue Jays entered Thursday second in the AL East, 6.5 games behind the Yankees for the division lead. They held the top wild-card spot in the American League playoff picture by two games over Tampa Bay and Seattle while they were 6.5 games ahead of Baltimore to remain on the right side of the cut line. On Wednesday night, Toronto got two of their seven hits from Bo Bichette while Vladimir Guerrero Jr. clobbered his 30th homer of the season in the loss. Kevin Gausman threw six scoreless frames, allowing five hits with two walks and eight strikeouts, yet didn’t factor in the decision. Adam Cimber (10-6) took the loss as he allowed one run (none earned) on one hit with one walk, a hit batter and no strikeouts in one-third of an inning.
Alek Manoah is on the mound for the Blue Jays as he makes his 30th start of the season in this contest. He comes in 14-7 with a 2.40 ERA, a 1.007 WHIP, 47 walks and 168 strikeouts over 183.2 innings of action. Manoah didn’t factor in the decision in his last start, which came Sunday at home against the Orioles. He threw six innings, allowing one run on four hits with four walks and five strikeouts in a game the Blue Jays lost by a 5-4 score. In his last three starts, Manoah is 1-0 with a 1.74 ERA, a 0.92 WHIP, seven walks and 15 strikeouts over 20.2 innings of work. Manoah makes his seventh career start against the Rays in this contest. He comes in 3-2 with a 1.69 ERA, a 0.911 WHIP, 12 walks and 45 strikeouts over 37.1 innings of work. Manoah is 1-2 with a 2.87 ERA, a 1.404 WHIP, nine walks and 20 strikeouts over 15.2 innings in three career starts at Tropicana Field.
Tampa Bay Rays Looking to Get Offense GoingTampa Bay had all kinds of struggles with Houston when it came to putting runs on the board as they were swept in the series by the Astros. The Rays scored only two runs in the three-game set and entered Thursday third in the AL East, 8.5 games behind the Yankees for the top spot. They were tied with the Mariners for the second and third wild card spots, 4.5 games ahead of the Orioles to remain on the right side of the cut line. On Wednesday night, Tampa Bay got two hits from Randy Arozarena while Isaac Paredes hit his 20th homer of the year though that wasn’t enough. Corey Kluber didn’t factor in the decision as he threw seven innings, allowing one run on six hits with one walk and two strikeouts. Brooks Raley (1-2) took the loss as he allowed three runs on three hits with no walks or strikeouts in one inning of relief.
Jeffrey Springs is on the mound for Tampa Bay as he makes his 31st appearance and 23rd start of the season in this contest. He comes in 9-4 with a 2.45 ERA, a 1.088 WHIP, 29 walks and 130 strikeouts over 121.1 innings of work this season. Springs earned the win in his last start, which came at home against the Rangers Sunday afternoon. He threw 5.2 innings, allowing three runs (two earned) on six hits with no walks and six strikeouts in a 5-3 Rays win. In his last three starts, Springs is 2-0 with a 1.23 ERA, a 0.89 WHIP, three walks and 13 strikeouts over 14.2 innings of work. Springs makes his 10th career appearance and third start against the Blue Jays in this contest. He has a 2-0 record, a 2.18 ERA, a 1.065 WHIP, five walks and 24 strikeouts over 20.2 innings of work against them. Springs is 6-2 with a 2.32 ERA, a 1.043 WHIP, 21 walks and 97 strikeouts over 77.2 innings in 37 career appearances, 10 starts, at Tropicana Field.
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
This is going to be a big series for both teams as they continue to jockey for position in the crowded wild card field. Manoah has pitched well all season and took a tough no-decision his last time out when he left with a lead before the bullpen melted down. Springs has been on a roll, going 5-1 in his last seven starts as he continues his breakout campaign. The problem with the Rays is that they can go long stretches without putting runs on the board. One need look no further than the series with the Astros for proof of that as they went the first 23-plus innings of that series before putting something other than a zero up on the board. Manoah keeps Tampa Bay in check offensively and the bats scratch out enough runs off Springs and the Tampa Bay bullpen to earn the victory.
Full-Game Total Pick
Toronto has seen the over hit in 76 of their 149 games this season, with three pushes, entering Thursday’s action. The Blue Jays are 5th in runs per game with 4.74 runs per contest, though that number climbs slightly to 5.15 runs per game on the road this season. That is 2nd in the majors when it comes to run production on the road. Toronto’s average total this season is 8.98 runs per game and that number climbs to 9.14 runs per game on the road. Tampa Bay headed into Thursday’s action having seen the under go 72-66-11 in their 149 games this season. The Rays are tied for 19th in runs per game with 4.17 per contest, though that number dips slightly to 4.08 runs per game as the hosts. Tampa Bay has an average total of 7.93 runs per contest, a number that drops down to 7.43 runs per contest as the home team. Lean toward this one staying under the number as the pitchers do the job here.