Toronto returns home from a disappointing road trip for a crucial three-game series vs. the Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays are coming off a 2-4 homestand bookended with wins over the Yankees (5-0) and Tigers (1-0). Tampa scored two runs or less in four of the six games.
Toronto is home off an eight-game road trip that dragged out to the west coast (0-3), stumbled back to Chicago (1-2) and ended with a split in Milwaukee. Having Edwin Encarnacion back in the lineup has provided a noticeable boost to the Jays offense. The hard hitting 1B/DH has four hits in five games (1 HR) but with EE, Jose Buatista, Melky Cabrera and Adam Lind in the lineup, it’s not always so much about what one of them does but more about what the group can do. The Jays have scored five-plus runs in four of their past five, the only real shutdown coming against hot-handed Mike Fiers in the opener at Miller Park. Add Jose Reyes to the leadoff spot and there are not many holes for opposing pitchers to have a bad inning.
During a cold month of August the Blue Jays (5-12) have slipped off the pace in the hunt for an American League Wild Card berth and come into this series four games off the lead. Toronto started the season with a healthy 10-4 record in the first game of a home stand but they have since lost four-straight in this spot, getting pounded for 33 runs by the Rangers, Red Sox, Orioles and Tigers. Click ‘Border Crossings’ for a SDQL chart by SportsDatabase.com detailing this profile!
Drew Hutchison, RA Dickey (twice) and Mark Buehrle surrendered 17 earned runs in those four losses and today the Jays will look to Marcus Stroman (7-4, 3.83 ERA) to get them back on track. Stroman’s pitched well at the Rogers Centre, going 5-1 in eight starts with a 2.70 earned run average. The right-hander has only allowed three home runs in 60.0 innings pitched and carries a 0.95 WHIP.
The Jays have provided their rookie hurler with plenty of support, averaging 5.38 runs per game (RPG) and tonight they’ll try and tee off on Drew Smyly. The lefty has struck out 26 batters in his past three road starts, two with Tampa and one with Detroit and this is his first time pitching north of the border.
Since the start of 2012 the Jays are 4-2 in the first game of a homestand vs. opponents who are coming off a home series and that includes big nights against left-handers Jon Lester (9-7 win), Barry Zito (10-6 win) and David Price (8-5 loss). They have clearly not given up on the season but thanks to recent struggles against Seattle and Fiers, are still being viewed with a hint of skepticism by bookmakers and bettors alike. What’s important to remember is that Toronto’s trip to the left coast came on the heels of a 19-inning marathon vs. the Tigers. Once they regained some composure, not to mention Encarnacion of the DL, Toronto went right back to its slugging ways. Fiers shut this lineup down but Smyly does not bring the same set of weapons to the table.
Friday’s MLB Best Bet: Take the Blue Jays (-119) at 5 Dimes
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