Don’t forget about the diamond on Derby Day. For Saturday’s MLB betting preview, we will examine two games involving clubs that have flown under the radar: Toronto and Atlanta. The Braves surprisingly sit in first place in the NL East, while the Blue Jays have played solid baseball but get lost in the shuffle of the competitive AL East.
Let’s look at how each will bounce back after Friday night losses.
Toronto Blue Jays (-105) at Tampa Bay Rays (-105) | O/U: 8
Aaron Sanchez (2-2, 4.06 ERA) vs. Jacob Faria (2-1, 4.60 ERA)
6:10 p.m. ET
Ray and Jays: Tampa Bay’s offense is weird. After a couple years of living by the home run, the Rays had hit only 29 through Thursday, good for only 22nd in the majors. They also had the 24th-best ISO ranking (slugging percentage minus batting average, a barometer for power) at .142. Even with low power numbers, the Rays’ offense has performed pretty well overall. Going into the series opener, Tampa was tied for sixth (with Toronto and the Angels) with a 104 wRC+ (weighted runs created plus), and was seventh in wOBA (.323).
Toronto’s offense has also clicked in the early going, but in the complete opposite manner. Through Thursday, the Jays’ 48 home runs and .199 ISO led the majors. They had also scored the third-most runs with 173. — Mark Gallant
Starter Stumbles: While Toronto’s offense has held up their end of the bargain, their starting staff has not. Through Thursday, Blue Jays starters had a collective 5.61 ERA — the second-worst mark in the league.
Not great company to be in. Just take a glance at the hideous season splits for all six Toronto starters this year.
Outside of J.A. Happ, every starter has struggled — including Sanchez, who has had severe control issues. His 4.30 BB/9 rate is the 13th highest among all qualified pitchers. The good news? Sanchez will pitch tonight on the road, where he’s 17-7 with a 2.75 ERA in his career. He’s also enjoyed success against Tampa in 13 previous meetings (five starts): 1.24 ERA, .85 WHIP and a .168 BAA. He boasts a minuscule .73 ERA in 24.2 innings at Tropicana Field.
Starting pitching has really been Toronto’s only weak area, as the Blue Jays’ bullpen has the fourth-best ERA (3.00) through Thursday. That said, the Jays’ bullpen 3.74 FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) — a more stable measure of performance — suggests they’ve benefited from some good fortune.
Tampa’s bullpen has a 4.78 ERA, which ranks 25th in the league. However, the Rays’ 4.14 FIP suggests they’ve pitched at an average level. — Stuckey