Mariners vs. Blue Jays Odds, Preview, Prediction: How to Back Toronto’s Red-Hot Lineup (Wednesday, June 30)

Mariners vs. Blue Jays Odds, Preview, Prediction: How to Back Toronto’s Red-Hot Lineup (Wednesday, June 30) article feature image
Credit:

Ron Schwane/Getty Images. Pictured: Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Steven Matz.

  • The Toronto Blue Jays continue their series against the surprising Mariners on Wednesday night.
  • Led by Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Toronto is in the playoff race in the AL East and is thriving offensively with George Springer back in the lineup.
  • Tanner McGrath breaks down the betting value in the matchup and delivers his best bet below.

Mariners vs. Blue Jays Odds

Mariners Odds +195
Blue Jays Odds -230
Over/Under 10.5 (-118/-104)
Time 7:07 p.m. ET
TV YouTube
Odds as of Wednesday morning via DraftKings.

I am in love with this matchup. Two intriguing teams with bright futures (especially as their younger players develop) battling in a left-hander versus left-hander showdown in Wednesday’s Major League Baseball action..

However, it seems Toronto is in the better spot right now, as its young MVP candidate led them to a dominant 9-3 win in this series opener. Yet, I wouldn’t sleep on Seattle, who’s recent hot stretch has it back above .500 and in the playoff hunt.

Let’s dive into where the value lies in this matchup.

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Mariners Making Surge Toward Wild Card

The focus for Seattle baseball fans should be the future, as the franchise currently has the No. 4 (Jarred Kelenic) and No. 5 (Julio Rodriguez) prospects in MLB’s pipeline. The Mariners’ outfield could be one of the best in a few years.

However, maybe we should focus on the team of right now. These Mariners are 18-12 in their last 30 games, winning seven of their last 10 contests. While Seattle i still seven back of Houston for the division lead, it’s only 5.5 games back in the wild-card race.

The Mariners have been relying on a combination of above-average offense (13th in wRC+ in June), good relief pitching (eighth in FIP in June) and solid defense (12th in defensive runs saved). Nobody is the “guy” on the team, although J.P. Crawford leads Seattle in WAR (2.8), while young Jake Fraley has an .873 OPS since being called up.

However, Seattle’s starting pitchingneeds work. That includes its starter: 

Starting pitcher: Justus Sheffield (LHP)

The 25-year-old former New York Yankee is in his third year of starting in the show, having the biggest down season of his young career. Well, at least from an advanced analytics standpoint.

His .291 xBA, .523 xSLG, .382 xwOBA and 6.26 xERA all rank in the bottom five percent of qualified pitchers. Sheffield has made 13 starts this season and has been worse (or expected to be worse) than 95% of qualified pitchers. However, the Mariners are 6-7 in his starts, meaning he gives them a chance to win. Although it’s worth noting, Sheffield is 0-3 in his last three starts.

There’s one equation that explains all of Sheffield’s struggles this season: He’s allowing a lot of contact and hard contact. His strikeout rate is way down (7.18 K/9), while his swinging strike rate is just 8.8 percent. Hitters are making contact more than 80% of the time against him and posted an 11.5% barrel rate, with an average exit velocity nearing 92 mph. That’s a bad combination.

Sheffield has a three-pitch mix that includes a sinker, slider and changeup. Everything is getting mashed, but his sinker has been particularly bad. That pitch has produced a run value of 10, as opponents are batting .358 off of it (on just 488 thrown) this season.

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Guerrero Jr. Continues to Lead Blue Jays’ Resurgence

Again, the Blue Jays are set up really well for the future. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is already an MVP frontrunner; Bo Bichette is slugging .484 at just age 23; and, Toronto has two top-20 prospects in its farm system via Nate Pearson and Austin Martin.

Unfortunately, I don’t believe Toronto has enough all-around firepower to keep up with the AL East frontrunners. However, the Blue Jays could sneak into the wild card, as they’re  just four games back of the second spot.

It’s all about offense with Toronto. The lineup has been mashing the ball all year, and the club is tied with New York and Boston for the top average exit velocity (90 mph) in baseball.

In June, the Blue Jays were easily a top-five offense. The lineup has posted the second-highest OPS (.818) and wOBA (.351) in the month of June, while smacking the eighth most home runs (39). Plus, Toronto just added George Springer into the mix, which should make them even more dangerous.

The pitching staff is the weakness of this Toronto team, although the latest starter hasn’t been all that bad:

Starting pitcher: Steven Matz (LHP)

The long-time New York Mets pitcher is putting together his best all-around season since 2016.

So, what is working for Matz this season (4.26 ERA, 3.64 xERA) that wasn’t last year (9.69 ERA, 6.96 xERA) when he was sent to bullpen and traded?

For starters, he’s keeping the ball inside the park at a career-average rate following his 2020 debacle (4.11 HR/9 in 2020). Additionally, while he throws a four-pitch mix (sinker, changeup, curveball, slider), the sinker seems to be the big difference maker.

After posting a .405 xwOBA on that pitch in 2020, it’s down to .321 this season. In fact, he’s posted the lowest BA on the sinker since 2016 (.267) and the lowest SLG on the sinker in his career (.385).

He upped his velocity on the sinker about 1 mph over the past two seasons, and perhaps that led to some control issues last season. However, he seems to have gotten it back under control, and his strikeout rate on the pitch is rising:

Author’s note: Matz was placed on the 10-day IL recently due to a positive COVID-19 test. He had to miss his last start as a result, but got some live practice in to stay on top of his game:

Steven Matz has cleared COVID-19 protocol and rejoined Blue Jays. He threw 60 pitches of live batting practice at Sahlen Field in Buffalo today.

No exact date yet, but Matz is expected to make his next start for Blue Jays. Likely during next week’s series vs. Mariners.

— Arden Zwelling (@ArdenZwelling) June 24, 2021

Mariners-Blue Jays Pick

I’m looking at two picks in this spot.

First, while it’s rather contrarian, I’m going to bet the Blue Jays run line. While Seattle has been streaky good lately, the pitching mismatch is too much to overlook. Sheffield will most likely get crushed, especially since the Blue Jays are second in the league in weighted sinker runs created (5.1).

Meanwhile, Matz and the streaky good Toronto bullpen (second in MLB in FIP over the last seven days) should hold Seattle somewhat at bay, especially since the Mariners rank 28th in the league in weighted sinker runs created (-5.7).

Toronto has covered their run line in 12 of their last 13 wins, and it’s gone 43-34 against the run line on the season (56%, +4.61 units).

Additionally, I think the over provides some value here. The Blue Jays offense is clicking on all cylinders, while the Mariners’ lineup has been effective on the road recently. Toronto is 4-2 to the over in its last six home games, while Seattle is 5-0 to the over in its last five road games.

Additionally, we’ve tracked some sharp money coming in on the over and we have an over-leaning umpire behind the plate in David Rackley (122-92 lifetime to the over). Look for Guerrero and his teammates  to win big in a high-scoring and wildly-entertaining game.

Pick: Blue Jays -1.5 (-124) | Over 10.5 Runs (-104)

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