Rays vs. Blue Jays MLB Odds, Picks & Expert Predictions: Back Rightful Favorite in Matinee Matchup (September 15)
Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images. Pictured: Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Bo Bichette
- The Blue Jays are home favorites for this afternoon's game against the Rays.
- t's a battle of aces, with Kevin Gausman taking the mound for Toronto against Tampa Bay's Shane McClanahan.
- Continue reading for a full breakdown of this matchup, including a betting pick.
Rays vs. Blue Jays Odds
|Blue Jays Odds||-140|
|Over/Under||7 (-120 / +100)|
|Time||3:07 p.m. ET|
|Odds via Caesars. Get up-to-the-minute MLB odds here.|
They're also battling for positioning in the AL Wild Card race. The fight for playoff supremacy has shown as things have gotten testy this week between these division rivals.
The Blue Jays took the first game 3-2 on Monday. Blue Jays shortstop Bo Bichette was hit by a pitch. That led to Rays catcher Francisco Meija being plunked and a few tense moments between the clubs, though a brawl did not occur.
On Tuesday, the teams split a doubleheader with the Rays taking the first game 4-2 and the Blue Jays winning 7-2 in the nightcap. The Blue Jays then took last night's game with a 5-2 final.
The Blue Jays now have a 1.5-game lead on Tampa in the Wild Card race. It will look to take four of five from the Rays on Thursday afternoon. However, the game will mark the return of Rays ace Shane McClanahan. The Blue Jays will counter with Kevin Gausman. Will either ace have the advantage?
Tampa Bay Looks to Avoid Collapse
Last week the Rays looked prepared to make an improbable September run at the AL East crown. The team won eight of nine games, including a series win over the first-place Yankees. The Rays then went to New York, lost two of three, and have followed it up by losing three of the first four games against the Blue Jays. The Rays now find themselves 7.5 games back of the Yankees and in the third AL Wild Card spot.
Tampa's bats have gone cold lately, and the team is averaging just 2.6 runs over its last eight games. Even Harold Ramirez, who is hitting .318 for the season, is hitting .200 over his past seven games.
Offense may be hard to come by for the Rays on Thursday, as well. Ramirez is just 1-for-4 against Gausman while Randy Arozarena, Wander Franco, and Ji-Man Choi are a combined 0-for-17 against him.
The Rays will get a jolt from the return from starter McClanahan. He was pulled from his last start on Aug. 30 against the Marlins before throwing a pitch with a left shoulder impingement. McClanahan is 11-5 this season with a 2.20 ERA and 182 strikeouts in 147.1 innings. In his lone start against the Blue Jays this season, McClanahan struck out 10 and allowed only three hits in seven innings.
However, I would not expect a seven-inning start from McClanahan in this one. Manager Kevin Cash said McClanahan will have a "limited" workload, and Cash is already cautious (sometimes overly cautious) with his starters. That could favor the Blue Jays.
Bichette Leading Blue Jays' Offense
The Blue Jays are led by one of the game's brightest young stars in first baseman Vladimir Guerreo Jr. However, Guerreo Jr. has been a bit cold lately. After hitting .314 with nine home runs and 34 RBIs between August and July – which coincided with a 24-game hitting streak – he is hitting just .239 over over his last 15 games.
It appears he may be snapping out of it. Last night, Guerreo Jr. snapped a 63 at-bat homerless drought for his 28th home run of the season. He is 3-for-9 against McClanahan in his career.
While Guerreo Jr. has struggled of late, Bo Bichette has picked up the slack, and he has been one of the hottest hitters in baseball. Bichette is hitting .453 with seven home runs, 22 runs batted in, and a 1.423 OPS over his last 15 games. He has recorded two hits in 10 of those games. The Blue Jays are 11-4 in that span.
Bichette is just 2-for-9 against McClanahan, but that may not matter with how hot he has been. George Springer and Matt Chapman each have homers off McClanahan.
Kevin Gausman will get the ball for the Blue Jays, and he is 12-9 with a 3.31 ERA and 179 strikeouts in 152.1 innings this season. He is coming off a rough outing at Texas, allowing five runs in 5.1 innings. However, Gausman has dominated the Rays this season. In three starts against Tampa this year, he has a 1.59 ERA and 21 strikeouts in 17 innings. That includes pitching eight innings of one-hit ball with 10 strikeouts back on Aug. 2.
Rays-Blue Jays Pick
The Blue Jays have had the upper hand in this series, and I expect that to continue on Thursday. The Blue Jays have the better offense right now, averaging five runs per game and hitting .274 in the month of September.
While McClanahan will start for the Rays, I do not expect him to go more than five innings. High stress early in the game could drive up his pitch count and get him out of the game even sooner.
I expect Gausman to continue his success against the Rays, and he will probably pile up the strikeouts in the process. His line is set at 6.5 as of this writing. If he handles the Rays as expected, the Blue Jays should pull out the win at home.
Pick: Blue Jays ML -140