Red Sox vs. Blue Jays Odds, Preview, Prediction: Back the Undervalued Starting Pitchers (Friday, August 6)
Douglas P. DeFelice / Getty Images. Pictured: Nathan Eovaldi.
Red Sox vs. Blue Jays Odds
|Red Sox Odds||+115|
|Blue Jays Odds||-135|
|Time||Friday, 6:07 p.m. ET|
|Odds as of Friday at 8:00 a.m. ET and viaDraftKings|
These two AL East rivals are trending in opposite directions heading into this series.
Meanwhile, the Red Sox’s lack of activity at the deadline (sans Kyle Schwarber) has been exacerbated by a 1-6 run. This recent stretch included a sweep at the hands of Tampa Bay and the eventual succession of first place in the division.
But, the Red Sox are still just 1.5 games back of the division lead and are +2.5 games in the wildcard race. Meanwhile, the Blue Jays are fourth in the AL East despite their division-best +114 run differential.
From a betting perspective, I don't see much value on either side. However, I believe there are a few angles to play on the total.
Boston Red Sox
Much of the blame for Boston’s recent play has been on the pitching staff, and rightfully so. However, what has happened to the lineup in recent weeks?
The team that, season-long, ranks second in both average exit velocity and hard-hit percentage has posted just an 88 wRC+ over the past two weeks. The usual clutch, timely hitting we’ve come to expect from the 2-through-5 in the lineup hasn’t been there recently, as the Red Sox rank just 25th in RBIs over the past 14 days (42).
There are injury issues – as Xander Bogaerts has had some wrist troubles and they’re waiting for Kyle Schwarber to come back – but the bats need to wake up again at some point.
For example, JD Martinez has been the second-best DH in the AL all year (Shohei Ohtani). However, he’s in an 8-for-51 skid over his past 13 games with 14 strikeouts to just two walks. That’s good for a .157/.189/.255 slash and a .444 OPS.
The starting rotation hasn’t been good, but the Red Sox have won games by playing team baseball. Recently, the lineup hasn’t been picking up the pitching staff when needed.
The Red Sox have lost four straight games for the first time all season. Every team goes through rough periods, and Boston's is no different. The most important thing now is to avoid stretching this out too long.
Starting Pitcher: Nathan Eovaldi (RHP)
Surprisingly, I’m quite bullish on the Red Sox rotation.
Boston is going to insert Chris Sale back into the rotation any day now, and Eduardo Rodriguez is one of the biggest positive regression candidates in baseball (5.33 ERA, 3.64 xERA, 3.29 xFIP).
But, the biggest reason for optimism in Boston’s rotation is today’s starter: Nathan Eovaldi.
Eovaldi’s ascension to becoming a legit No. 1 starter fills out a top half of Boston’s rotation that fans should be excited for. Additionally, his performance this season has been monumental in the Red Sox's success.
Eovaldi throws a four-seam almost half the time, and he brings the heat. He averages 97 mph on his fastball, which ranks among the top 10 pitchers in baseball:
Nathan Eovaldi, Mechanics (96mph Fastball) pic.twitter.com/54wSZjGNbx
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) July 18, 2021
However, despite throwing the fastball so hard, he’s managed to allow a very low exit velocity on the pitch:
The low exit velocity has led to an xSLG of just .390 and an xwOBA of just .310 on the pitch. Of paramount importance, his ability to limit hard contact on his fastball has kept balls in the park as his .52 HR/9 this season ranks second among qualified pitchers (Trevor Rogers).
Combine his minuscule home run rate with his 8.90 K/9 and his 1.63 BB/9, and Eovaldi has posted just a 2.65 FIP this season – good for third best among qualified pitchers (Zack Wheeler, Trevor Rogers).
Eovaldi has had a rough stretch recently, as he’s allowed 14 runs over his past four starts. However, a lot of that has been bad luck, as he’s posted a 3.35 xFIP during this recent stretch as well. Eovaldi should see positive regression soon, and I’m expecting him to pitch excellent down the stretch.
Toronto Blue Jays
As mentioned, the Blue Jays have a lot of momentum. Jose Berrios and a revamped bullpen is a big reason why, but the lineup has been even better than usual.
Over the past 30 days, the Blue Jays have posted an .811 OPS, a .346 wOBA and a 119 wRC+ — all stats that rank top two in MLB during that stretch. Plus, also over the last 30 days, they lead the league in slugging (.481) and ISO (.214) while striking out at the lowest rate (18.9%).
The Blue Jays offense has been elite all season, as they’ve posted the highest average exit velocity (90.1 mph) this season. However, inserting a healthy George Springer has put the team over the top.
In his last 15 games, Springer is batting .410 with a .902 SLG and a 1.365 OPS. He’s posted an absurdly high .450 BABIP in the process, but he’s also smacked nine doubles and seven home runs in the stretch as well – proving he’s not just been lucky.
Starting Pitcher: Alek Manoah (RHP)
Manoah is a needle in a haystack.
He’s been a massive find for Toronto this season, and has been nails since getting called up in late May. After pitching seven shutout innings against the Royals in his last outing, the rookie has lowered his season-long ERA to 2.47 and his season-long WHIP to 0.97.
Moreover, his expected statistics aren’t far behind. His .186 xBA ranks in the 93rd percentile of qualified pitchers, and he’s posted a 3.07 xERA as such.
Manoah has a four-pitch mix, but batters will see either a four-seam, sinker, or slider about 90% of the time. Unfortunately for them, Manoah has kept his BA allowed below .200 and wOBA allowed blow .300 on all three pitches:
|Manoah's pitch type||BA allowed||wOBA allowed|
While Manoah doesn’t throw too hard (both fastballs average 93 mph), he’s still missing bats at an elite level. He ranks among the top 20% of pitchers in whiff rate and is striking out more than 10 batters per nine innings. His primary put-away pitch is the slider, as he’s recorded a strikeout rate higher than 40% on the pitch.
Alek Manoah's Slider…
Not sure what you can do with that one. 😀 pic.twitter.com/eebIh0DF6R
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) July 10, 2021
Manoah’s on a heater as well as he’s produced shutout performances in three of his last four starts. Combine Manoah’s ability to produce quality outings with Toronto’s elite offense, and the Blue Jays are 6-3 in Manoah's starts this season.
Red Sox-Blue Jays Pick
While this matchup features two of MLB’s elite offenses, I’m instead eyeing a low-scoring pitcher’s affair, and I’m playing a trio of unders to boot.
First bet: Total Runs First Innings – Under 0.5 (-105)
This is a prime No Runs First Inning (NRFI) game. When betting NRFIs, I try to target underrated pitchers and high-powered offenses that are slumping. Between Eovaldi’s slump and Manoah’s relative “new-ness” in the markets, the pitching matchup checks out perfectly.
Meanwhile, the explosive Boston lineup is slumping badly. Toronto’s isn’t, but if Eovaldi can get three outs to begin the game – something he’s done in 18 of 22 starts this season – Manoah has an easy path to the NRFI cashing.
Second bet: First Five Innings Under 5 (-125)
I’m quite confident in this starting pitching matchup. I am already very high on both starting pitchers, but Eovaldi and Manoah’s performance against their opposing lineups only instills more confidence.
In Manoah’s one start against the Red Sox this season, he managed six innings of one run ball while striking out five. And in Eovaldi’s one start against the Blue Jays this season, he pitched 6 2/3 shutout innings while allowing just three hits.
Third bet: Under 9 (-110)
I love the starting pitching matchup, but the bullpens also intrigue me. Over the past week, Toronto paces the league in reliever xFIP (2.48) while Boston ranks third (2.79). Plus, both bullpens are rested, and neither team has relied on its relievers for more than 18 innings over the past week.
Plus, our Action PRO Model makes the total 8.75, and three of the last four matchups between these two have gone under.
Pick: Total Runs First Inning — Under 0.5 (-105) | First Five Innings Under 5 (-125) | Under 9 (-110)