The Blue Jays and Astros will be looking to win the series tonight in the deciding game three after Toronto was able to edge out Houston last night behind a strong pitching performance from Chris Bassitt. We’ll preview tonight’s game before going over why I’ll be targeting a first-inning play in this one.
With their win last night over the Astros, the Blue Jays are now 6th in the MLB in batting average and 12th in average runs per game. One of the biggest reasons for those strong numbers is Matt Chapman, who, up to this point in the season, is hitting .415 after picking up his 8th double and 4th home run last night. Chapman’s numbers have been so strong that Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is third on the team in batting average despite hitting .357.
If it weren’t for the Blue Jays' lineup, they would likely not be above .500 since their pitching staff has struggled up to this point. Even with Bassitt’s strong start last night, the Blue Jays are still 21st in ERA and 18th in WHIP. Tonight they will hand the ball to one of their struggling starters, José Berríos, who is 1-2 this season, and in 14.7 innings, he has pitched to a 7.98 ERA with 18 strikeouts and 19 hits.
Berríos will face an Astros lineup that is 14th in batting average and 10th in average runs per game. Houston has had a few games where they look like the World Series team from last season and a few where they look lost at the plate. Once the consistency comes about for them, I expect they see their record start to improve quite a bit, especially since they are above league average in terms of BAbip.
On the mound tonight for Houston will be another starter who has struggled early this season in, Luis Garcia. The right-hander has made three starts, leading to him throwing 14 innings with a 7.71 ERA, 15 strikeouts, and seven walks. Garcia made two starts against Toronto last season, and in the 12 innings he faced them, he struck out 11 hitters and had seven earned runs.
For my play in this one, I’ll be taking the over of .5 runs scored in the first inning currently priced at (-120). The struggles of both pitchers cannot be understated, and both of these lineups possess the ability to score runs at any point in the game, which was demonstrated in game one with Houston putting up a seven spot in the first inning off Kevin Gausman.
The Astros are 9th in the league in the average amount of runs scored in the first inning while playing at home, and tonight they will face a pitcher in José Berríos that is in the 4th percentile in hard-hit percentage. Not only is Berríos well below league average in that category, but he is also in the 12th percentile in average exit velocity, 22nd percentile in expected batting average, and 32nd percentile in chase rate.
Toronto is also in an excellent position to start off the game with a lead early, with two of their first three hitters batting over .350 and now facing a fastball heavy pitcher that is getting his fastball lit up early this season. Luis Garcia is throwing his four-seam fastball 37.7% of the time despite hitters batting .421 off the pitch up to this point.
Over .5 Runs in the First Inning (-120)