The Toronto Blue Jays' struggles against AL East teams continued last night as they dropped the first game of their series against the Rays. We’ll preview tonight’s game before going over which side I’ll be backing in this one.
There is no denying Tampa Bay has been dominant this season, but they have taken that to another level when playing at home this season, as last night’s win brought their record at home to 22-4. With their six runs yesterday, Tampa Bay has also now scored four or more runs in eight of their last ten games. Like they have most of this season, Tampa Bay got most of their runs last night from homers as they left the yard three times, which were the source of four out of their six runs.
On the bump for the Rays tonight will be rookie right-hander Taj Bradley to make his fifth career start. In 20.3 innings, Bradley has pitched to a 3.54 ERA with 27 strikeouts and just four walks. The young righty picked up a no-decision in his most recent outing against the Mets, as he went five innings with four strikeouts and two earned runs allowed.
Bradley will face a Blue Jays team that has lost five straight games and is now 3-7 over their last ten games. Toronto actually outhit the Rays last night, but they left 14 runners on base, which has continued to be a recurring issue for this team. Whit Merrifield had the biggest night at the plate for the Jays last night as he went 4-4 with a home run and two RBIs.
Toronto will send José Berríos to the mound tonight to make his 10th start of the season. Across 52.7 innings, the veteran has put up a 4.61 ERA with 52 strikeouts and 12 walks. Berríos took the loss in his most recent outing against the Yankees as he went 6 ⅔ innings with eight strikeouts and three earned runs allowed on six hits.
The Rays are currently priced at (-124) on the moneyline, and I’ll be backing them for my play. Not only has Tampa Bay dominated at home, but they also have an ideal matchup against Berríos, who has struggled mightily on the road this season. Toronto may be desperate for a win, but with their struggles to push runs across, I struggle to see how they will keep pace with the Rays' offense.
The Rays have the 3rd best wRC+ and 6th best wOBA against right-handed pitching at home this season which is nightmare fuel for Jays fans who have seen Berríos pitch on the road. In 28.1 innings on the road, Berríos has a 6.67 ERA with four home runs allowed. Additionally, the right-hander is in the 25th percentile in expected batting average, 21st percentile in barrel percentage, and an expected ERA of 5.09.
Meanwhile, Taj Bradley has an expected ERA of 2.51 which is in the top 6% of the league. Bradley is also in the 92nd percentile in expected batting average and 93rd percentile in strikeout percentage, so he has the tools to compete with a Blue Jays lineup that has hit righties well on the road.
Tampa Bay Rays (-124)