The AL East continues to be one of baseball’s most highly contested divisions as four teams are all fighting for playoff spots. That competition has been on display this weekend as the second and third ranked teams, the Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays, have been engaged in a three-game series.
Today (1:10 PM ET Sunday) marks the final game not just of the all-important series, but also of the first half for these two teams. MLB’s All-Star break is just days away and before then, both Tampa and Toronto will be looking for a final first half win to keep pace with the AL East’s leading Boston Red Sox. Let’s take a look at the series so far and what we might expect from the all-important game three.
With both the Rays and Jays vying for contention in a tight AL East race and AL wildcard, the two teams met in Tampa on Friday for the first of a three-game series. It was the Jays who got on the board first, scoring the game’s first run in the top of the third inning. But as it would turn out, this was Toronto’s only run. The Rays’ pitching clamped down and allowed Blue Jay hitters just five knocks the entire game. Meanwhile, Tampa’s offense was humming on all cylinders as they scored seven runs to win game one by a 7-1 final score.
On to game two and once again, it was more of the same. This time the Rays scored first but by the top of the third inning, the score was in favor of Toronto. The Jays had a fleeting 2-1 lead until the Rays scored three runs in the bottom half of that frame. Tampa would add one more run to seal things up late in the game as the Rays once again relied on strong pitching to lead them to another victory. Tampa Bay finished game two by a 5-2 final and took a 2-0 series lead into today’s finale. Now, at worst, the Rays will win the series 2-1. At best, they’ll keep the brooms at the ready for a sweep of their division rival.
Probable Pitchers for Game 3: (TOR) Robbie Ray vs (TB) Rich Hill
It’s a battle of two very similar type pitchers in game three as Toronto’s Robbie Ray takes the mound against Tampa’s Rich Hill. Both pitchers are lefties and are having near identical success this season. The two have matching six wins apiece and share ERAs that differ by just a few tenths of a point. The biggest discrepancy between Ray and Hill comes from the strikeouts. Hill, a much more to contact pitcher, only has 85 strikeouts on the season. Ray on the other hand, has 119.
Strikeout numbers aside, Ray and Hill have both been extremely reliable starters for their teams this year. The Jays will hope Ray can stop the bleeding on Sunday and the Rays will be hoping Hill can send them into the break within striking distance of the Red Sox.
Our Preview’s Tampa Bay Rays vs Toronto Blue Jays Picks & Predictions Verdict
There is a lot to like about this Blue Jays lineup and it all stems around their trio of second generation talent. Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio are joined by Vlad Guerrero Jr. in one of baseball’s most exciting young trios, all of whom just happen to have Hall of Fame fathers.
Guerrero is the star of it all as he continues to pace AL hitters in home runs and stands a solid chance of topping the league in other offensive metrics. His MVP case is growing by the day as Guerrero cannot be denied this year. But the downfall of the Blue Jays is that they sometimes over-rely on the young star. Guerrero’s performances tend to dictate how the team performs. In short, as Vladdy goes, so do the Blue Jays.
Toronto will need more from Guerrero than they’ve got so far this series if they hope to steal one from the Rays. As for Tampa, their biggest X-Factor is consistency. The Rays have become a success story when it comes to making a little bit of money go a long way. They’ve made the most of their farm system, one that recently produced MLB’s top prospect, Wander Franco. Franco is already making a huge impact for his new team but he is not the only one. Tampa’s production this year has come from all over the lineup, something that has truly been a key to the team’s success.
The moneyline tends to be leaning Jays in this one, likely due to the nature of just how hard it is to sweep a divisional opponent. Plus, the Jays are a better team than they have been playing of late and there is reason to believe, they could break out of that offensive slump any day now. Both the Rays and Jays have an immense amount of talent. So for the predictions of this preview, it is these two picks:
- Take the Blue Jays -1.5 on the spread @ +130 with Bovada, Bookmaker, BetOnline or Intertops
- Look for the under on 8.5 total runs @ best odds of -103 with Bookmaker.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB, NBA & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.