Game time: (Doubleheader) Game 1 - 3:07 p.m. ET; Game 2 - 7:07 p.m. ET
Venue: Rogers Centre, Toronto, ON
Where to watch: NESN, SNET
Red Sox: 64-46 (2nd place, AL East)
Blue Jays: 57-49 (4th place, AL East)
Enrique Hernandez (R) CF
Rafael Devers (L) 3B
J.D. Martinez (R) DH
Xander Bogaerts (R) SS
Hunter Renfroe (R) RF
Kevin Plawecki (R) C
Alex Verdugo (L) LF
Bobby Dalbec (R) 1B
Marwin Gonzalez (S) 2B
George Springer (R) CF
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (R) 1B
Marcus Semien (R) 2B
Bo Bichette (R) SS
Corey Dickerson (L) DH
Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (R) LF
Randal Grichuk (R) RF
Santiago Espinal (R) 3B
Reese McGuire (L) C
Odds at USA Sportsbooks (Game 2)
DraftKings: Blue Jays -170, Red Sox +150
BetMGM: Blue Jays -130, Red Sox +105
FanDuel: Blue Jays -135, Red Sox +116
Red Sox: Lost six of seven entering four-game road trip
Blue Jays: Winners of seven of eight
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Red Sox - Blue Jays Preview
This four-game series between the Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox at Rogers Centre is going to answer a lot of questions.
Two of the biggest ones: Are the Blue Jays legit enough to make a playoff push? And are the Red Sox in panic mode?
The four-game stand at Rogers Centre began Friday, but the teams will meet for a crucial doubleheader on Saturday that could propel the Blue Jays closer to wild card contention.
The Blue Jays have absolutely fueled off of their return to Toronto after playing the first half of the season in Buffalo due to COVID. Toronto ends its season-long 11-game homestand with this four-game set against Boston, but the Blue Jays have lost only once in that stretch; 5-2 in 10 innings to the Cleveland Indians on Monday. They outscored the soon-to-be Guardians 18-8 over the next three games.
Thursday was a 3-0 win for Toronto that saw starting pitcher Ross Stripling throw six scoreless innings with six strikeouts. Bo Bichette hit his 20th home run of the season, becoming the third Blue Jay to eclipse that mark. Marcus Semien has 25, and of course there’s Vladimir Guerrero Jr. chasing the triple crown.
This string of pitching has been a welcomed sight for Toronto. Acquiring Jose Berrios from the Minnesota Twins has put their starting rotation in a good place to be; crowded with plenty of options. Berrios is expected to start the second half of the doubleheader, with Robbie Ray to get things started early.
“If you’re going to give a metaphor for pitching, it’s like throwing a punch,” Stripling said Thursday. “If I’m going to throw a punch as hard as I can, you’re not going to already start going forward before you throw that punch. You’re going to load up and throw it as one piece.”
The Blue Jays are coming as one collective punch with their rotation. Hyun Jin Ryu has turned into their ace at 11-5 with a 3.22 ERA; May is creeping below a 3.00 ERA as a solid No. 2, with Berrios and 23-year-old Alek Manoah not far behind.
That pitching, with the combination of hot bats, has Toronto only 6.5 games back of the first-place Tampa Bay Rays in the American League East. They’re only 2.5 back of the Oakland Athletics for the second AL wild card, but the New York Yankees have begun their post-deadline push as well.
Which is why the Red Sox should be looking over their shoulder with great intent over the next 48 hours. Boston has lost six of seven since splitting the July 28 doubleheader against Toronto in Boston. Following the 4-1 win on July 28, Boston has been in free-fall mode, including a 13-1 loss to Toronto the following day.
The Red Sox await the arrival of slugger Kyle Schwarber off the injured list, and the addition of the left-handed bat could be of help. The Red Sox lineup has gone quiet the past four games, scoring a combined nine runs; four of them came in a 4-1 win at the Detroit Tigers on Wednesday.
The offense has been bad. They haven’t given any starters run support; the Red Sox were 3-for-25 with runners in scoring position during the Detroit series. Even if Chris Sale returns from Tommy John surgery soon, the bats need to find a time to get going. It’s hard to envision that with the way Toronto’s been pitching.
“I’m not saying we’re not trying,” manager Alex Cora said Thursday. “Probably, we’re trying harder, and that’s why it’s not happening. It’s just a matter of, we’re not playing good baseball right now.”
Rookie pitcher Tanner Houck is expected to start the second leg of Saturday’s matchup for Boston.
The money line is enticing to pick Boston at all this weekend. There may be some sort of hope. Following a three-game span where the Red Sox bullpen throws 13 innings or more (which sounds just like danger is on the horizon), Boston is 18-7 (+10 units). That also correlates well to the underdog role Boston will play; at +100 or higher, the Red Sox are 23-15 this season (+14.2 units).
If this does come down to the bullpen, it’ll be interesting from the books perspective. The Blue Jays are a .500 club (19-19, -3.4 units) after a game where the bullpen doesn’t allow a run. Pay attention to Friday’s game and see how that goes. If Toronto can’t get by Nathan Eovaldi, the play on Saturday for both games could be enticing.
Boston has also taken care of business more against division opponents than Toronto. The Red Sox are 29-18 against AL East brethren, while Toronto is 23-26. That number however is climbing favorably in Toronto’s favor. The Blue Jays are 32-25 following a win, while the Red Sox are 23-20 following a loss.
Given the recent stretches, those numbers have inflated a tad both sides.
Toronto is 4-7 when a favorite of -125 to -175, but the Jays are 10-4 after a game’s combined score totaled four runs or less.
Doubleheaders are hard to predict, but get them right and you can walk away happy. The first half of the split favors the road dog. It’s more so the intrigue factor of seeing more Berrios on the mound. It looks like he’s due for a stretch of starts where being on a contending playoff team is going to propel him to throw his best stuff. And whatever exactly is going on with Boston is too weird to think they will pull a split, or even win both.
I like the Blue Jays’ comfort back at home and the way they’ve been able to build this stretch of baseball as of late. We need to start putting them in the breath of sneaky good playoff teams. That would require to pass the Yankees, but we’re on a collision course of those two battling it out down the stretch. Game 2 - Blue Jays win, under cashes.
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