MLB Baseball: Oakland Athletics vs. Toronto Blue Jays Preview, Prediction & Odds -- Sept. 4, 2021

by Big Al Staff

Game time: 3:07 p.m. ET
Venue: Rogers Centre, Toronto, ON
Where to watch: NBCSCA, SNET, SNET-1

Opening Odds at USA Sportsbooks


DraftKings: Blue Jays -160, Athletics +140
BetMGM: NL
Caesars: NL

Season record (entering Friday)
Athletics: 74-60 (2nd place, AL West)
Blue Jays: 70-62 (4th place, AL East)

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Athletics - Blue Jays preview and analysis


Recent form (entering Friday)
Athletics: 4-6 in last 10
Blue Jays: 6-4 in last 10

Normally in a matchup like Saturday, the pitcher with the most work this season (and arguably the better pitcher) should be favored in this kind of matchup.

But with the Toronto Blue Jays, Jose Berrios has struggled overall since coming from the Minnesota Twins at the trade deadline. He gets the start on the mound Saturday for the second game of the Blue Jays’ three-game series with the Oakland Athletics at Rogers Centre.

Berrios has made six starts since coming to Toronto in August. There’s been some good with the bad. His first start, for example, a six-inning gem with seven strikeouts in a win against the Kansas City Royals. His first road start, as well, lasting only 4.1 IP and giving up 6 ER in a loss to the Los Angeles Angels.

It’s hit-or-miss with Berrios right now, one of the arms the Blue Jays are hoping will be vital in their last lunge toward a playoff spot. Toronto enters Friday five games back of the Boston Red Sox for the second wild-card spot in the American League. There is slight hope of catching the New York Yankees, but it would take a Herculean effort to rally from 6.5 games back against that team.

As per our preview from Friday, this is a crucial series for both teams in early September. While the Blue Jays continue their run to a playoff spot, the A’s find themselves two games back of the Red Sox for that coveted wild card spot. Oakland enters Friday trailing the Houston Astros by 4.5 games for first place in the American League West.

Paul Blackburn is the projected starting pitcher for the A’s. He has three starts under his belt since being called up from Triple-A Las Vegas (in place of the injured Chris Bassitt). The 27-year-old right-hander has yet to find a consistent footing in the big leagues, but he’s done well since coming up to Oakland. 

While he was given a no-decision Sunday against the Yankees in their series finale, Blackburn allowed no runs on five hits on just 72 pitches to the New York hitters. Had Oakland given him some offensive help, it would’ve been a win on the ledger.

But Blackburn has improved in each of his starts; he gave up three runs in 5.1 innings in a 3-2 loss to the Chicago White Sox, then only two runs in 5.2 innings in a 5-3 loss to the Seattle Mariners.

The biggest concern is Blackburn isn’t getting any run support. We think this changes in the Saturday matinee, especially if Berrios doesn’t produce some strong innings off the bat.

Prediction


The Athletics’ offense scored 17 runs in their two wins against the Detroit Tigers, which is a welcomed sign after scoring six in two wins against the Yankees. The pitching has proven it can get the job done. The bats need to get going for Oakland, and we think the A’s are a solid moneyline pick here as underdogs.

Betting trends


Oakland is 9-10 (+2.8 net games) when an underdog between +125 and +175.

Toronto has not been an ideal favorite at home this season, going 30-22 overall and 5-10 when favored between -125 and -175 (-9.8 net games).

Players to watch


Athletics: Starling Marte continues to be a godsend at the top of the order for Oakland. The trade deadline acquisition has hit .323 in 15 games since Aug. 17. While the A’s are only 6-9 in that stretch, Marte is proving to be as advertised.

Blue Jays: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. will look to keep his MVP pace up this weekend, but he’s struggled to find that slugging form against the A’s. In seven games entering Friday, Guerrero is batting .275 and has only two RBI and no homers. 

Projected lineups


Athletics:
Josh Harrison (R) 2B
Starling Marte (R) CF
Matt Olson (L) 1B
Matt Chapman (R) 3B
Jed Lowrie (S) DH
Mark Canha (R) RF
Tony Kemp (L) LF
Yan Gomes (R) C
Elvis Andrus (R) SS

Blue Jays:
George Springer (R) DH
Marcus Semien (R) 2B
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (R) 1B
Bo Bichette (R) SS
Teoscar Hernandez (R) CF
Alejandro Kirk (R) C
Corey Dickerson (L) RF
Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (R) LF
Breyvic Valera (S) 3B

Statistical leaders


Athletics:
Batting average: Matt Olson (.274)
Hits: Matt Olson (127)
Home runs: Matt Olson (32)
RBI: Matt Olson (87)
Stolen bases: Starling Marte (20)
Wins: Chris Bassitt (12)
Saves: Lou Trivino (21)
ERA: Chris Bassitt (3.22)

Blue Jays:
Batting average: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (.312)
Hits: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (152)
Home runs: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (39)
RBI: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (96)
Stolen bases: Bo Bichette (21)
Wins: Hyun Jin Ryu (12)
Saves: Jordan Romano (15)
ERA: Robbie Ray (2.71)

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All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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