MLB Baseball: Toronto Blue Jays vs. Tampa Bay Rays Preview, Prediction & Odds -- Sept. 22, 2021

by Chuck Sommers

Game time: 3:10 p.m. ET
Venue: Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, FL
Where to watch: SNET, SNET-1, Bally Sports Sun

Opening Odds at USA Sportsbooks


DraftKings: Rays -115, Blue Jays -105
BetMGM: NL
Caesars: NL

Season record (entering Tuesday)
Blue Jays: 84-66 (3rd place, AL East)
Rays: 93-58 (1st place, AL East)

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Rays - Blue Jays preview and analysis


Recent form
Blue Jays: 7-3 in last 10
Rays: 5-5 in last 10

A quick prayer to the baseball gods: Let this be the matchup we get in the Division Series, please.

The Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays will wrap up their intense three-game series on Wednesday in St. Petersburg, and if this series has been any indication of what we could get in October, sign me up.

Tampa Bay took Game 1 of the series on Monday by a 6-4 final that was highlighted by the winning debut of Rays pitcher Shane Baz, and a three-run home run from Yandy Diaz to give the Rays the lead for good.

While the Jays made it interesting in the ninth by bringing home two runs via Marcus Semien’s 41st home run of the season, it wasn’t enough to extend the Blue Jays’ lead in the American League Wild Card race. Toronto is a half-game ahead of the New York Yankees for the second spot, while the Boston Red Sox hold a 1.5-game lead for home-field advantage in the one-game playoff.

The Rays stand firm with a seven-game lead on the Red Sox for first place in the American League East with the magic number set at five.

As for what to expect in this finale, it’s going to be an interesting pitching matchup. Hyun Jin Ryu, tied for the team lead with 13 wins, will take the mound against veteran Michael Wacha for Tampa Bay.

Normally this would favor Toronto, but Ryu has been all over the place. In three of his last five starts, Ryu has failed to make it through four innings and failed to make it through the third inning in his last two. He’s given up 12 earned runs in his last two starts, including seven against the Baltimore Orioles that Toronto ultimately came back to win 11-10.

Wacha, however, hasn’t been any better his last eight starts. Only four of those have resulted in decisions (1-3) and the Rays are 3-5 in those eight starts. Wacha has an ERA of 6.92 and he’s allowed nine home runs in that stretch. For a Blue Jays offense that’s all about the long ball, the Rays odds don’t look promising in this crucial September game. Wacha went 6 IP with 6 ER and 2 BB his last start at Toronto on Sept. 15.

Toronto’s lineup, when healthy, is one of the best in the league. The healthy part refers to Blue Jays leadoff hitter George Springer and his nagging injuries this season. Fortunately for him, his teammates have picked up the slack; Springer is batting .175 with only homer in his last 10 games and a slugging percentage of .300.

Prediction


Nothing like late regular season contests to get you excited for playoff baseball. The Blue Jays are on a tear, and the fact they could host a playoff game with how this season has unfolded has been incredible. The Rays will put up a fight, but we like the Jays in this one on the road. Blue Jays win 7-5

Betting trends


Toronto is 18-16 (+8.1 net games on the moneyline) when a road underdog this season.

The Rays are 18-5 at home with a moneyline of -100 to -150.

Players to watch


Blue Jays: With all the love to Vladimir Guerrero Jr., we need to give some appreciation to Marcus Semien’s MVP-like season. In his last 26 games, Semien is batting .279 but has 11 home runs and 24 RBI.

Rays: The charge for Brandon Lowe to 40 home runs continues. He has three in his last 13 games while batting .295 in that span.

Projected lineup


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

Rays:
Brandon Lowe (L) 2B
Ji-Man Choi (L) 1B
Yandy Diaz (R) 3B
Austin Meadows (L) DH
Joey Wendle (L) SS
Manuel Margot (R) LF
Kevin Kiermaier (L) CF
Mike Zunino (R) C
Brett Phillips (L) RF

Probable starting pitchers: Hyun Jin Ryu (TOR) vs. Michael Wacha (TB)

Statistical leaders


Blue Jays:
Batting average: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (.320)
Hits: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (178)
Home runs: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (46)
RBI: Teoscar Hernandez (107)
Stolen bases: Bo Bichette (22)
Wins: Steven Matz & Hyun Jin Ryu (13)
Saves: Jordan Romano (19)
ERA: Robbie Ray (2.72)

Rays:
Batting average: Joey Wendle (.271)
Hits: Randy Arozarena (133)
Home runs: Brandon Lowe (34)
RBI: Austin Meadows (100)
Stolen bases: Randy Arozarena (15)
Wins: Josh Fleming (10)
Saves: Diego Castillo (14)
ERA: N/A

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Chuck Sommers

About the Author:

Chuck Sommers has camped outside of sportsbooks since he can remember, learning the tricks and nuances of the trade. He still has nightmares of betting $5,000 on the Raiders in the Tuck Rule game but has since turned that to 25 years of veteran handicapping greatness. You can find him mostly in the shadows at the Red Rock or Aliante casinos wondering if the over is cashing on any given Sunday.

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

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