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Rays vs. Blue Jays Odds
Rays Odds: +110
Blue Jays Odds: -130
Time: 7:07 p.m. ET
TV: MLB Network
Tampa Bay has all but won MLB’s toughest division, holding a nine-game lead with 19 games remaining on the 2021 schedule. Unlike years past, it’s been the Rays’ offense that has carried them to a second consecutive division title.
The Rays face off with one of the other top offenses in the American League on Monday night in Toronto, when Collin McHugh faces off with Jays’ young pitching phenom Alek Manoah.
Manoah made his MLB debut earlier this year and has shined as a rookie, but the Rays are still undervalued here as the better team with the better starter and bullpen.
Even on the road, the Rays are priced too short and represent good value to win this opening game of a critical series for Toronto.
Tampa Bay Rays
McHugh usually only pitches one or two innings as the opener before Tampa turns it over to lefty Ryan Yarbrough for the bulk of the game. It’s an effective strategy because McHugh is so good once through an order. His xERA is 2.36, he strikes out 32.6% of batters he faces and has elite contact metrics from xwOBA to hard hit rate to xSLG allowed.
That allows Yarbrough to come in and start against the middle to bottom of the Blue Jays’ vaunted lineup. They have to get 27 outs, the order in which they do so doesn’t matter. Going with a righty opener followed by a lefty also provides a different look for the Jays’ lineup.
Yarbrough has had an up-and-down season and is seeing some regression in his contact allowed numbers. Even still, his 4.44 xERA is lower than his 4.90 actual ERA. He can likely pitch through the seventh if effective, which means less bullpen usage for a Tampa Bay team that used a lot of bullpen in its weekend series in Detroit.
Toronto Blue Jays
Toronto’s offense nearly got no hit in the second game of its doubleheader with Baltimore on Saturday. After an absurd comeback win against Baltimore in Game 1, they trailed 1-0 entering the seventh inning.
Eleven runs in the seventh on Saturday were followed by 22 runs in the first six innings on Sunday afternoon. Thirty-three runs of offense in seven innings shows how incredible the Toronto offense can be when it’s firing. But the Jays offense has been prone to streaks this year and will be facing much tougher pitching on Monday than it did all weekend in Baltimore.
Manoah has really shined as a rookie on the mound for the Jays, with his three-pitch mix of fastball, slider and changeup being really effective the first time through the order. He doesn’t get a ton of strikeouts and can have issues with walks, both of which can be an issue against this elite Rays lineup that can load up lefties against him.
He’s allowed a .491 OPS vs. righties, but a significantly worse .790 OPS vs lefties. His OPS allowed the second and third time through the order is .724 and .774, much worse than the first time through.
Manoah can get this Rays’ lineup out the first time, but them loading up lefties should be able to get to him the second and third time around.
Rays-Blue Jays Pick
Throwing different looks and different styled pitchers at the Toronto lineup is the best way to go at them, and with Tampa’s elite offense providing a tough challenge for Manoah, the Rays are undervalued here as road underdogs.
Even though the Jays are one of the league’s hottest teams and badly need to win this game and series, I’m going against them on Monday night. Anything plus money is good on the Rays.
Pick: Rays ML (+100 or better)