MLB Betting: Blue Jays vs Rays Series Preview, Wild Card Race Tightening Up

Toronto Has Overtaken Tampa Bay

With the New York Yankees holding a comfortable lead in the AL East, the Toronto Blue Jays and Tampa Bay Rays are looking like Wild Card contenders as the 2022 season winds to a close. Toronto visits Tampa Bay for a critical four-game series starting on Thursday as the Blue Jays hold a two-game edge over the Rays (and Seattle Mariners) for the top Wild Card spot in the AL. This Blue Jays vs Rays series preview is all about how two evenly matched divisional foes are set up for a weekend series with huge playoff implications.

The Blue Jays schedule have been tough in recent weeks and Toronto is coming off a brutal loss to the Philadelphia Phillies on Wednesday in a game Toronto led 3-0 in the 8th. Tampa Bay, on the other hand, just got swept by the Houston Astros and has gone just 4-9 in its last 13 contest.

Neither team is playing particularly well right now and they’re each in danger of falling behind the Mariners for that crucial home-field advantage in the Wild Card round.

Game Information

    • Game: Toronto Blue Jays (84-65) at Tampa Bay Rays (82-67)
    • Location: Tropicana Field, Tampa, Florida
    • Day/Time:

Toronto’s Rotation Is Lined Up

Even though Kevin Gausman, who is having a great season… pitched for the Blue Jays on Wednesday and will miss the Rays series; Toronto is set up relatively well from a rotation standpoint against Tampa Bay. José Berríos has looked sharp in three September starts and he’ll open things up on Thursday, followed by staff ace Alek Manoah, (likely) Mitch White, and the consistent Ross Stripling. Not having Gausman hurts but the rest of the staff is solid overall.

Plus, as this Blue Jays vs Rays series preview will discuss, Tampa Bay isn’t hitting at all right now. The Rays have scored five runs or more just three times in the past two-plus weeks with two of those offensive “breakouts” coming against the lowly Texas Rangers. Toronto hasn’t been incredible in that time span {the Blue Jays are 9-5 in their last 14 games} but the starting pitching has definitely done its job.

Rays Could Exploit Blue Jays Bullpen

Conversely, Toronto’s bullpen has really struggled as of late and the shaky relief core is part of what’s holding back the Blue Jays’ MLB World Series odds. The season-long bullpen stats aren’t so bad but the bullpen collapsed in both games against the Phillies and it has been responsible for a bunch of the Blue Jays’ recent losses. Julian Merryweather got hit so hard by Philadelphia that he was optioned to Triple-A after Tuesday’s game.

The Rays are having trouble scoring against anyone lately and the absence of Brandon Lowe’s bat in the lineup looms large, even in a down year for him, but Tampa Bay should be able to do some damage against a bullpen that is going through a little bit of a funk. The Rays could also really use Yandy Díaz being back at full strength as he has been limited with a shoulder injury as well as an apparent benching following an altercation with teammate Randy Arozarena. Those guys are both enormous components of the Tampa Bay offense.

Vlad And Co. Are Heating Up

Despite Lourdes Gurriel Jr. still being on the injured list, the full potential of the Toronto lineup is starting to be realized. The numbers of guys like Vladimir Guerrero Jr., George Springer, Bo Bichette, Matt Chapman, and others aren’t eye-popping or close to MVP-level but the depth of the lineup allows for it to be a very productive one. No Blue Jays vs Rays series preview would be useful without mentioning how five Blue Jays players have 20+ home runs and how Toronto is first in MLB in batting average and third in on-base percentage and OPS.

Essentially, the Blue Jays get on base better than the vast majority of teams and excel at turning those baserunners into runs (sixth in MLB). Toronto is only 10th in home runs but that “issue” is more than made up by the sheer amount of offensive threats that litter the Blue Jays’ lineup which doesn’t feature many weak spots. It can be extremely difficult for pitchers to try and fight through the Toronto order because there are only a few guys who can’t really hurt you at the plate.

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