July 27 MLB Preview — Tampa Bay Rays (59-47) at Toronto Blue Jays (39-66)

(Jalen Beeks photo courtesy Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports)

This is the full preview(s) as seen on the Winners and Whiners and Stat Salt websites. The confidence rating for all picks on a scale from 1 to 5 is in parentheses.

Note: The 5/5 does NOT represent the best overall pick of the day’s games when there are multiple games, simply the best pick(s) from each individual game.

When and Where: Saturday, July 27, Rogers Centre, Toronto, Ont., 3:07 p.m. EDT.

The Tampa Bay Rays have a Blake Snell-sized hole in their rotation for at least the month of August and are unsure how to fill it.

The Rays continue their series north of the border against the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday while scrutinizing their options ahead of Wednesday’s trade deadline.

Rays trying to figure out how to contend in AL wild-card chase

Though Snell was far from his 2018 form in which he won the AL Cy Young Award, the left-hander had appeared to turn a corner with a 2-0 record and 1.64 ERA in his last four starts.

The Rays staff ace, though, is expected to be sidelined for at least a month after arthroscopic surgery to remove loose bodies in his throwing elbow. The Rays have internal options available and a favorable schedule — they have three days off in their next 11 and four in the next 17 — but their slide ahead of Friday night’s series opener in which they dropped seven of nine and out of the AL wild-card spots has many wondering if they will be aggressive in the trade market ahead of Wednesday’s deadline.

“The belief we have in this group extends well beyond Blake,’’ general manager Erik Neander told the Tampa Bay Times. “As long as they’re able to take care of their business and play to their potential between now and the end of the month, I think we want to do everything we can not to take this season for granted and see if there is a way to help this team in a responsible fashion.’’

Complicating matters in the short term is the fact Tampa Bay’s best opener — Ryne Stanek — is not eligible to come off the injured list until Tuesday at the earliest.

The Rays have yet to name a probable pitcher for this contest, but Jalen Beeks (5-1, 3.69 ERA) is expected to get the bulk of the work. Beeks made his first start of the season Monday against Boston, and it did not go well as the left-hander served up three home runs in a nightmarish seven-run third.

Beeks would get only two more outs after that, finishing with season worsts of eight runs and seven hits allowed in Tampa Bay’s 9-4 loss.

“He was kind of spreading the ball around that [third] inning,” Rays manager Kevin Cash told the team’s official website. “His first two innings, he looked really crisp, in the zone. It seemed like the hit, something changed, I’m not sure. I know he was fighting his mechanics a little bit. His body and trying to get everything in line, in order, but he just wasn’t able to make the adjustments out on the mound.”

Beeks’ lone appearance against Toronto this year was a standard relief role, giving up one run in 1 1-3 innings of a 3-Rays loss on April 13. He is 1-0 with a 3.86 ERA in three games versus the Blue Jays, picking up a win as a bulk reliever last year in a three-inning stint.

Borucki hopes for better things in second start since return

While one possible answer for the Rays’ starting pitching issues is sitting in the opposite dugout in Marcus Stroman, they will be facing Ryan Borucki (0-1, 3.86).

Borucki made his season debut Monday after missing the first three-plus months with a bone spur on his throwing elbow and was serviceable in losing to Cleveland. The left-hander was reached for four runs — two earned — and seven hits over 4 2-3 innings of Toronto’s 7-3 loss.

“I was just a little rusty, had a lot of adrenaline running first day out,” Borucki told The Athletic after walking four and throwing only 50 percent of his 94 pitches for strikes. “It’s just a building block from now on, just something to build off of for my next start.”

Borucki did not pitch poorly against the Rays as a rookie last year but lost all three of his starts to them while posting a 3.66 ERA. Toronto’s offense did not give him all that much in support, failing to provide runs in two of the losses and plating two overall.

Notable Trends

The Blue Jays are:

  • 0-5 in Borucki’s last five starts vs. above-.500 teams.
  • 1-6 in Borucki’s last seven starts vs. AL East teams.
  • 2-6 in Borucki’s last eight home starts.

The Rays are:

  • 4-1 in their last five road games vs. left-handed starters.
  • 11-3 in their last 14 games vs. sub-.400 teams.
  • 19-7 in their last 26 games vs. the Blue Jays.

*****5-Star Pick*****

UNDER 10 runs (-115)

The number came in higher than expected, and with Toronto’s offense failing to produce of late, the under is the play. Additionally, Borucki should be better than he was against Cleveland on Monday with improved command.

The pick is also based on the Rays using Beeks as their bulk reliever in addition to the under going 6-1-1 in their last eight Saturday games. The under has been trending with the Blue Jays as well, entering this game 9-2 in their last 11 against division rivals and 12-5 in the last 17 overall.

The under also posted a 6-2 mark in Borucki’s last eight starts at home and was 3-0-2 in his last five versus AL East foes.

****4-Star Picks****

Blue Jays UNDER 4.5 runs (-115)

A confidence pick in Kittredge and Beeks getting through at least six innings while combining for at least a quality start coupled with Toronto’s slumping form offensively. The Rays also have held four of their last six opponents under five runs.

The Blue Jays have scored just nine runs in their last five games, batting .167 with runners in scoring position (4 for 24) and .149 overall in that span. Toronto has also scored more than five runs only once in its last seven home games.

Rays -0.5 runs first 5 innings (Even)

A contrast in trending forms makes the Rays the pick. Tampa Bay is 6-0-2 at the five-inning mark in Beeks’ last eight appearances as bulk reliever, and Toronto is a woeful 1-11-2 at the midway point since the All-Star break.

The Blue Jays have trailed after five innings in their last six contests and have yet to lead in seven matchups with the Rays this year (0-6-1).

***3-Star Picks***

Rays ML (-131)

A key data point that stood out for taking the Rays in this game was Beeks’ effectiveness on the road as a bulk reliever. In his last seven such outings, the southpaw is 3-0 with a 0.99 ERA and 22 strikeouts in 27 1-3 innings while holding opposing hitters to a .188 batting average.

Beeks did not allow a run in five of those outings while pitching at least 3 1-3 innings in each one. Kittredge is capable of pitching two innings — he did that in his other appearance as opener — and both pitchers should be able to help keep down a sputtering Blue Jays offense.

UNDER 5.5 runs first 5 innings (-115)

Toronto’s inconsistencies on offense has helped the five-inning under post a 9-4-1 record since the All-Star break, and Beeks’ form should give the under a boost in helping deliver for the second straight game in this series.

The five-inning under is 6-2-1 in Tampa Bay’s last nine road games and 4-2-1 in the seven matchups between the teams.

Rays -0.5 runs first 3 innings (+125)

Another pick that goes against the Blue Jays and their faltering offense. Toronto has led just twice at the three-inning mark since the All-Star break and has either been tied or trailing in its last six contests (0-5-1).

The Rays have shown a consistent ability to score early — they have scored two or more runs in the first three innings in eight of their last 15 games, and coupled with Tampa Bay’s success in this series, the plus-money pick is worth the flyer.

 

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