Aug. 1 MLB Preview — Toronto Blue Jays (43-67) at Baltimore Orioles (36-71)

(Bo Bichette photo courtesy Denny Medley/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: Thursday, Aug. 1, Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Baltimore, Md., 7:05 p.m. EDT.

It is a low bar to be a hot pitcher for the Baltimore Orioles, but Asher Wojciechowski can stake a claim to the title Thursday night against the Toronto Blue Jays by winning a third consecutive start.

Jays rookie Thornton returns after stint on injured list

Blue Jays rookie Trent Thornton (3-7, 5.45 ERA) is expected to be activated from the injured list prior to the game to make this start. The right-hander was sidelined with right elbow inflammation and will take the spot of Ryan Borucki, who was placed back on the IL after aggravating an elbow injury that has limited him to two starts in 2019.

Thornton’s two starts coming out of the All-Star break may have been a clue something was amiss as he allowed nine runs in 4 1-3 innings. Manager Charlie Montoyo lifted the righty after three-plus innings in his last start July 20 when he yielded four runs.

The rookie has split his two starts against the Orioles this year, with his most recent win coming in the most recent matchup. Thornton scattered three hits in six crisp innings, not walking a batter in Toronto’s 6-1 victory July 7. Baltimore got the better of him at home June 11, reaching the righty for three runs in five innings en route to a 4-2 win.

Toronto (43-67) has won five of its last six on the road after sweeping a three-game series at Kansas City, capped with a 4-1 victory Wednesday. Bo Bichette — one of three second-generation players in the Blue Jays’ lineup — hit his first major league homer and went 3 for 5.

The 20-year-old is 6 for 13 in three games since being promoted.

Wojciechowski looks to win third consecutive start for O’s

Wojciechowski (2-3, 3.60) is trying to become just the second Orioles pitcher to win three straight starts this year — the since-departed Andrew Cashner did it twice before being dealt to Boston.

The mini-surge mirrors that of the Orioles (36-71), who are back home following a positive West Coast road swing that ended 5-4 after posting an 8-5 victory over the San Diego Padres on Tuesday.

“For our guys to compete the way they did these last three series on the road is really impressive,” manager Brandon Hyde told the Orioles official website. “I like the way our guys are sticking together. I think our dugout is unbelievable. I think some of our young guys are getting better.”

Wojciechowski has pitched at least seven innings in winning his back-to-back starts and made one mistake in Baltimore’s 9-3 victory over the Los Angeles Angels on Friday, a two-run homer to Matt Thaiss — as he pitched comfortably after being staked to a 7-0 lead in the first two innings.

“I just took that start and just rolled with it,” he said, referring to his July 21 win over Boston. “Just kind of building confidence and executing pitches.”

Wojciechowski took a loss against Thornton and the Blue Jays on July 7, giving up three runs and four hits in 4 1-3 innings. He has allowed seven runs in 8 1-3 innings in two career starts versus Toronto, with all but one run scoring on four home runs.

Renato Nunez will try to continue his torrid hitting from the road trip after going 12 for 38 (.316) with three homers in those nine games. Nunez, though, is 5 for 27 (.185) in eight games versus Toronto this year.

Notable Trends

The Orioles are:

  • 4-0 in their last four games vs. starters with a plus-1.30 WHIP.

The Blue Jays are:

  • 1-5 in Thornton’s last six starts vs. AL East teams.
  • 7-19 in their last 26 during game 1 of a series.
  • 0-5 in Thornton’s last five starts during game 1 of a series.

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

Orioles -0.5 runs first 5 innings (+115)

It is an all-in pick on Wojciechowski extending his form to a third consecutive start, with the belief he will not serve up a first-inning homer like he did to Lourdes Gurriel Jr. in his previous matchup between the teams. The alternate line courtesy offers a slightly better return than the standard three-way money line (+111).

The Orioles are also 6-5-1 at the midway point in their last 12 games and 4-3-2 in the season series versus the Blue Jays. Toronto has also led just twice in its 13 road games since the All-Star break (2-10-1) and trailed Baltimore by at least two runs after five innings in at least one game of the three series in 2019.

****4-Star Pick****

Orioles ML (-110)

This space is riding with Wojciechowski to a large degree while also acknowledging the Orioles are playing better of late. Baltimore went 12-12 in July, and Wojciechowski has found something in his last two starts.

The expectation is Thornton will be on a pitch count coming off the injured list, and will cross the 100-inning threshold for the season in this game. He pitched 124 innings in Fresno last season, so it would not be surprising to see only five innings from him. This pick, though, is more about Wojciechowski delivering another quality start as the Orioles continue to battle.

Orioles OVER 2.5 runs first 5 innings (-115)

The hedge is the Orioles get to Thornton early, when he has been at his most vulnerable. The best individual inning ERA the Blue Jays rookie sports in the first three frames is a 5.31 in the second, and it then spikes to 9.16 in the third. That is because opponents get a good read on him in the second go-round through the lineup, when their batting averages rise from .244 to .300.

Baltimore has also scored three or more runs in the first five innings in nine of its last 12 games, and with the expectation Thornton will be trying to pump in strikes without much command, the Orioles should be able to score runs.

***3-Star Picks***

OVER 10 runs (-110)

The number arrived on the high side of the expectations, but with the over trending with both Thornton and the Orioles, the pick remains with the over. In the case of the Blue Jays rookie, the over has delivered in five straight road starts and six of his last seven overall. It also has a 5-1 mark in his last six series openers.

The over is 2-3 in Wojciechowski’s five starts with the Orioles but went 5-1 in the last six games of their road swing and is 3-0-1 in their last four series openers. The over is also 5-2-1 in Baltimore’s last eight games coming off a victory.

Orioles OVER 5 runs (Even)

The hedge here is the Orioles are able to take advantage of Thornton’s potential wildness in the strike zone in his first start coming off the injured list. Thornton has a walks-per-9 innings ratio of 4.09 and is also 0-2 with an 8.79 ERA in four starts when he has six or more days of rest.

Additionally, Baltimore’s offense has perked up over the past two weeks, averaging 6.38 runs in its last 13 games and scoring five or more nine times in that span.

UNDER 5.5 runs (-115)

The hook makes this pick a toss-up because there is little trust in Thornton pitching well coming off the injured list. There is also skepticism in Toronto’s offense considering its sweep came against Kansas City.

The five-inning under is 6-1-2 in the season series and has delivered in both of Thornton’s previous matchups with Baltimore this season. It also has gone 5-2 in Toronto’s last seven games overall, which crashes against the over going 4-0-1 in Baltimore’s last five contests.

This will likely ride right up to five runs or blast over it quickly, but the hope is Wojciechowski keeps the Blue Jays in check to give the under a chance.


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