(Tommy Pham 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: Friday, Sept. 6, Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, Fla., 7:10 p.m. EDT.
Brendan McKay looks to shake off some recent control woes and keep the Tampa Bay Rays atop the American League wild-card chase Friday night when they continue their series against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Buchholz looking to build on first win of season
Clay Buchholz (1-3, 5.45 ERA) ended a winless drought that lasted just over a year last time out, working around his control issues Saturday to keep the Houston Astros at bay and limit them to two runs in 5 2-3 innings despite issuing five walks.
Buchholz has had his struggles on the road this year, going 0-2 with a 6.86 ERA in four starts south of the Canadian border. Despite not getting a victory in the start, Buchholz had his best outing of the season against Tampa Bay in his season debut April 13, holding the Rays to one run in six innings before the Blue Jays rallied for a 3-1 victory.
The righty is 9-7 with a 2.53 ERA in 22 lifetime starts against the Rays, including 6-3 with a 1.87 ERA in 12 starts at Tropicana Field. Buchholz, who has not pitched there since 2016, has gone 3-0 with a 0.54 ERA in his last five visits — conceding two runs in 33 1-3 innings.
McKay back after dealing with shoulder woes
McKay (2-3, 5.55) is making his ninth start but was sent to Durham last mont for a tuneup after struggling to find a groove over his last five starts. The 23-year-old went 1-3 with an 8.69 ERA in that span, but the other issue that prompted a trip to Triple-A was his nine walks in his last two outings.
McKay contributed to his demise with three free passes along with two homers and three hits while giving up seven runs in two innings of a 9-3 defeat to Seattle on Aug. 19. It was later determined he had shoulder tendinitis and received a cortisone shot and rest In his lone appearance with the Bulls, the left-hander shredded Gwinnett for three innings last Saturday, striking out eight while throwing 39 of his 53 pitches for strikes.
This will be his first appearance against the Blue Jays.
The Rays are:
- 8-3 in their last 11 during game 2 of a series.
- 6-0 in their last six games vs. right-handed starters.
- 7-1 in their last eight home games.
The Blue Jays are:
- 4-11 in their last 15 games vs. the Rays.
- 1-8 in their last nine road games.
- 1-4 in Buchholz’s last five starts.
Rays ML (-186)
Even with a sharp rehab turn at Triple-A, McKay is still a question mark at the big league level with his inconsistencies over the past month-plus. The Rays, though, are firing on all cylinders with seven wins in eight games after Thursday’s 6-4 win to open this series, and Austin Meadows is 10 for 17 with three homers and seven extra-base hits in his last five games. That is enough to grab them on the money line as a conservative play.
Rays UNDER 5 runs (-121)
A confidence pick in Buchholz’s form against the Rays and in Tampa in addition to coming off his last start. Tampa Bay has been held under five runs in four of its six home games versus Toronto and five or less in seven of its last 11 overall.
UNDER 9 runs (-115)
For whatever reason, Buchholz likes facing the Rays and really likes pitching in Tampa. The three-year gap between starts there is a concern, but he impressed in the April start and is coming off a victory in his last outing. If McKay has overcome his control problems and delivers an effective performance early, the under should hit here.
The under has been trending with Toronto, going 7-3-1 in its last 11 division matchups and 3-1-1 in Buchholz’s last five outings. The under is also 9-4 in Tampa Bay’s last 13 matchups with sub-.400 teams.
Blue Jays +0.5 runs first 5 innings (Even)
The Blue Jays are 1-1 at the midway point in Buchholz’s two starts since his return, and given his form at Tropicana Field and against the Rays, he’s worth a flyer and grabbing the half-run at even money given McKay’s up-and-down nature. Toronto did hold Tampa Bay off the scoreboard in the first five innings twice in its last visit to the Trop, but the hedge is Buchholz’s form will trump the Jays entering this contest 3-11-1 after five innings in its last 15.
UNDER 5 runs first 5 innings (-125)
The five-inning under is 4-2 on Tampa Bay’s current homestand as it has conceded two or fewer runs in all six games. Coupled with Buchholz’s form versus the Rays — he held them scoreless in the April matchup over the first five frames — the under is a good play here.
Blue Jays 3-way ML 1st inning (+350)
The Blue Jays are worth a flyer here despite failing to score in the first inning of their last six games as McKay could be erratic in the strike zone after his recall. Additionally, Buchholz has yielded just one run in the opening frame of his seven starts — and the Rays have pushed across one first-inning run in their last 13 games.