Wednesday, May 29, 2024
Sports Gaming Monitor

MLB Preview: Toronto Blue Jays (26-24) at Tampa Bay Rays (36-15)


THE LATEST: The Blue Jays scored a pair of 8th-inning runs but were unable to come all the way back as they were dealt a 7-3 loss by the Rays in Tampa Bay last night… Are now 8-14 in the month of May…Have gone 9-18 when their opponent scores first. Toronto has dropped six of its last seven games and is now 2-8 across its last 10 contests…Needs a win today to avoid a 3rd consecutive series loss…Prior to this skid, had not lost consecutive series since last August…Have not yet split a series in 2023.

IN A PINCH: Cavan Biggio stepped to plate in place of Nathan Lukes to lead off the 8th inning last night and promptly took the 1st pitch he saw over the wall in right-center field…Marked his 3rd home run of the season and was his 1st career pinch-hit home run. Toronto now has two pinch-hit homers this season (Danny Jansen on April 22 at NYY), after going three seasons without any.

MULTI-TALENTED: Bo Bichette doubled and scored Toronto’s 1st run of the game during the 4th inning last night…Was his 11th double and 20th extra-base hit of the campaign… Added a single in the 8th to finish 2-for-4…His 20 multi-hit games lead all AL hitters and are now tied with Freddie Freeman (20) for the MLB lead. The 25-year-old leads all MLB hitters with 70 hits (2nd: Freeman – 66) and leads the AL with 108 total bases (2nd: Luis Robert Jr. – 102)…His .327 batting average now ranks 1st in the AL (2nd: Yandy Díaz – .322).

VLAD HABITS: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. drove in a run with a 4th-inning single and later walked as part of a 1-for-3 evening… Among AL batters, is 7th in AVG (.301), 8th in hits (55), T-8th in RBI (34), and 11th in OBP (.370). The 24-year-old first baseman has now recorded an AL-best 86 hard-hit balls (95+ MPH) this season, two ahead of 2nd-place Bo Bichette (84), who is two ahead of 3rd-place Matt Chapman (82).

STAT CHAPMAN: Matt Chapman singled to go 1-for-4 last night…Among AL batters, ranks T-4th in hits (56), 6th in AVG (.301), 7th in OPS (.895), T-7th in total bases (96), and 8th in OBP (.379). The third baseman leads all MLB hitters with 19 doubles this season (2nd: Freddie Freeman – 18) while tied for 2nd with 26 extra-base hits (Freeman – 28)…Continues to lead all MLB hitters in hard-hit percentage (62.1) this season (2nd: Aaron Judge – 60.4) while 2nd in barrel rate (14.7%), 4th in hard-hit balls (82), and 7th in average exit velocity (94.3 MPH).

STAY AWAY: Daulton Varsho picked up a pair of singles as he finished 2-for-4 last night, his 12th multi-hit game of the season…Is now batting .287 (31-for-108) during his 28 road games, including 13 extra-base hits and 18 RBI for an .855 OPS…Has batted .118 (9-for-76)
with two extra-base knocks and two RBI in 21 home contests (.383 OPS).

ON THE ROAD AGAIN: The Blue Jays are on a seven-day, seven-game road trip (1-2 so far)…After today’s game, will head to Minnesota (26-24) for three contests over the weekend…Own a 13-15 road record this year for a .464 win% (8th in the AL). Blue Jays hitters lead the Majors with 271 road hits (2nd: LAA – 236)…Rank 2nd in the AL in road AVG (.270), 2nd in road SLG (.443), 2nd in road OPS (.776) and 3rd in road OBP (.334)…The pitching staff ranks 12th in the AL in road ERA (4.66), 14th in road opponents’ batting average (.268), and 14th in road WHIP (1.39).

NEW THINGS FOR NATHAN: Nathan Lukes made his 3rd career start last night, playing right field and batting 9th…Recorded his 1st career triple in the 8th and came around to score Toronto’s final run of the night…Now has three career hits, all coming in his last three games (3-for-5).

NATE FINDING HIS NICHE: Nate Pearson struck out a batter in a scoreless 6th last night…Has a 2.08 ERA (3 ER/13.0 IP) and a 1.15 WHIP in 10 games for Toronto this season.

QUITE A STRETCH: The Blue Jays are in the midst of playing 17 games in 17 days, their most consecutive days with scheduled games this season…Have gone 5-8 so far…Their opponents over this 17-game stretch (ATL, NYY, BAL, TB, MIN) have a combined record of 154-96 (.616).

NO DONUTS DIET: The Blue Jays have notched 466 hits this season, trailing only the Rays (468) for the most in the Majors… Are currently 3rd in the AL in team AVG (.266), 3rd in OBP (.333), 5th in OPS (.755), and 7th in SLG (.422). The Blue Jays are one of two AL teams who have scored in every game this season (also: LAA)…Have gone 68 straight games without being shut out, the 2nd-longest active streak in the Majors (LAA – 92G).

DIVISIONAL DOWNTURN: The Blue Jays have now gone 6-14 against divisional opponents this season (5th among AL East clubs)… Went 43-33 (.566%) in divisional play in 2022, the 2nd-best winning percentage within the division and the club’s best since registering a .581 win% in 2006.

VS. THE RAYS: All-Time: 203-241
2023: 3-3 Road: 88-135
Road: 1-2 Tropicana Field: 88-132
The Blue Jays handed the Rays their 1st series loss of the season as they took two of three games when the clubs met last month at Rogers Centre…Went 9-10 vs. TB last year, including a 4-5 record at Tropicana Field…Have not bested the Rays in a season series since going 10-9 in 2017.

Bo Bichette is now 13-for-27 (.481) with three doubles and two RBI in the six games games vs. the Rays this season…Has hit .274 (63-for-230) with 14 doubles, seven home runs, and 27 RBI in 56 career contests vs. TB.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. has hits in all six games against the Rays this year, going 8-for-24 (.333) with, two extra-base hits and eight RBI…Is a lifetime 70-for-265 (.264) across 67 games against the Rays, including 17 doubles, two triples, 12 homers, and 43 RBI (.807 OPS).

Brandon Belt has multiple hits in four of his 12 career games played vs. Tampa Bay…Has now gone a combined 13-for-37 (.351) with one double, one triple, four home runs, eight RBI, and five walks since the 2013 season (1.199 OPS).

Making his 11th start of the season and his 6th on the road…Took a no-decision his last time out, on 5/20 vs. BAL, giving up 2 runs on 6 hits and a walk over 5.2 frames with 5 strikeouts. Owns a 3.33 ERA (10 ER/27.0 IP) in 5 road starts this year, compared to a 7.23 ERA (19 ER/23.2 IP) in 5 games at Rogers Centre. Since entering the league in 2021, has held opposing righthanded hitters to a .174 AVG, trailing only Cristian Javier (.156) for the best mark among qualified hurlers.

Lasted 4.0+ innings on 5/15 vs. NYY, surrendering 5 runs on 6 hits… Struck out a trio of batters while issuing a career-high 7 walks. Took the loss on 5/3 at BOS, giving up 5R/2ER over 5.0 innings with 8 hits, a walk, and 3 strikeouts on a season-high 103 pitches (63 strikes). Landed a no-decision on 4/28 vs. SEA, giving up 2 runs on 6 hits and 4 walks over 5.0 frames with a season-high 7 strikeouts. Threw 7.0 shutout frames on 4/22 at NYY, scattering just 2 hits and a walk with 5 strikeouts…Was his 2nd outing with 7.0 scoreless innings this season (also: 4/5 at KC). Took a no-decision in the team’s Home Opener on 4/11 vs. DET, giving up 3 runs on 4 hits and 5 walks over 4.1 innings with strikeouts…Became the 5th pitcher in team history to pitch the club’s Season Opener and then their Home Opener, joining Jim Clancy (1981), Jimmy Key (1989), Marcus Stroman (2016), and Hyun Jin Ryu (2020). Earned his 1st win of the year on 4/5 at KC, tossing 7.0 frames of one-hit,
shutout ball with four walks and five strikeouts. Was the Opening Day starter for the Blue Jays on 3/30 at STL…Took a no-decision that day, giving up 5 runs on a career-high 9 hits and 2 walks over 3.1 innings with 3 strikeouts… At 25 years and 80 days old, became the 4th-youngest Opening Day starter in team history (Drew Hutchison – 24.227 in 2015; Todd Stottlemyre – 24.324 in 1990; Marcus Stroman 24.338 in 2016).


BACK ON TRACK — The Rays tied the season series against Toronto at three games apiece with a 7-3 win over the Blue Jays on Wednesday at Tropicana Field…Tampa Bay pushed across three runs over the first two frames, including an RBI-single off the bat of 3B Isaac Paredes (1-for-3, RBI, BB) and solo homers by 1B Luke Raley (1-for-3, HR, RBI, 2R, BB) and CF Jose Siri (2-for-3, HR, 2RBI, 2R)…the Rays tacked on two more runs in the fourth frame with RBI hits by RF Manuel Margot (2-for-5, 3B, RBI, R, SB) and SS Wander Franco (3-for-4, 2RBI, R, BB, SB)…after Toronto drew within a pair of runs at 5-3 in the eighth inning, Franco and Siri both recorded RBI-singles in the bottom half of the eighth for a 7-3 Rays lead.

LHP Shane McClanahan (7.0IP, 4H, ER, 7SO) tossed 7.0 innings of one-run ball to become MLB’s first eight-game winner and just the third pitcher in Rays history to begin a season 8-0, joining Matt Moore (2013) and Charlie Morton (2019).

The Rays tagged Blue Jays starter LHP Yusei Kikuchi for five runs on eight hits… Tampa Bay leads the AL in AVG (.307) and OPS (.950) against left-handed pitchers.

HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE — Tampa Bay’s 23-5 record at Tropicana Field marks MLB’s best 28-game start at home since the 2020 Minnesota Twins (also 23-5)…the Rays are the fourth team in the Wild Card Era (since 1995) to win 23 of their first 28 home games, joining the 2020 Twins, 2008 Boston Red Sox and 1998 New York Yankees (all 22-5).

Tampa Bay hitters rank among MLB leaders at home in several categories, including extra-base hits (1st, 108), infield hits (1st, 51), homers (2nd, 49), SLG (2nd, .499), OPS (3rd, .838), stolen bases (T3rd, 26) and runs per game (5th, 5.68).

START ME UP — Rays starters have pitched to a 2.41 ERA (41.0IP, 11ER) over their last nine games, holding opponents to a .216 average (33-for-153) with 40 strikeouts, seven walks and a .590 OPS in that span…it marks the third-lowest ERA by any major league rotation in that timeframe (since 5/16), behind Chicago-AL (1.86) and Texas (1.88); the Rays rotation also ranks among MLB leaders in SO/BB ratio (1st, 5.71), WHIP (2nd, 0.98), opp. OPS (2nd) and opp. average (6th) over that stretch.

WALK IT OUT — The Rays 79 walks during the month of May are tied for third most in the AL, behind only New York-AL (80BB) and Minnesota (83BB)…Randy Arozarena has drawn a walk in 13 of his last 16 games — his 15 walks in that span (since 5/8) are tied with NYY Aaron Judge and STL Paul Goldschmidt for most in the majors…overall, Arozarena’s 16 walks in May are tied for fifth most in the majors.

FIRST FRAME FEATS — The Rays are outscoring opponents 39-13 (+26) in the first inning, tied with Atlanta for the best first-inning run differential in the majors…in the opening frame, Tampa Bay hitters lead the AL in average (.311), OBP (.391), SLG (.560), OPS (.951), hits (65) and homers (T1st, 11)…meanwhile, Rays pitchers have the lowest opp. average (.188) and third-lowest ERA (2.29) behind Texas (2.02) and Miami (2.16) in the first inning.

When the Rays score in the opening frame, they have posted a 17-4 mark, including a 14-game winning streak in those contests to open the season.

STARTING FROM THE BOTTOM — The bottom three spots in the Rays batting order have provided 30 home runs, most in the majors, ahead of St. Louis (23HR)…Tampa Bay’s 7-8-9 hitters also lead MLB in RBI (84), SLG (.478) and OPS (.797).

BAG BANDITS — The Rays lead the majors in stolen bases (30) and stolen base attempts (37) during the month of May…Wander Franco paces the club with nine steals this month (third most in MLB during May), followed by Josh Lowe, Luke Raley and Taylor Walls (4SB each)…the Rays have been successful on 16 of their last 18 stolen base attempts dating back to 5/14 at New York-AL.

The Rays have an MLB-best three players with 9+ steals (Wander Franco – 15SB, Josh Lowe – 9SB, Taylor Walls – 9SB).

GETTING DEFENSIVE — According to FanGraphs, the Rays 16 defensive runs saved are fourth most in the majors behind Toronto (34), Milwaukee (31) and Arizona (18)…Tampa Bay’s 16 errors are tied for second fewest in the majors while its .991 fielding percentage is tied with San Diego and Seattle for the the highest mark in baseball.

Individually, Wander Franco’s seven defensive runs saved are tied with CHC Dansby Swanson for most among MLB shortstops, while Taylor Walls’ five are tied for sixth among AL infielders.

GOING STREAKING — Yandy Díaz has a 19-game on-base streak since 4/27, slashing .354/.468/.677 (23-for-65) with 11 extra-base hits, 12 RBI, 12 walks and only 12 strikeouts in that stretch…it marks the second-longest streak of his career behind a 22-game run from 7/24-8/16, 2020…it is the third-longest active run in the AL behind MIN Byron Buxton (24G) and TEX Marcus Semien (22G).

Díaz has reached base safely in 29 of his last 30 games overall, going .352/.453/.620 (38-for-108) at the plate during that span…he leads all qualified major leaguers during that stretch (since 4/15) in batting average, OPS (1.073) and OBP while ranking second in SLG (.620).

THE BAY BOMBERS — The Rays have hit a major league-best 97 home runs, the fourth-most long balls through a club’s first 51 games in MLB history (since 1901), trailing only the 1999 Seattle Mariners (106HR), 2019 Minnesota Twins (102HR) and 2000 St. Louis Cardinals (99HR).

The Rays have an MLB-best 28 multi-HR games, ahead of New York-AL (26G); they are 23-5 in those contests…this includes 16 games with 3+ homers, most in the majors ahead of Los Angeles-NL (14G); they had 13 games with 3+ HR in 2022.

The Rays have an MLB-best 11 players with 5+ home runs this season, ahead of four teams tied at eight players (ATL, BAL, SF, LAD)…they also have four players with 10+ homers, tied with Atlanta for most in the majors.

BATTER UP — Rays hitters lead the majors in OBP (.346), SLG (.501), OPS (.848), homers (97), hits (468), extra-base hits (197), total bases (866) and at-bats per HR (17.80).

BLUE JAYS FLY SOUTH — Tampa Bay and Toronto wrap up a four-game series this afternoon with the seventh of 13 matchups between the two clubs this season…the Rays have fallen in five of their last eight games against the Blue Jays but are 7-5 against Toronto at home since the beginning of 2022…the two clubs have split their last 22 matchups, 11-11, dating back to 6/30/22.

Randy Arozarena has reached base safely in nine of his last 10 games against Toronto, slashing .405/.465/.730 (15-for-37) with six doubles, 2 HR, 12 RBI and five multi-hit games in that span.

TODAY’S START—Right-hander Zach Eflin makes his ninth start of the season, including his sixth at home…has tossed 5.0+ innings in nine consecutive starts dating back to 6/25/22, tied for the second-longest streak of his career (also, 6/19-8/2, 2016)…the longest streak of his career was a 12-game run from 9/18/20-5/24/21.

LAST TIME OUT — He earned the win on 5/20 vs. Milwaukee after tossing 7.0 innings, allowing three runs on four hits and two home runs with no walks and eight strikeouts…the 7.0 innings matched his longest start of the season (also 5/4 vs. PIT).

After striking out nine batters in his previous start on 5/13 at New York-AL, Eflin now has 8+ strikeouts in consecutive starts for the fourth time in his career (last: 5/7-13, 2021)…he has never struck out eight or more batters in three consecutive starts

TALE OF TORONTO — Over four career appearances (3 starts) opposite Toronto, Eflin is 1-2 with a 7.63 ERA (15.1IP, 13ER)…however, he has not allowed an earned run over his last two games against the Blue Jays spanning 8.0 innings, including 7.0 scoreless frames in his start on 9/18/20 (7.0IP, 4H, 2BB, 9SO).

Eflin has gone 4-5 with a 5.05 ERA (67.2IP, 38ER) in 14 career appearances (12 starts) against AL East clubs, including a 1-1 mark with a 6.00 ERA (12.0IP, 8ER) in two starts this season.

NO PLACE LIKE HOME — Eflin has earned the win in each of his first five home starts to open the season, producing a 2.40 ERA (30.0IP, 8ER) in those games…it marks his most consecutive home starts with a win at any point in a season since a career-best six-start run from 6/5-7/3, 2018…he is the only pitcher in Rays history to earn a win in each of his first five home starts with the club.

His 2.40 ERA at Tropicana Field is second lowest through a pitcher’s first five home starts with the Rays in franchise history, behind Luis Patiño (2.28, 4/25-8/21).

WINNERS WIN — Eflin is the third pitcher in Rays history to win at least six of his first seven decisions with the club, joining Charlie Morton (7-0) from 3/29-6/5, 2019 and Josh Fleming (6-1) from 8/23/20-4/19/21.

A LEAGUE OF HIS OWN — Eflin is the only pitcher in Rays franchise history to strike out 50+ batters while issuing five or fewer walks through his first eight starts of the season…he is the only pitcher in the majors thus far to complete the feat and the first since Jacob deGrom did so with New York-NL from 8/2-9/13, 2022.

Eflin is the only pitcher this season, among both starters and relievers, to record 50+ strikeouts while walking five batters or fewer.

BETTER TOGETHER — Among pitchers with 40.0+ IP, Eflin’s 8.43 run support average is second-best in the majors, trailing only TEX Martín Pérez (9.43).

QUALITY CONTROL — Eflin’s 10.40 SO/BB ratio leads MLB (min. 45.0IP), ahead of SEA George Kirby (9.40) and TOR Kevin Gausman (7.36).

Eflin has walked two or fewer batters in each of his last 11 starts since 6/14/2022, the third-longest streak of his career (longest: 33GS, 8/29/20-6/3/22)…overall, the righty has issued two or fewer walks in 44 of his last 45 starts dating back to 8/29/2020.

Since the beginning of 2020, Eflin’s 1.60 walks per 9.0IP are the fewest in MLB (min. 1,000BF), ahead of TEX Nathan Eovaldi (1.61) and LAD Clayton Kershaw (1.63).

GONE FISHING — Opposing hitters are offering at 36.3 pct. of Eflin’s pitches outside of the strike zone, the third-highest chase rate in the majors (min. 150BF) behind MIN Joe Ryan (37.4%) and TOR Kevin Gausman (36.4%).

AHEAD OF THE CURVE — Eflin’s curveball has induced a 34.5 pct. whiff rate…he is holding batters to a .180 average (9-for-50) on the offering, with 21 of his 52 strikeouts coming on the pitch…however, he has surrendered four long balls on the offering, his most on any pitch.

Last season, Eflin used his curveball 20.1% of the time, holding batters to a .155 average (9-for-58) with no home runs allowed.

World Elite Syndicate

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