MLB Handicapping: Tampa Bay Rays at Toronto Blue Jays Picks & Predictions

The Toronto Blue Jays and Tampa Bay Rays meet up in a short two-game series between American League East foes at the Rogers Centre

Tampa Bay Rays at Toronto Blue Jays

Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista leads the Majors with 16 home runs

Tampa Bay fell 6-2 in defeat to the New York Yankees at Tropicana Field Wednesday night and finished its five-game homestand with a 2-3 record.  The Rays are just 11-13 at home for the season, but will now look to improve upon their Major League-best 13-5 road mark.  “It’s kind of weird – the last three years we’ve had the so-called home-field advantage and now it’s like we’ve got road-field advantage,” said Rays starting pitcher James Shields.  “At least it’s happening opposite and not bad on both parts.”  The club is still enjoying quite a run in registering a 23-10 record since April 11, which stands as the best record in the majors over that span.  Tampa Bay is 11-8 versus divisional opponents this season.

Rays starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson is aiming to win his fourth game in a row and is 4-2 with a 2.98 ERA in seven starts this season.  The right-hander is coming off his first shutout of the season, scattering four hits and issuing just a single walk at home against the Orioles.  Hellickson is also a perfect 3-0 with a 3.04 ERA in four road starts, but has walked 13 batters and struck out just 14 in 23 2/3 innings.  He picked up a no decision in his only career start versus Toronto, allowing three runs and six hits over seven strong innings, as his team dropped the contest 6-4 at the Rogers Centre.

Toronto has won six consecutive games and enjoyed an off day on Tuesday due to rain in the Detroit area.  The Blue Jays will be looking to win seven straight games for the first time since a 10-game win streak from August 30-September 9, 2008.  Outfielder Jose Bautista has played a major role in the team’s recent success and leads the majors with 16 home runs.  “He’s as professional, as complete a player, as complete a teammate as you could ever want,” Blue Jays manager John Farrell stated.  “He’s arguably the best player in the game right now.”  He is also joined by Yunel Escobar and Corey Patterson in all having eight-game hitting streaks.  Toronto is 16-7 in night games this year.

Blue Jays starting pitcher Jesse Litsch is 4-2 with a 4.14 ERA in seven starts this season and looks to extend his streak of consecutive victories.  The right-hander has allowed four runs and 10 hits over 12 innings in his last two starts, capturing home wins over Detroit and Boston.  “Since coming back from the minors, he has put together some solid outings,” said Farrell.  Litsch has recorded an 0-3 record and 4.82 ERA in his last five starts against the Rays, but hasn’t faced them since August 28, 2008.  He has held right-handed hitters to a .145 average and lefties are hitting .344 against him.

Bettors will be interested in backing the Rays due to their 8-1 record versus right-handed starters, while the Blue Jays are 4-11 in Litsch’s last 15 starts versus the American League East

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