Tuesday MLB Preview – Blue Jays at Rays

The Rays look to keep pace with the Yankees in playing the second game of this three-game set at Tropicana Field.

Toronto Blue Jays at Tampa Bay Rays

Toronto fell 6-2 in the series opener against the Rays at Tropicana Field, with a costly error by second baseman Aaron Hill proving too difficult to fight back from.  “I’m not going to fault my guys for playing hard,” Monday night’s starter Brett Cecil said.  “I’ve got to take it upon myself.”  The Blue Jays had won four straight against the Rays in the season series, but now trail 7-6 with last night’s loss.  Offensively, the team has been led by outfielder Jose Bautista, recently named AL Player of the Week for August 23-29.  Over those seven days, he hit .500 with eight extra-base hits and four home runs.  Bautista currently leads the majors with 42 home runs.  The club owns a 33-36 mark away from the Rogers Centre this season, including a 12-11 record on the road.  Toronto is a disappointing 7-13 as a road underdog of +125 to +150 this season (-360) and the total is 10-9 O/U in those contests.

Blue Jays starting pitcher Ricky Romero is 10-8 with a 3.54 ERA in 26 starts this season and the team has dropped his last two outings.  In those games, he has allowed 10 runs (seven earned) and 13 hits in 12.2 innings of work, while issuing six walks.  The left-hander is an even 5-5 with a 4.17 ERA in 15 road starts this season, while issuing 37 free passes and collecting 75 strikeouts in 95 innings.  He is 2-1 with a 3.89 ERA in five outings this month, as opponents are hitting for a combined .223 average, after tallying a .306 mark against him in July.  In three career starts versus the Rays, Romero has collected an even 1-1 record and 2.57 ERA, surrendering just a single home run in 21 frames.

Tampa Bay kept pace with the Yankees for the eighth consecutive day with Monday’s victory and has now won 12 of 16 overall and 22 of 28 at Tropicana Field.  The Rays played a solid game in front of a lot of empty seats in the series opener, which disappointed a number of players.  “Yeah, it was a little disappointing,” outfielder Carl Crawford said.  “It was a letdown.”  The club is 42-25 at home this season (-80) and are 22-6 at Tropicana Field since July 1, the best record in the majors over that span.  Tampa is 17-11 in August this season (+240) and the total is 12-16 O/U over that span.  The team is also an MLB-best 31-13 versus left-handed starters (+1,460).

Rays starting pitcher Jeff Niemann is 10-4 with a 3.67 ERA in 23 starts this season, but is coming off one of his worst career starts.  In a 12-3 road loss to the Angels, he allowed 10 runs on eight hits over just 3.1 innings, while issuing three walks and collecting just two strikeouts.  The right-hander is a solid 5-2 with a 2.85 ERA in 12 home starts, as opponents are hitting for a combined .233 average.  He has suffered through a dreadful August, posting a 1-1 record and 11.32 ERA.  In six career starts against the Blue Jays, Niemann has collected a 3-1 record and 4.04 ERA, while striking out 28 batters and walking just nine in the process.

Bettors will find that the Blue Jays are 15-7 in their last 22 games versus AL East opponents and the over is 4-0 in Romero’s last four starts against the division.  Tampa settles in with a 7-0 mark in Niemann’s last seven starts inside the division, but the under is 5-0 in his last five starts in this situation.

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