The Boston Red Sox are the hottest team in baseball. They’ve won seven straight games and have made up over eight games of ground on the Toronto Blue Jays to overtake the American League’s top Wildcard spot.
The Sox now have a 1.5-game lead over the Jays and the Tampa Bay Rays. After a 10-19 start, this turnaround is perhaps the most impressive in baseball.
But Boston does have a few unvaccinated players who will be unavailable during this series. Plus, Toronto’s ace is on the mound for Game 1.
So, who has the edge in this series?
Read on for the starting lineups, betting odds, and my prediction for Game 2 of this pivotal AL East three-game set.
Boston Red Sox vs Toronto Blue Jays Odds
You could just take the over. The wind is projected to blow straight out to the center-field at 11mph and these are two pitchers that can be taken advantage of.
Michael Wacha is overperfomring like crazy. He’s pitching better than he has in years, and the Boston defense has seen significant improvement. But there is still more room for negative regression.
Ross Stripling has been better, but he’s running into a Boston lineup that can’t miss the ball.
Boston Red Sox Starting Lineup
M. Wacha R
6-1 2.34 ERA
RF R. Refsnyder R
3B R. Devers L
DH J. Martinez R
SS X. Bogaerts R
LF A. Verdugo L
2B T. Story R
1B F. Cordero L
C C. Vazquez R
CF J. Bradley L
Boston Red Sox vs Ross Stripling
Stripling is rather consistent. His first two seasons north of the border didn’t go as planned, but his ERA is back in the low-3.00s and his expected stuff back in the high-3.00s.
His fastball doesn’t seem to play as well anymore, especially after posting a +13 Run Value on the pitch over the last two seasons. Instead, he’s cut back on the usage and is forcing guys to chase more.
Image credit: Baseball Savant
With this re-worked pitch mix, Stripling ranks in the 91st percentile of pitchers in chase rate.
I’m not sure how that will work against this Red Sox lineup. Boston spent April swinging and missing at every possible pitch but since has cut way down on their O-swing rate alongside their swinging-strike and CSW rate.
And since that May 1st mark, Boston has the best wRC+ in baseball at 125. The Red Sox are the only team with an OPS north of .800 as they lead the league in average, OBP, and SLG during the stretch.
The Red Sox hit the ball hard, as they always have. But the balls just weren’t dropping.
Now, they are for every guy on the roster. Rafael Devers leads the league in hits, doubles, and total bases this season. Xander Bogaerts and J.D. Martinez are both among the top-10 MLB hitters in batting average. Trevor Story just recorded his 50th RBI.
The Red Sox have 35 more doubles than any team in baseball with 175, while Atlanta is second at 140. Boston has just 70 home runs, but hopefully, that will come around considering the batted ball numbers.
This is a loaded lineup that is clicking on all cylinders. Do not overlook the Red Sox.
Toronto Blue Jays Starting Lineup
R. Stripling R
4-2 3.08 ERA
CF G. Springer R
SS B. Bichette R
1B V. Guerrero R
C A. Kirk R
RF T. Hernandez R
DH L. Gurriel R
3B M. Chapman R
2B S. Espinal R
LF C. Biggio L
Toronto Blue Jays vs Michael Wacha
This isn’t going to last forever. But, the ride has been fun.
Wacha has posted a ridiculous 2.34 ERA so far this season. He pitched a complete-game three-hit shutout against the Angels less than a month ago. After stringing together three of the worst starting pitching seasons I can remember in recent memory, Wacha’s turnaround has been spectacular.
But he backs up that 2.34 ERA with a .227 BABIP and an 85% strand rate. Throw in his average batted ball statistics and you get a 4.39 xERA. Wacha doesn’t miss bats, and his spin rates are far below average, and that adds up to an xFIP north of 4.00.
Wacha is going to see plenty of regression as the season goes forward.
It certainly looks like the Jays are the ones to do that. Toronto has the highest wRC+ of any MLB over the past month (142) alongside by far the highest wOBA (.371) and OPS (.858). They’ve scored 171 runs in 26 games during that period, meaning they’re averaging close to 6.6 runs per game while the second-best team (Atlanta) has scored 13 fewer runs in the same stretch.
This is the most dangerous lineup in baseball save the Yankees. Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerroro Jr. are two of the hardest-hitting infielders in the game. Alejandro Kirk now leads all catchers in fWAR and leads the team with a 165 OPS+. There isn’t a single Blue Jay in the regular nine-man lineup that has an OPS+ below 100.
Boston Red Sox vs Toronto Blue Jays Pick & Prediction
My picks: Over 10 (-115 at DraftKings Sportsbook)
Sharp money has already hit this total, pushing it up to 10 from the opening 9.5 number. The wind is blowing straight out, as mentioned, and these are the two hottest offenses in Major League Baseball.
Pair that with a couple of pitchers due for regression and two high-variance bullpens, and I’ll happily take a shot at the over even with this crazy inflated line.
Sometimes, games are just meant to be high-scoring. This is a prime-time divisional matchup between two of the more exciting teams in baseball. Rob Manfred might even shoot some juiced balls north of the border.
I’ll bet the over in this spot at 10 (-115) but won’t touch this line at any worse than that.