Friday’s matchup between the Rays and Blue Jays is one of five games in a critical series between wild card hopefuls. The Rays are getting healthier and will put veteran Corey Kluber on the mound, while the Blue Jays have been moving up in the standings but will need Jose Berrios to start living up to his contract if they want to make a deep postseason run. It’s a Canada Day game, so this will be a rare Friday afternoon start for these two.
Let’s take a look at starting lineups, betting odds, and predictions for Friday’s matchup.
Tampa Bay Rays vs. Toronto Blue Jays Betting Odds
The Blue Jays are slight home favorites at -145, even with how much Berrios has struggled of late. The reason? Toronto is averaging 6.6 runs/game over their last 10. It’ll take more than just that, though, as the Jays are only 5-5 over that stretch with series losses to the White Sox and Brewers. You have to give the Rays a look at +125 just because of how tough of a season Berrios has had. The numbers would indicate he’ll improve soon, but what if he isn’t 100%? Even for a notoriously inconsistent pitcher, it feels like he would’ve figured it out by now if he was.
Tampa Bay Rays Starting Lineup
C. Kluber R
3-4 3.45 ERA
3B Y. Diaz R
SS W. Franco S
LF R. Arozarena R
DH J. Choi L
RF J. Lowe L
1B I. Paredes R
C F. Mejia S
2B T. Walls S
CF B. Phillips L
Tampa Bay Rays vs. Jose Berrios
The Blue Jays gave Jose Berrios a 7yr/$131M deal in November after acquiring him at last year’s deadline, and it was thought to be a nice value for Toronto at under $20M/year. So far, the results aren’t there. Berrios has a 5.86 ERA through 15 starts (78.1 IP) this season, with a 5.27 FIP and 1.39 WHIP. He’s getting hammered for 10.2 hits per nine, up dramatically from 7.5 in 2021, and both his home run rate and strikeout rate are the worst marks of his career. Yes, even worse than his rookie season, when he had an 8.02 ERA over 14 starts.
Berrios has always been prone to clunkers, but his stuff is so nasty that he still was an all-star caliber pitcher. It used to be walks that would burn Berrios, which is why this season is so confusing – his walk rate is up slightly from last year but lower than his career mark. After giving up 14 runs over 6.2 innings between his last two starts,
Berrios will face the Rays for the first time this season. Tampa is still missing Brandon Lowe, Manuel Margot, and Mike Zunino, but Wander Franco is back and Kevin Kiermaier is set to be activated on Friday. With Isaac Paredes coming off the week of his life and two key pieces back, the Rays have the ability to do some damage against Berrios. The only issue may be power – Tampa is 23rd in home runs, and their last homer from someone not named Isaac Paredes came more than a week ago.
Toronto Blue Jays Starting Lineup
J. Berrios R
5-4 5.86 ERA
CF G. Springer R
SS B. Bichette R
1B V. Guerrero R
DH A. Kirk R
RF T. Hernandez R
2B S. Espinal R
3B M. Chapman R
LF L. Gurriel R
C G. Moreno R
Toronto Blue Jays vs. Corey Kluber
2-time Cy Young winner Corey Kluber has pretty much been what the Rays hoped they were getting when they gave him a 1-year deal last offseason. He’s not the same pitcher he once was, but he’s stayed healthy after three injury-ravaged years and has lasted into the 6th inning in 8 of his last 11 starts. Kluber has a 3.45 ERA, 3.58 FIP, and 1.08 WHIP over 14 starts (73 IP) this season, and control has been a big reason for his success – he’s walked only 11 batters, cutting his walk rate significantly from last season.
Kluber gets a big challenge with a road start in Toronto on Friday. The Blue Jays have one of baseball’s best offenses, and it feels like some of their stars haven’t even gotten going yet. Alejandro Kirk was one of baseball’s best hitters in June, carrying a .346 AVG, 7 home runs, and a 1.114 OPS into the last day of the month. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., George Springer, and Bo Bichette are constant home run threats, and even Matt Chapman has been hitting lately – he has an OPS north of 1.000 over the past week. The Blue Jays can burn a pitcher like Kluber because they don’t necessarily need action on the bases to score runs. Kluber may not walk many hitters, but the Blue Jays can just hit it over his head and into the seats. Kluber has fared well against the Yankees, though, so maybe he’s equipped to handle this lineup with all of his experience.
Tampa Bay Rays vs. Toronto Blue Jays Picks & Prediction
My pick: Over 9 Runs (-105)
The Blue Jays’ last 10 games have all ended with 9 or more runs on the board. I don’t think a home game with Berrios on the mound will break that pattern. It’s well established that Berrios has had an ugly year – while he has the stuff to throw a gem on any given night, there’s no indication it’ll be on Friday.
I have no doubt the Blue Jays will score some runs in front of their home crowd on Canada Day. The Rays are also thinner in the bullpen, with two relievers unable to make the trip to Toronto due to Canada’s vaccine mandate. While it’s tough to say who has the advantage in this one, I don’t see it being a pitcher’s duel.