The AL East is so tough. These are two absurdly talented teams, both of which are projected for 88 wins per ZiPS this season, and both of which will play each other another 18 times after Monday’s game.
The Blue Jays have had the better start to the season, but Toronto (6-4) is only one game up on Boston (5-5), New York (5-5), and Tampa (5-5) 10 games into the season.
There isn’t enough of a sample size to make any sweeping generalizations about any AL East team. But, there are a few things we can expect from this Toronto vs. Boston series.
First, both teams will smash the ball. Both rank in the top half of the league in both avg. exit velocity and hard-hit rate.
Second, both teams will have questionable rotations and bullpens, and there will likely be a ton of runs scored in the division this season.
Third, the Blue Jays have a higher ceiling. With Vladimir Guerrero Jr. leading the team and a defending Cy Young winner at the top of the rotation, anything is possible north of the border.
Let’s take a look at the starting lineups, betting odds, and my predictions for the series opener.
Toronto Blue Jays vs Boston Red Sox Odds
I think Boston might be laying a little too much juice in this spot. Eovaldi is a great pitcher and the ace of the staff, but is he worth laying close to -150 against the top lineup in baseball?
Maybe. Because Yusei Kikuchi is no stud. He was good in Seattle, but overperformed his expected statistics and is likely slightly overvalued. He might not be worth betting as an underdog against one of the top-five lineups in baseball.
The over is the only way to bet the total here, but it’s going to be inflated because of everything mentioned above.
We may have to get creative with this game.
Toronto Blue Jays Starting Lineup
CF George Springer R
SS Bo Bichette R
1B Vladimir Guerrero R
LF Lourdes Gurriel R
3B Matt Chapman R
RF Raimel Tapia L
DH Zack Collins L
C Alejandro Kirk R
2B Santiago Espinal R
Toronto Blue Jays vs Nathan Eovaldi
Eovaldi hasn’t had the most sterling start to his season, but he’s been slightly unlucky in the early going. He’s pitched 10 innings over his first two starts with a 13:2 K/BB ratio. But, he’s also allowed a whopping four home runs in those 10 innings.
The two at Yankee Stadium were cheaper. One HR he gave up to Giancarlo Stanton barely escaped the Short Porch.
But the two at Tiger stadium were not good. Against an average Detroit lineup, Eovaldi allowed two long balls in the relatively pitcher-friendly Comerica Park.
But after Eovaldi posted a career-low HR/9 (.74) in 2021, I’m slightly concerned about this two-game sample size in 2022. But I’m also expecting positive regression there – I’m thinking his HR/FB rate will stick around 12% or 13%.
In terms of the long ball, Eovaldi won’t get a bigger test than Toronto. The Jays’ 14 home runs are second in MLB so far this season, and their 45.2% hard-hit rate is fifth.
The Jays coming into this series after taking two of three from Oakland.
Boston Red Sox Starting Lineup
CF Kikè Hernandez R
3B Rafael Devers L
SS Xander Bogaerts R
DH J.D. Martinez R
1B Bobby Dalbec R
2B Trevor Story R
LF Alex Verdugo L
C Christian Vazquez R
RF Christian Arroyo R
Boston Red Sox vs Yusei Kikuchi
It’s tough to figure out who Kikuchi is.
One day, he’s an above-average lefty starter. The next, he’s a soft-tossing lefty with an avg. exit velocity allowed over 92mph, an ineffective fastball, and underwhelming secondary pitches.
In his debut start with Toronto, Kikuchi went down to Yankee Stadium and gave up three runs on five hits over three innings. He finished with an xFIP of 6.15 for the start. It was ugly.
Hard to see how that will change against Boston. The Red Sox lineup is every bit as dangerous as the Yankees, and they posted a 109 wRC+ with an OPS over .800 against lefties at Fenway in 2021.
Kikuchi has faced this Sox lineup twice in his career, most recently last April. He got shelled in Seattle that day, allowing five runs over 4 ⅔ innings with five hits and three walks. Add in no strikeouts, and Kikuchi ended that start with a FIP over 10.
We’ll see if he can fix those issues against a Boston lineup that has been heating up. The Sox split their four-game series with Minnesota, but they scored 19 runs in the process (4.75 per game).
Toronto Blue Jays vs Boston Red Sox Picks & Prediction
My pick: Boston Red Sox F5 -0.5 (-105 at DraftKings)
I’m willing to bet on a Kikuchi collapse against the Red Sox again. Especially in a hitter-friendly ballpark like Fenway, which has a park factor of 105 over the past five seasons.
Eovaldi has had some early-season issues with home runs, but I trust Eovaldi far more than I trust Kikuchi. Even if Eovaldi has an xFIP over 4.10 against Toronto in his career.
I’ll take a shot with the Red Sox on the run line in the first five innings. Because I’ll take Eovaldi at home getting backed up by a Boston lineup that will rake against Kikuchi at Fenway.
At anything better than -110, I’ll be on this line.