Yesterday was a rough day. We have been steaming hot for the entire month of September with a win rate north of 70% for the last two weeks, so it was bound to cool down at some point. We came up short when we backed the New York Mets as small favorites against the Philadelphia Phillies. The Mets had Thor, Noah Syndergaard on the mound, and the Phillies had been in freefall all month long, so it seemed like a good spot to fire.
Thor didn’t pitch all that poorly, he allowed three runs and was pulled from the game early as his pitch count swelled. But the story in this one was the performance of Zach Eflin for the Phillies. Eflin snapped out of his recent funk in a big way as he pitched five shutout innings and allowed just three hits. He turned the game over to the bullpen in the sixth inning, and they finished off the shutout for him.
With the win, the Phillies left the door slightly cracked open for a shot at making the playoffs this year. Philly heads to Atlanta today for a huge four-game showdown with the Braves. If the Phillies were to sweep Atlanta, they could cut the division lead to just a game and a half, heading into the season’s final week. The term must-win gets thrown around a lot in sports, but this series is truly a must win for the Phillies. For today’s pick, we will take a look at another team that is making a mad scramble for the playoffs when the Tampa Bay Rays play the Toronto Blue Jays.
The Tampa Bay Rays are in Toronto Thursday for game one of a huge four-game series with the Blue Jays. The Rays are once again baseball’s hottest team and are desperately trying to catch the Oakland Athletics for the second wild card in the American League. The Rays are 14-3 in September and have closed the gap between themselves and the A’s to just five games. The Blue Jays had a modest four-game winning streak snapped when they lost last night in the series finale to the Baltimore Orioles.
Starting tonight for the Rays is their opener Ryne Stanek (2-3 2.49 ERA), and for the Blue Jays, it is Sam Gaviglio (3-8 5.25 ERA). The Rays are -130 road favorites. The game total over-under is set at eight and a half runs. First pitch is scheduled for 4:07 PM PST from Rogers Centre in Toronto.
Who can stop these Tampa Bay Rays right now? As hard as it was to see this run coming, this team is blazing hot, and they are surging up the standings right now. And it’s not like they are playing a bunch of last place teams. The Rays have recent series wins against the Indians, Athletics, and Red Sox. But interestingly enough, their fate may come down to how well they play against this Toronto Blue Jays team. The Rays took two out of three from the Jays earlier this month, and including tonight’s game, have seven of their last eleven games against Toronto. If they can run the table and will all of those games, don’t be shocked to see them sneak into the playoffs.
The Rays will use their opener technique with Ryne Stanek starting the game and likely pitching an inning or two. They will then turn things over to Yonny Chirinos to pitch the middle innings. Chirinos has been more than capable in this long relief role for the Rays, and Tampa Bay has won four out of the last five times he has pitched. Chirinos pitched against this Rays team two appearances back and the best game of his season as he pitched seven innings and allowed just one run and the Rays won the game.
Toronto will try and play spoiler tonight as they send Sam Gaviglio to the mound. Gaviglio has struggled most of the season. His 5.25 ERA would be amongst the worst of all qualified starters in the league had he pitched enough innings to qualify. The Jays have lost ten out of the last twelve games that he has started. Gaviglio has twelve starts this season that has seen him pitch fewer than five innings.
This is a complete and utter mismatch. I haven’t a clue as to why this number is so low. I guess the books just can’t seem to figure out this opener thing the Rays are doing, because if they had a top line starter going in this game, they would be -200 or more. And the fact of the matter is, this bullpen by committee starter technique is very effective, so they should be valued like they have an elite pitcher on the mound because they do, just several of them.
The Rays are blazing hot and are the best story in baseball right now. Only time will tell if there is enough time in the season left to catch the A’s, but I will tell you what, nobody, and I mean nobody, wants to play this team in the playoffs. I think they win this game and find a way to win this series and take this race down to the season’s final few games. Give me the Tampa Bay Rays laying a little wood at -125 tonight in game one from Toronto!