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AL East foes will begin a four-game set on Friday night when the Toronto Blue Jays visit the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. Toronto enters at 31-28 after dropping Thursday’s rubber game against the Chicago White Sox by a score of 5-2 as a -115 favorite. Boston avoided a three-game sweep at the hands of the Houston Astros with a 12-8 win on Thursday night to hit as a -105 favorite, and is 1.5 games out of the division lead at 38-25.
This is the sixth meeting between these divisional rivals so far in 2021, with Boston holding a 3-2 advantage after taking two of three in mid-May.
Blue Jays can’t recover from rough first inning
The Blue Jays haven’t been able to gain much ground in the playoff race the last few weeks while treading water against a tough schedule, and were unable to take advantage of an opportunity to win a series over the first place White Sox on Thursday with ace Hyun Jon Ryu on the mound. After falling behind 3-0 in the first, Toronto got on the board in the fifth with a Marcus Semien RBI single before Lourdes Gurriel Jr. added a run-scoring single the next inning, but it wasn’t enough as Chicago added insurance runs.
Ryu settled down, finishing with three earned runs allowed on five hits and one walk while striking out three across six innings. Joe Panik and Santiago Espinal has the only multi-hit games for the Blue Jays, who got just four runners into scoring position on the night.
The Blue Jays are just above .500 against the spread, and are up a good amount on the money line as they have played well against AL East competition while being an underdog in most matchups. Overs are 27-30-2 for the Blue Jays, and none of their last five games have gone over the betting title.
Toronto is statistically one of the top offenses in the Majors with an average of 4.89 runs per game and a 0.759 team OPS, which trails only the Houston Astros. The Blue Jays pitching staff is just above average with a 4.00 collective ERA, including a mark of 3.70 from a bullpen that has been steady despite dealing with injuries all season.
Ross Stripling will get the start on Friday night for the Blue Jays looking to continue his recent hot stretch, as he beat the Astros last weekend allowing one run on seven hits and one walk over five innings while striking out four. The 31-year-old was awful through his first six innings but has been much better since, bringing his season stats to a 4.71 ERA with 43 strikeouts in 42 innings. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. has been the best hitter in the Majors this season with a 1.089 OPS, 18 homers and 48 RBI to lead the potent Toronto offense.
Star George Springer has been limited to four games in his first season with the Blue Jays after signing a huge offseason deal, and is still working back from a quad injury. Cavan Biggio is on a rehab assignment as he recovers from a sprained neck and could be activated soon. Catchers Danny Jansen (strained hip flexor) and Alejandro Kirk (strained hamstring) are still out. Seven Toronto relievers are still on the IL, including Julian Merryweather (strained oblique), Ryan Borucki (strained forearm flexor) and A.J. Cole (neck discomfort). David Phelps (lat surgery) and Kirby Yates (Tommy John surgery) are among those who will miss the rest of the season.
Red Sox win wild back-and-forth game over Astros
The Red Sox had a tough time in the season series against the Astros with a 2-5 record, all in the last 10 days, but managed to grind out a win in Thursday’s finale in a contest that featured six lead changes. After Houston took a 7-4 lead in the fifth inning, Boston quickly responded with a three-run homer from Christian Arroyo, and took control with a five-run sixth, capped off by Bobby Dalbec’s two-run double.
Starter Eduardo Rodriguez lasted just 4.2 innings, allowing six runs on six hits and three walks while striking out five. Darwinzon Hernandez was credited with the win, and the Red Sox bullpen managed to hold Houston scoreless over the last three innings. Christian Vazquez went 3-4 with three RBI, while J.D. Martinez drove in two runs and scored twice.
Boston has also been excellent against the spread at 36-26, and is up a huge amount on the money line as it has exceeded preseason expectations. Overs are 28-33-1 for the Red Sox, with four of their last six games going over the betting total.
Boston’s offense is near the top of the leaderboard in most categories with an average of 4.88 runs per game and a 0.746 team OPS. The Red Sox pitching staff has bounced back from a horrendous 2020 campaign, posting a 3.95 ERA while allowing an AL-best 0.79 HR/9 rate this season.
Garrett Richards has been a solid addition to the rotation with a 3.88 ERA across 65 innings, and will make his 13th start of the season on Friday against the Blue Jays. The 33-year-old tossed five innings in a no decision against the New York Yankees last Sunday, allowing three runs on eight hits and two walks while striking out six. Xander Bogaerts is turning in a terrific season to lead the Red Sox with a 0.921 OPS, 11 homers and 38 RBI.
Starting pitcher Chris Sale has begun throwing bullpen sessions as he works back from Tommy John surgery. Reliever Ryan Brasier was on a rehab assignment for a strained calf last week, but is now dealing with a concussion after being struck by a comebacker.
Trends via Covers.com.
- Boston is 16-43 in its last 59 home games against teams with a winning record.
- 8-2 in its last 10 games against a right-handed starter.
- 7-2 in its last nine road games.