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Toronto vs. Tampa Bay,
05/04/2018 19:10 EDT,
Score: 2 - 6
Money Line: -144 Toronto
The set-up: The Tampa Bay Rays get set to host the Toronto Blue Jays tonight at Tropicana Field as the two AL East rivals begin a three-game series. The 13-16 Rays had Thursday off to absorb a series loss at the Detroit Tigers (Detroit took two of three), while the Blue Jays played 20 innings while splitting a doubleheader in Cleveland that ended just before midnight.
Yangervis Solarte's grand slam in the 11th lifted Toronto to a 13-11 win in the opener and he had a solo shot among three hits in the nightcap but the Indians rolled 13-4 in the second contest. Toronto activated star third baseman Josh Donaldson (shoulder) from the disabled list and he went 4-for-11 with two HRs during the twinbill. As for the Rays, they have played four straight one-run games, losing three of them, including Wednesday's 3-2 loss to the Tigers in 12 innings.
The pitching matchup: Lefty J.A. Happ (4-1, 3.50 ERA) will get the start for Toronto while Tampa Bay, which continues to battle multiple injuries in its starting rotation, will get a spot start from right-hander Andrew Kittredge, after the team had initially indicated rookie Ryan Yarbrough would start. Kittredge is 1-2 with a 6.23 ERA in 2018. Happ didn't come close to repeating his excellent season of 2016 last year but he's off to a strong starts in 2018. He has at least eight strikeouts in each of his last five starts and fanned nine in seven strong innings while defeating Texas his last time out. He has quality starts in three of his last four outings and while he's not yet back to the form that saw him go 20-4 in 2016, he's beginning to make a believer of me. That said, he is just 3-3 with a 5.08 ERA in 14 games (13 starters) versus Tampa Bay, including a 6.27 ERA in eight career games (seven starts) at Tampa Bay. Kittredge pitched one scoreless, hitless inning Tuesday and again Wednesday, throwing 12 and 11 pitches, so it will literally be a bullpen day for the Rays, with Kittredge capped at about 30 pitches according to the Tampa Bay Times. Kittredge has faced Toronto once in his two years in the majors, when he threw 1 2/3 innings of scoreless, one-hit relief in August in a 7-6 loss to the Jays.
The pick: Sure, Tampa Bay has won its last four at home and the Rays figure to have a definitive advantage in terms of rest (see above). However, it's hard to be confident of Tampa's pitching rotation for this game. Yarbrough had been sent to Triple-A Durham on Sunday, only to be recalled when Yonny Chirinos went on the disabled list with a forearm strain. Kittredge has now been announced as a replacement after Wednesday's game. Kittredge and Co. will face a Toronto lineup averaging 5.41 RPG and leading all of MLB with 48 HRs. Toronto is a 10* play.