Two AL East teams chasing the division leaders meet Thursday as the Toronto Blue Jays head to Boston to face the Red Sox. The Jays are -116 favorites and the total is set at O/U 10.5.
Prior to Wednesday's matchup, the Blue Jays held a 44.3 win-percentage in their first 659 matchups with the Red Sox. In 2020, Boston has won three of the teams' first five meetings, but the Jays won 9-1 in the squads last competition.
Before Tuesday night, the Jays sat at 18-16 — third in the AL East and manning the final American League playoff spot — after dropping their previous two games to the Marlins and Orioles both by a single run. In their first season without star Mookie Betts, the Red Sox have struggled, sputtering to a 12-24 start and posting some of the worst pitching statistics in the league.
Tajuan Walker (3-2, 3.27 ERA, 29 SO) cruised through six scoreless innings in his Blue Jay debut last week. Walker was acquired from the Mariners prior to the trade deadline to bolster an injured Blue Jay rotation and dominated the Orioles in his first Toronto appearance. Walker said he didn't even feel like he had his best stuff following the start, which should give Blue Jays fans hope they have found a mid-rotation stalwart for the remainder of the 2020 season — Walker is a free agent this winter.
Martin Perez (2-4, 4.58 ERA, 24 SO) has been the Red Sox de facto ace during this rough 2020. With almost exclusively question marks behind him in the rotation Perez has been one of the few stable options for Boston, though he did give up six runs and eight hits over just four innings in his last start — a 10-2 loss to the Nationals.
One of the most highly touted prospects in recent memory, Vlad Guerrero Junior's first "full" season has been a series of streaks. The son of a Hall of Famer struggled in the first few weeks of the shortened season, causing some Toronto pundits to discuss if, in a normal season, he would've been sent to AAA to 'figure things out.' Recently, with Vlad's launch angle constantly changing, the power hitting 1B, DH (and sometimes 3B) has found more success driving the ball. If the Jays are going to win against left handed pitching, they will need Guerrero to drive in runs behind Teoscar Hernandez and Randal Grichuk.
Across the diamond, another highly touted prospect has been one of the few bright spots for the Red Sox. Alex Verdugo put up solid numbers for the Dodgers in a bench/part-time role last season but has broken out for the Sox after being flipped in the Mookie Betts deal. The young outfielder has slashed .310/.365/.524 and seems to be positioning himself as the centerpiece of Boston's lineup for years to come. If the Red Sox are to beat the Jays (or any team really, this year) they will have to outscore them, and a bat like Verdugo must play a part in that.
With Vlad Jr. coming off a rest day in Wednesday's game, and the Jays truly fighting for a playoff spot, I see no reason why they shouldn't tack on another loss to the Boston Red Sox woeful 2020 campaign. While the odds, Jays are -116 favorites, reflect the disparity in the pitching matchup, I think the Jays offense should flourish and secure the win. The only potential issue is if Boston's left-handed hitters get to Tajuan early and the Jays go to a mop-up reliever instead of one of their skilled length options like Anthony Kay or Thomas Hatch.