Toronto Blue Jays vs. Tampa Bay Rays Preview and Pick – Litsch vs. Jackson

Toronto Blue Jays (68-64) +135, 9 at Tampa Bay Rays (80-51), 7 pm Eastern Thursday
by Zman of

The amazin’ Tampa Bay Rays look to continue their trek toward the first division title in team history when they host the Toronto Blue Jays in the rubber match of a three-game series Thursday night in St. Petersburg.

Baseball Bookmakers are listing Tampa and starting pitcher Edwin Jackson (10-8, 3.93, 1.44 WHIP) as 145 home favorites for Thursday’s game, with a total of 9, while Toronto and Jesse Litsch (9-7, 4.01, 1.29) are getting +135 as road underdogs.

These two team have split the first two games of this series, the Blue Jays winning 6-2 Tuesday night and the Rays winning last night 1-0, behind 7 2/3 solid innings from starting pitcher Matt Garza. So Tampa is now 25-12 since the All-Star break.

So going into Thursday’s play, Tampa leads the AL East by 3 1/2 games over the second-place Boston Red Sox, while Toronto is in fourth place, 12 1/2 games back.


And the Jays trail the Boston Red Sox by nine games in the AL wild-card race.

Toronto is 31-35 on the road this year, 26-27 as underdogs, and 64-68 vs. the run line.

Tampa is an AL-best 48-19 at home this season, 57-27 as favorites, and 69-62 vs. the run line.

The Rays have taken 10 of 14 games from the Jays so far this season, with the totals going 6-8, as the games have averaged just 7.2 total runs per.

Over his two starts since returning from a month-long trip to AAA Syracuse, Litsch held the Tigers and Red Sox scoreless on 12 baserunners (hits + walks) in 13 IP. Toronto is 9-12 in Litsch’s starts this year, the totals 12-7.

Litsch has started five games vs. the Rays over the last two seasons, giving up 12 ER and 38 BR in 28 IP. The Jays went 2-3 in those five games, with the totals going 2-3.

Over his last three starts, including a rough but winning performance vs. the White Sox last Friday, Jackson has given up just four ER and 29 BR in 19 IP. The Rays are 14-11 in Jackson’s starts this year, the totals 10-14.

Jackson has started games eight games vs. the Jays over the last two seasons, allowing 23 ER and 64 BR in 48 IP. The Rays went 3-5 in those games, with the totals going 2-6.

Offensively, Toronto ranks 16th in the majors this season in team BA at .262, 14th in team OBP at .334, 23rd in team slugging at .394, and is averaging 4.4 runs per game.

Tampa ranks 21st in batting at .258, 13th in OBP at .335, 16th in slugging at .416, and is averaging 4.6 RPG.

Over the last five games, the Toronto bullpen has allowed four ER and 14 BR in 17 1/3 IP.

Over its’ last five games, the Tampa pen has given up six ER and 14 BR in 12 2/3 IP.

On the injury/personnel front, Toronto could get 3B Scott Rolen back in the line-up Thursday, after he’d missed three weeks with a bad shoulder. But Tampa is still without 3B Evan Longoria and OF Carl Crawford, who are both still on the DL.

The totals are 54-71 in Jays games this year, 55-74 in Rays games, and 28-38 in games played at Tropicana Field, which are averaging 8.0 total runs this season, 4th-fewest among all ML ballparks.

Zman’s Pick: We’ll go with the UNDER 9 here.

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