The Toronto Blue Jays head into Tuesday night's clash at Tropicana Field holding on to a half-game lead over the New York Yankees for the second wild-card spot after a 6-4 series-opening loss to the Tampa Bay Rays.
Toronto made a late push but its offense was largely flat Monday while the Rays wore down ace Robbie Ray, chasing him in the fifth inning. The Jays will look to rebound behind Alek Manoah, who dominated Tampa in his last start, while the Rays counter with hard-throwing righty Drew Rasmussen.
Here are our free MLB betting picks and predictions for Blue Jays vs. Rays on September 21.
Blue Jays vs Rays game info
• Location: Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, FL
• Date: Tuesday, September 21, 2021
• Time: 7:10 p.m. ET
• TV: Bally Sports Sun, Sportsnet
Blue Jays vs Rays odds
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Blue Jays vs Rays betting preview
Alek Manoah (6-2, 3.39 ERA): Manoah is coming off the best start of his young career, as he threw a personal-best eight innings of one-hit ball against the Rays and held them scoreless while punching out 10. It was the third time he has fanned 10-plus in a start — and two of those games have come against Tampa Bay.
Drew Rasmussen (3-1, 3.00 ERA): The righty has been effective for Tampa Bay, allowing one or zero runs in six consecutive starts since becoming a full-time starter. He faced the Blue Jays his last time out and held them to two hits over five scoreless innings in Toronto. Opponents have just a .473 OPS against him over those six outings.
Be sure to monitor the gametime conditions with our MLB weather info.
Blue Jays: Santiago Espinal 2B (Out), Cavan Biggio 3B (Out), Joakim Soria RP (Out).
Rays: Wander Franco SS (Out), Andrew Kittredge RP (Out), Matt Wisler RP (Out).
Find our latest MLB injury reports.
Betting trend to know
The Under is 6-1-2 in the last nine meetings between the Blue Jays and Rays. Find more MLB betting trends for Blue Jays vs. Rays.
Every loss is magnified at this point in the year when a postseason spot is on the line. Toronto dropping the series opener behind Ray, the AL Cy Young favorite, wasn't ideal, as it allowed the Boston Red Sox, the first wild-card holder, to gain a half-game in the Wild Card race — and it also moved New York one step closer to the second spot.
That said, the Blue Jays have gone on a remarkable run to even be in this position with 12 games remaining in the season, winning 18 of their last 23 contests behind baseball's most lethal lineup.
A series win is still possible and the march toward that begins tonight with the impressive rookie Manoah on the mound.
In addition to carving up the Rays in his last start, Manoah also threw a gem against them in July when he tossed seven scoreless innings of three-hit ball and punched out 10 for the first double-digit K game of his career. He got them again in his very next start after that and while he only lasted 3 2-3 innings, he did punch out nine.
Over three starts versus Tampa, the righty has fanned 29 batters and walked just four. And there's plenty of reason to believe that his swing-and-miss stuff will continue tonight and help him avoid big damage, as the Rays rank fifth in baseball in strikeout rate and ninth against righties. And after Manoah, the Rays are likely to see a steady dose of quality and or hard-throwing right-handers (Adam Cimber, Trevor Richards, Nate Pearson, Jordan Romano) out of Toronto's bullpen, which has once again turned into a plus, sporting the second-best ERA and No. 1 WHIP in the AL over the last 30 days.
The Blue Jays are slight 'dogs across most books, with some even installing the second contest of this three-game set as a pick'em. Based on Manoah's work manhandling the Rays twice already this season and Toronto having the better offense, a lockdown 'pen, and needing this win a lot more than Tampa Bay, we'll side with the road team for this one.
PREDICTION: Toronto (-105)
Manoah hasn't looked like a rook over his first 90-plus innings of big-league baseball. The 6-foot-6 behemoth heads into tonight's start with a sparkling 1.03 WHIP (which would be tied with the AL's two best pitchers in Ray and Gerrit Cole for a league-best mark if he was qualified) while holding opponents to a .191 batting average. Only seven pitchers who have thrown at least as many innings as Manoah have a lower mark.
On top of that, he has an above-average strikeout rate thanks to a putaway slider that's a major weapon for him and helps him mitigate some control issues, and he does a solid job at keeping the ball in the yard, leading to a very respectable 3.89 FIP and 1.5 WAR, per FanGraphs. He has allowed two runs or fewer in 11 of his 17 starts and has held Tampa Bay to three runs and seven hits over 18 2-3 innings of work.
While Manoah has thrown the ball better at home this season, he will get the Rays in a pitcher-friendly environment and he has chucked well in big games recently in addition to his last start against Tampa, including contests against the Yankees and Chicago White Sox.
Rasmussen, meanwhile, has been a huge addition to Tampa's rotation since the team converted him into a starter last month. He has a 1.33 ERA in six outings and has held opponents to a .179 average. The 26-year-old has not had it easy either, as he has had to go through the Red Sox three times, and has also been up against the Jays and Philadelphia Phillies.
He hasn't worked more than five innings in any of those starts, so the Rays' heavily used but strong bullpen will be put to work tonight. And while the group has hit a wall this month, which has been compounded by never-ending injuries to Tampa's relievers, the 'pen has the AL's best ERA at 3.27.
Both offenses have been strong, with Toronto first in the majors in homers and OPS this month, while the Rays are third and 10th, respectively. But Tampa's bats aren't as strong at home and the Under is 5-1 in the last six games these two teams have played at The Trop. We're siding with the arms tonight.
PREDICTION: Under 8.5 (-115)
Blue Jays vs Rays betting card
- Toronto (-105)
- Under 8.5 (-115)
Picks made on 9/21/2021 at 10:18 a.m. ET
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