The Toronto Blue Jays had to settle for a four-game split in Cleveland as their offence had another frustrating day in a 4-3 loss Thursday at Progressive Field. Now, they come home to play one of the National League’s surprise contenders, the second-place Chicago Cubs.
Both George Springer, one of the Jays’ underperforming superstars, and manager John Schneider were ejected for arguing balls and strikes in the seventh inning. It was the kind of frustration the Jays have felt all season in and around the batter’s box. Expected to be one of the most menacing teams in baseball, they rank 11th in slugging percentage (.418) and fifth in on-base percentage (.331).
Bet on Cubs vs. Blue Jays
The Jays’ brilliant pitching has been enough to keep them squarely in the playoff race, but seven games away from the top of their division. This is another key series for them as they now lead the Seattle Mariners by just a game-and-a-half for the final Wild Card spot.
Meanwhile, the Cubs surprisingly have something to play for. They’re just a half-game behind the Miami Marlins for the NL’s final playoff spot and 2 ½ games behind the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Central.
Toronto is a -155 home favourite on Friday at bet365 and the total is set at nine runs.
Cubs vs. Blue Jays odds
|Cubs Moneyline Odds
|Blue Jays Moneyline Odds
|Blue Jays -1.5 (+125), Cubs +1.5 (-145)
|9 runs (over -110, under -110)
|Aug. 11, 7:07 p.m. ET
|Broadcast: Apple TV+
About the Cubs (59-56 SU, 59-56 ATS, 60-50-5 o/u)
The Cubs are a lot better when Seiya Suzuki is hitting, but going into Wednesday he had been benched by manager David Ross in four straight games amid an 8-for-48 slump that started toward the end of July. Unfortunately for the Jays, Suzuki broke out of his doldrums in a big way on Wednesday by going 3-for-4 with a triple and a home run.
The Cubs, who rank eighth in MLB with a .754 OPS, are far from an offensive juggernaut, but they were expected to be far worse than they have been offensively. They reacted to the team’s hot play around the All-Star break by pivoting and retaining Cody Bellinger and Marcus Stroman at the trade deadline. In fact, they added Jeimer Candelario, who is essentially their best hitter with an .859 OPS.
About the Blue Jays (65-52 SU, 55-62 ATS, 45-65-6 o/u)
Thursday’s first inning was a microcosm for the Jays’ 2023 offence as the club managed a double and two singles without scoring (thanks to a Brandon Belt double-play ball). The Blue Jays’ struggles are familiar to any team that goes through a season like this. Their team batting average of .243 with runners in scoring position ranks 25th and their OPS in such situations (.685) ranks 28th. It’s really about clutch hitting, which often is really about luck.
Meanwhile, the Jays’ excellent pitching staff could be getting stronger soon. Closer Jordan Romano threw 33 pitches in a bullpen session Wednesday and could skip a rehab assignment and be available as soon as Saturday. That would allow Schneider to deploy Jordan Hicks, Tim Mayza and Erik Swanson in earlier innings, matching them up to try and produce the best outcomes. This is a tough team to score against and it’s getting tougher.
José Berríos to record over 17.5 outs
Chicago: RHP Javier Assad (1-2, 3.35 ERA, 7.21 K/9, 1.34 WHIP)
For the past couple of seasons, the Cubs have utilized Assad as their swing man, letting him make spot starts and otherwise keeping him in their bullpen for long-relief stints. Then, he got red hot, posting a 0.40 ERA from June 27 to July 31 that was the second-lowest in MLB over that span. Now, he appears to be a staple in the Cubs’ rotation and, while he doesn’t strike many people out, he can pile up ground balls. His ground ball percentage of 48% is the best of his career.
Toronto: RHP José Berríos (9-7, 3.38 ERA, 8.54 K/9, 1.19 WHIP)
Speaking of hot pitchers, Berríos is mowing hitters down as well as anybody these days. Since the start of July, he is 1-1 with a 2.31 ERA in six starts. Part of his resurgence seems to be a new reliance on his changeup. Berríos is throwing that pitch at a higher percentage (19.7%) than at any time in his career and it has helped him particularly against left-handed batters. Last year, batters hit .271 on Berríos’s changeup. This season, they are batting .233. It’s a good change of pace, roughly 10 mph off his 94-mph fastball.
Forecasters are calling for overnight rain, but barring plenty of extra innings, this one should be over by then. Temperatures are expected to be around 21C at first pitch with 24 km/h winds blowing gently out to left field.
- While the Jays have been the most reliable under hitters aside from the team they just played (Cleveland), Chicago has been the fourth-most likely team to hit the over this season after the Dodgers, Braves and Pirates.
- The Jays are 20-16 this season when favoured by -150 or more.
- The Cubs have won half of the 18 games in which they were an underdog of +130 or more. In general, they have a 43% win rate when chosen as the underdog.
- The Jays are 26-12 in games in which they hit at least two home runs. Assad has been susceptible to long balls. His 12.2% HR/FB rate is the worst of his career.
Player prop trends
- Berrios is trying to build on a nine-game streak of going five or more innings and is averaging 5.9 innings per appearance.
- Belt is riding a five-game hitting streak into play Friday. In fact, he has at least one hit in seven of his last eight games. He’s -170 to get a hit and +390 to double.
- Vladimir Guerrero Jr. has recorded at least two total bases in four straight games and five of his last six. He’s -110 to record over 1.5 total bases and is 1-for-3 in his career against Assad.
Wagers to consider
- Until the Jays begin to show signs of emerging from their season-long collective slump, it’s impossible to ignore their excellent track record of nailing the under. With Berríos pitching as well as anyone in their rotation and the Cubs having cooled off from their July surge, consider the under-nine runs here (-110).
- Berríos has a tendency to keep the ball late in games, making over 17.5 outs (-120) an awfully interesting number. He has eclipsed it in 11 of his last 16 starts, making this a solid wager to hold.
- The Blue Jays’ hitters have barely seen Assad, with Paul DeJong the only player with at least five at-bats against him and DeJong no lock to start. That could be a major advantage for the Cubs’ righty and a good reason to take over 3.5 strikeouts (at -105).
Other MLB games on Friday
|Tampa Bay Rays
|New York Yankees
|Boston Red Sox
|New York Mets
|Los Angeles Angels
|Kansas City Royals
|St. Louis Cardinals
|Chicago White Sox
|San Diego Padres
|Los Angeles Dodgers
|San Francisco Giants