The Toronto Blue Jays are essentially on the road all the time, but they’re hanging tough amid a difficult early schedule as they prepare to take on the Washington Nationals on Tuesday.
Dropping two of three to AL East rival Tampa Bay was hard to take, yet these young Jays rebounded for a 4-1 win over the reigning World Series winners yesterday. Suddenly, Washington has dropped three of four to open the 2020 campaign.
Can the Jays’ inspired play continue, as they wait until mid-August for their first "home" game in Buffalo due to COVID-19 precautions, or will the Nats clap back?
Find out more on this game from a betting perspective with abe Insights’ preview, which covers the best odds, analyzes how wagers are likely to trend, and provides advanced stats to help inform your decision on who to pick.
Date: Tuesday, July 28
Time: 6:05 p.m. ET
TV: Sportsnet; MASN
Implied Probabilities: Blue Jays 43%; Nationals 58%
Spread: TOR +1.5 (-149); WSH -1.5 (+140)
Moneyline: TOR +130; WSH -138
Bo Bichette was out of Monday’s matchup with a hamstring injury, so it’ll be worth monitoring his status, as he’s the leadoff hitter in the Jays lineup. It’s likely they’ll be cautious with the rising 22-year-old star.
Even younger is Washington’s own phenom, left fielder Juan Soto. Aged 21, he’s already in his third big-league season and is coming off a slash line of .282/.401/.548 with 34 homers and 110 RBI. Unfortunately, Soto remains sidelined due to a positive test for COVID-19. He did test negative, but needs another negative result to be cleared.
Pitching probables for Tuesday’s tilt are Austin Voth for the road team — he’s made only 10 MLB starts, with a 4.02 career ERA — and Tanner Roark. The latter spent his first six seasons as a pro in Washington, so he’ll be eager to prove himself after a decline in form led to him being traded to Cincinnati in December 2018.
.306 vs. .280: Some of this can be attributed to bad luck on the Jays’ part, but they were worst in the majors last season on balls-in-play batting average. The Nats ranked eighth, and had a .265 overall average compared to Toronto’s majors-worse .236.
24.9 vs. 20.9: Not surprisingly, the reveal of these numbers relates to the last pair. They show the 2019 strikeout percentages for both clubs. The Blue Jays had the sixth-highest K rate, while Washington was fifth-lowest.
2.9 vs. -24.9: This final comparison doesn’t favor the visitors either, unfortunately. It’s the Ultimate Zone Ratings from the 2019 campaign. Here the Nationals were No. 14 among all teams, and Toronto was only 26th.
Some of the woeful offensive numbers from the Jays can be attributed to inexperience and a lack of roster depth. But don’t confuse lack of pro reps with talent, because Toronto has a youthful core with a big-league pedigree you’d be hard-pressed to find in the history of the game.
Bichette’s father, Dante, was once an MVP runner-up, a Silver Slugger Award winner and a four-time All-Star. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Cavan Biggio are the sons of Hall of Famers. They’re all starting for Toronto, and have the chops to form a championship foundation. Speaking of which, they’re gaining invaluable, firsthand insight as to what a World Series winner looks like in this interleague series versus Washington.
A short, 60-game season should reduce the intimidation factor, and not playing at home should harden the Jays and steepen their learning curve. If they can continue rising to the occasion, it’ll be invaluable in the years to come —and perhaps pay dividends now.
All that said, the Nationals are largely intact from last year’s magical run to claim the Commissioner’s Trophy and know how to respond to adversity as well as any team. They’re 1-3 right now, and a slow start is far more significant with a season only 37% the length of a regular one.
Wagers are likely going to gravitate toward Toronto’s moneyline at plus money, and to the Nationals -1.5 spread given the decent odds. That makes for a straightforward hedge betting strategy, although given the home team’s veteran clubhouse and championship mettle, confidence may well be strong in doubling down on the favorites.
In Washington’s win over the Yankees, they scored nine runs. In their three losses, they’ve combined for four.
Considering how gifted the Jays are and how the Nats’ bats are due to wake up, bettors are probably going to err on the side of the Over 9.5, even though that’s a bit higher than standard totals.
Note: Odds current as of 11:45 a.m. ET on Tuesday, July 28.
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