AL playoff hopefuls collide as the Toronto Blue Jays (54-43) kick off a West Coast swing with a three-game set against the Seattle Mariners (48-48) this weekend. First pitch of Friday’s opener from T-Mobile Park is set for 10:10 p.m. ET. Lefty Yusei Kikuchi (7-3, 4.13 ERA) will get the ball for the Jays, while Seattle counters with hard-throwing rookie Bryce Miller (6-3, 3.66).
Toronto dropped two of three to the San Diego Padres earlier this week, but they’ve still won nine of 12 games dating back before the All-Star break to grab hold of the third and final AL Wild Card spot. (Houston and the Blue Jays are both tied at 54-43, but the Astros have the tiebreaker.)
The Mariners, on the other hand, remain stuck in neutral, .500 overall and 5-5 over their last 10 games. They’re back down to fourth in the AL West, 5.5 games back of the Jays (and behind three other teams) in the AL Wild Card chase.
Seattle enters as narrow -120 favorites on the moneyline at DraftKings Sportsbook, with Toronto at +100. The run total is set at 8.
Blue Jays-Mariners picks: Friday, July 21st
Day to day: SP Kevin Gausman (side)
Out: RP Adam Cimber (shoulder), SP Hyun-Jin Ryu (elbow), RP Chad Green (elbow)
Out: OF Jarred Kelenic (foot), SP Marco Gonzales (flexor tendon)
Yusei Kikuchi vs. Bryce Miller
Kikuchi has generally been a reliable arm for the Jays, although he’s struggled to a 6.43 ERA and 1.57 WHIP in just 14 innings across his last three starts. The lefty doesn’t have the most overpowering fastball, and so is very much reliant on both of his breaking balls — a slider and a curve — to do work if he hopes to get through five or six innings. Sometimes he has the feel for them, and sometimes he doesn’t, although he’s tamped down his usual volatility a bit so far this season.
Miller is a very simple scouting report: The rookie has among the most wicked four-seam fastballs in the game, in terms of both spin and vertical movement, and he’s going to keep throwing it until you can hit it — the righty uses his heater over two-thirds of the time, only occasionally working in a slider or changeup. It appeared as though the league had caught up to him after a couple of very rough starts earlier this year, but Miller has bounced back nicely, with a 2.45 ERA over his last five outings. The Mariners have begun to put him on a pitch count as they try to keep him fresh down the stretch, though, so he likely won’t throw much more than 80 pitches tonight.
These are two top-10 offenses by wRC+ since the start of July, and I don’t have enough faith in either of these starters — Kikuchi due to inconsistency, Miller due to the lineup he’s facing and his pitch count — to keep us below a number this low. Kikuchi’s good for at least three or four runs a game, and if Toronto can get to Miller at all, we should clear this with ease.
Pick: Over 8
The Jays are the far hotter of these two teams right now, and I’ll absolutely take them as an underdog in this spot. Miller has been good, but he’s certainly not unhittable, and it remains to be seen how he’ll navigate this rugged Toronto lineup with just one pitch. Seattle isn’t playing consistently enough to earn this sort of benefit of the doubt.
Pick: Blue Jays