After falling out of a playoff spot (and getting booed off their home field) in a 10-0 drubbing on Wednesday night, the Toronto Blue Jays (80-66) will look to snap their three-game losing streak and avoid a sweep at the hands of the Texas Rangers (81-64) in a crucial series finale on Thursday. First pitch from Rogers Centre is set for 7:07 p.m. ET. Nathan Eovaldi (11-4, 2.90 ERA) will get the ball for Texas in his third start back from the injured list, while the Jays turn to their ace, Kevin Gausman (11-8, 3.28).
Now riding a five-game winning streak, the Rangers sit a half-game up on the Mariners for the second Wild Card spot in the AL — and just 1.5 games above Toronto, which is currently on the outside looking in. Another Texas win pushes the Blue Jays even further out of reach, with precious few games remaining in the regular season. If Toronto avoids the sweep, though, this race gets even more jam-packed.
The Jays enter as -155 favorites on the moneyline at DraftKings Sportsbook, with the Rangers at +130. The run total is set at 7.5.
Rangers-Blue Jays picks: Thursday, September 14
Out: INF Josh Jung (thumb), OF Adolis Garcia (knee)
Out: 1B/DH Brandon Belt (illness), RP Erik Swanson (back), 3B Matt Chapman (finger), C Danny Jensen (finger)
Nathan Eovaldi vs. Kevin Gausman
With just weeks remaining in the regular season, Eovaldi returned from his forearm injury earlier this month without any sort of rehab assignment — instead opting to build his pitch count back up in the Majors. He went just 1.1 innings in his first start back, giving up four runs on five hits (including two homers) to the Astros, then allowed three hits and two walks in 2.1 scoreless innings against the A’s over the weekend. The righty was among the best pitchers in the AL before he went down, but he hasn’t been particularly effective since he’s come back — and he’ll likely be limited to 55-60 pitches at most tonight.
After a somewhat bumpy August (4.23 ERA over five starts), Gausman has gotten back to looking like an AL Cy Young candidate in September, most recently striking out 10 in eight innings of one-run ball in a win over the Royals last weekend. The righty largely goes as his splitter goes: When he’s got that pitch cooking, he’s near-unhittable (93rd-percentile K rate); when he’s leaving it up in the strike zone, he can get hit awfully hard (17th-percentile barrel rate, 16th-percentile hard-hit rate).
This number just feels far too low to me, regardless of how good Gausman looked last time out — and how bad the Jays’ offense has been in this series. Eovaldi has been awfully shaky since his return, and he’ll likely only be able to go three or four innings at the most — which puts a lot of pressure on the Rangers bullpen and their 6.39 ERA so far this month. I’d be surprised if Toronto doesn’t put at least four or five on the board, which means Gausman will have to be otherworldly to keep us below this number.
Pick: Over 7.5
Gausman is the far, far more reliable pitcher in this matchup, and while Toronto’s bats have sputtered of late, the Jays desperately need a win here if they want to keep their postseason hopes alive. With their ace on the mound and a very sketchy Rangers pitching staff, I think they get it.
Pick: Blue Jays -155