After rolling to a series-opening win on Friday night, the Toronto Blue Jays (89-71) enter play against the Tampa Bay Rays (97-63) on Saturday knowing that a win will officially punch their ticket to the American League playoffs. They’ll send veteran lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu (3-3, 3.31 ERA) to the mound hoping to make that happen, while Tampa will use reliever Shawn Armstrong (1-0, 1.41) as an opener — with the top AL Wild Card spot wrapped up, the Rays are just looking to make sure everyone’s healthy entering October. First pitch this afternoon from Rogers Centre is set for 3:07 p.m. ET.
Toronto enters as -120 favorites on the moneyline at DraftKings Sportsbook, with Tampa at +100. The run total is set at 9.
Rays-Blue Jays picks: Saturday, September 30
Day-to-day: 1B Yandy Diaz (hamstring)
Out: RP Jason Adam (oblique), OF Jose Siri (hand), DH/1B Luke Raley (neck)
Out: C Danny Jansen (finger)
Shawn Armstrong vs. Hyun-Jin Ryu
This will be Armstrong’s 39th appearance and sixth start of the year for Tampa Bay. The righty has been rock-solid in the Rays’ bullpen, though he’s struggled a bit in September, with a 3.48 ERA and at least one run allowed in each of his last three outings. He hasn’t made a start since August, when he pitched two scoreless innings against the Rockies. It’s unclear who the Rays will turn to for the bulk innings this afternoon.
Ryu has generally been pretty sturdy since returning from Tommy John surgery last month, with at least five innings pitched in seven of 10 starts and three or fewer runs allowed in eight of those 10. He is coming off of arguably his worst start of the year, though, allowing five runs on seven hits (including three homers) in a no-decision against this very Tampa team last weekend. The lefty has never lit up radar guns, relying on his cutter and changeup to avoid the heart of the plate and generate weak contact — but when his command isn’t sharp, the margin for error is small.
I’m a bit concerned about the Rays shelving most of their best hitters — Tampa has been beset by injuries of late and just wants to get to October as healthy as possible — but I’m still taking the over here. This Jays lineup is heating up at the right time, dropping 11 runs in Friday night’s win, and I think they’ll come out swinging again with a postseason spot on the line.
Pick: Over 9
I tipped my hand a bit here already, but I’m not sure why this is close to even money. Yes, Ryu didn’t pitch well against Tampa last weekend, but all the momentum is on Toronto’s side here — they’re the team with something to play for, and they’re the team with among the hottest offenses in the league at the moment. I think they’ll take care of business at home here, as Ryu is still more reliable than the Rays’ patchwork of relievers they aren’t scared of using ahead of the playoffs.
Pick: Blue Jays -120