MLB Picks: Phillies at Blue Jays Odds and Betting Predictions
by Alan Matthews - 7/1/2011
There certainly are more glamorous series on this the final weekend of Interleague Play in Major League Baseball than the Philadelphia Phillies at Toronto Blue Jays. There are the three intracity matchups in the Big Apple, Windy City and L.A. And the Tigers host the Giants in a matchup of first-place teams in what could be a World Series preview. No, the Phillies-Jays matchup is all about Roy Halladay’s return to Toronto and the utter dominance of Philadelphia’s Cliff Lee.
You almost have to feel sorry for Toronto in having to deal with Halladay on Saturday and Lee on Sunday. Last Sunday, Halladay beat the Oakland A’s 3-1 for his fifth complete game of the season. Many teams won’t have five complete games all year. It was Halladay’s 50th start since arriving from Philadelphia in a trade with Toronto. Since then, Halladay is 31-13 with a 2.43 ERA and 14 complete games. Since 1950, Halladay is the sixth pitcher with that many wins over the course of his first 50 starts after changing teams. He is an absurd 30-3 in a Philadelphia uniform in the 35 starts in which the Phillies have given him the lead.
Halladay and the Phillies were supposed to visit Toronto in late June 2010. But security concerns related to the world leaders’ G20 summit led the Jays to choose to relocate the series to Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. Doc was drafted in 1995 by Toronto and made his debut on Sept. 20, 1998, pitching five innings as the starter but getting a no-decision in a 7-5 win over Tampa Bay. A week later against the Tigers, Halladay showed signs of what was to come in the future, taking a no-hitter into the ninth inning only to have it broken up with two outs on a Bobby Higginson home run. Despite that, Halladay picked up his first career win with a 2-1 victory.
Halladay’s first true breakout season was in 2002 when he was 19-7 with a 2.93 ERA and 239.1 innings, the third-most of his career. He was named to an all-star team for the first time and would become one of the AL’s best pitchers until traded in December 2009 for minor-league prospects Travis D'Arnaud, Kyle Drabek, and Michael Taylor.
As for Lee, he just completed one of the best pitching months in baseball history. The lefty was good, but not great, until the calendar switched to June. Lee finished June winning all five of his starts, posting a 0.21 ERA (one run in 42 innings). His June ERA tied him for the sixth-lowest by a National League pitcher in a calendar month since earned runs began being tabulated in 1912. He set a Phillies record for best ERA in a calendar month. Oh, and he finished the month with three consecutive complete-game shutouts. So the Philly relievers might as well not bother coming to the Rogers Centre after Friday. The last NL pitcher with an ERA that low in a calendar month was Orel Hershiser (0.00) in September 1988 when he set the MLB record for consecutive scoreless innings.
How the Teams Enter
The Jays can’t seem to get more than a few games under or above .500. They entered Thursday’s home series finale with Pittsburgh having won four of six to get within a game of break-even at their halfway point of the season (40-41).
The Phillies enter off a series win over the visiting Red Sox, but they did lose 5-2 on Thursday to Boston lefty Jon Lester. Philly got a scare when lefty Cole Hamels was forced to leave soon after being struck on the glove hand by Adrian Gonzalez's line drive in the fourth. The Phillies said X-rays were negative and Hamels will make his next start. The Phils can’t afford to lose Hamels with Roy Oswalt’s return in question due to back problems. Starters Oswalt and Joe Blanton are on the 15-day disabled list, as are relievers Brad Lidge, Jose Contreras and Ryan Madson.
Phillies at Blue Jays Probables
Friday: RHP Kyle Kendrick vs. (4-4, 3.23) LHP Ricky Romero (7-7, 2.74). Kendrick is making his first start since he allowed one run over seven innings in a win against the Marlins on June 15. Kendrick is starting in place of Oswalt. Romero has allowed just three earned runs while striking out 21 in his past three starts. He has pitched at least seven innings in each of his last nine starts and enters off his own complete game shutout.
Saturday: Halladay (10-3, 2.40) vs. RHP Carlos Villanueva (5-1, 3.15). The Phillies have won each of Halladay's last eight starts and the right-hander is 5-0 with a 2.64 ERA during the stretch. Villanueva is coming off a solid six-inning effort in which he allowed just five hits and two runs in a 6-3 win in St. Louis.
Sunday: Lee (9-5, 2.66) vs. LHP Jo-Jo Reyes (3-7, 4.77). Thanks in large part to Lee, Phillies starters ended June with a 1.96 ERA. They are the first rotation since the Chicago Cubs and the Atlanta Braves in 1992 to finish a full month with an ERA under 2.00. Reyes allowed a season-high six earned runs during his last outing against Pittsburgh. He surrendered nine hits and one walk over just 3 2/3 innings. It was the fifth time this season he has failed to pitch at least four innings.
MLB Picks: Phillies at Blue Jays Predictions
Philly is a -145 series favorite on Bodog, with Toronto at a -153 favorite with the ‘over/under’ at 9 in Friday’s opener. I think Toronto is good value to take this series because I believe the Jays do win the opener (they lead MLB in interleague homers) and might be able to get into the Philly bullpen to win either Saturday or Sunday. I mean, Halladay and Lee can’t throw complete games every time out. And Lee simply has to come back to earth. Halladay also might be a little jazzed up in his return. The Phillies aren’t all that great of a road team: 19-17 compared to 32-14 at home. And the Phillies only have three home games in the next 21 days.
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