MLB Picks: Rangers vs. Blue Jays Series Betting Preview and Predictions
by Darin Zank - 4/30/2012
The Texas Rangers are the best team in the American League in the early going of this season, and they'll look to continue their winning ways when they head North of the border for a three-game series with the Toronto Blue Jays starting Monday night.
I don't mean to jinx Texas so early on, but winning three pennants in a row is a neat trick. Back-to-back is hard enough; three in a row is, like… wow.
The Rangers have won the American League the last two years. Some folks, including this writer, thought Texas might take a step back this year. Maybe not because they got any worse; basically their main off-season personnel move was replacing starting pitcher CJ Wilson with Japanese import Yu Darvish. My real concern was more about the team I expected to take over the AL West from the Rangers, the LA Angels, who lured Wilson away from Texas and, oh yeah, added some guy named Pujols from over in the National League.
Well, wouldn't you know it, Texas is off to a great start to this season, while Sir Albert and the Angels have kind of stunk things up. The Rangers own the best record in the AL, and while we know it's still very early, they've already put some pretty good distance between themselves and LA.
Texas just dropped two of three games at home to Tampa Bay over the weekend to finish off a 3-3 homestand. The Rangers lost 8-4 on Friday, won 7-2 Saturday but lost Sunday night's rubber match, 5-2.
But at 16-6 Texas leads the AL West by 5.5 games over Oakland and Seattle, and by nine games over the Angels.
On the other side of this matchup, Toronto just took two of three games at home from Seattle, although it should have been a sweep. Friday night the Jays took a 5-3 lead to the ninth, but gave up a two-out, two-strike base hit to tie the game. Then reliever Luis Perez gave up a grand slam in the top of the 10th to really blow things up.
Toronto proceeded to take the last two games of the series by scores of 7-0 and 7-2.
So at 12-10 the Jays are in fourth place in the AL East, two games back of division-leading Baltimore and Tampa.
Rangers vs. Jays Series Pitching Matchups
Monday night's series opener offers up a pretty good pitching matchup as Darvish (3-0, 2.42) goes for Texas vs. Kyle Drabek (2-1, 2.25) for Toronto (7 p.m. Eastern, ESPN).
In his ML debut three weeks ago against Seattle, Darvish gave up five earned runs in his first two innings. Since then, with other starts against the Twins, Tigers and Yankees, Darvish has shown why Texas spent more than $100 million to bring him in, allowing just two ERs over 24 innings. Last Tuesday night he held the Yankees scoreless through 8 1/3 innings, walking two and striking out 10.
This will be Darvish's first action vs. the Blue Jays.
Drabek, meanwhile, has strung together four quality starts in a row to begin this season. He held Boston to one run in 5 1/3 innings, Baltimore to one run in 7 1/3, Kansas City to two runs in 5 1/3 and, last Wednesday he limited the Orioles to two runs in six innings, although the Jays lost that game.
Drabek made one start vs. Texas last year, giving up three ERs on five hits in six innings.
So Monday's pitching matchup looks pretty even.
Neftali Feliz (1-1, 3.80) is slated to take the hill Tuesday for the Rangers against rookie Drew Hutchison (1-0, 6.10) for Toronto (7 p.m. Eastern).
Felix, the former reliever, has started three times this year, but he had his last scheduled start pushed back. So he'll be throwing on nine days rest, although he did pitch an inning of relief five days ago.
In his three starts Feliz has done some pretty good work, allowing six ERs on 12 hits in 20 innings. Texas is 2-1 in his starts this year.
Feliz has never started vs. the Jays and hasn't pitched against them since 2010.
Hutchison has started twice this year. He gave up five runs on eight hits in five-plus innings to the Royals, then he allowed two runs on six hits in five innings vs. Baltimore. This will be his first-ever start on the home field at Rogers Centre, and his first start vs. Texas.
So it looks like the Rangers might hold the advantage in Tuesday's arms battle.
Finally, a pair of lefties meet Wednesday as Matt Harrison (3-1, 3.38) takes the mound for Texas vs. Ricky Romero (3-0, 3.18) for the Jays (12:30 p.m. Eastern).
Harrison began this season with three straight quality starts, but got hammered last Friday vs. Tampa, allowing six ERs on 14 hits in just five innings. So the Rangers are now 3-1 in Harrison's starts this year.
Last year Harrison started twice vs. Toronto, and things didn't go too well, as he gave up 11 ERs on 16 hits in 9 2/3 innings.
Romero, meanwhile, has thrown four quality starts in a row. In his last outing he gave up two ERs on four hits over 6 2/3 innings, although the Jays lost that game last Friday to Seattle. So Romero looks like he's right back on the same path that got him to 15 wins last year.
Romero hasn't pitched against Texas since 2010.
We'll give Toronto the edge for Wednesday' pitching matchup.
The Rangers are 5-2 and averaging six runs per game vs. left-handed starters this season
Toronto is 5-3 and averaging just under five RPG vs. lefty starters this year.
Rangers vs. Jays Head-to-Head
This is the first meeting this season between these teams. Last year Toronto took the season series from Texas six games to four.
On a key injury note involves Texas OF Josh Hamilton, who's already hit nine homers this year. He left Sunday night’s game with a sore back. So his status for Monday night, and maybe this series, is uncertain.
Rangers vs. Jays Betting Odds and Trends
As of Monday morning BetOnline is listing the Rangers as -149 favorites for Monday night's game, while Toronto can be gotten at +139. And the 'over/under' sits at 8.5.
Texas can also be backed at +105 on the run line for Monday's game, with the Jays giving -125 getting the run and a half.
Texas is 6-14 on the 'over/unders' this year, mainly because their pitching has been pretty good and their totals are regularly among the highest on the board.
The Rangers are an impressive 8-1 on the road this year.
Texas is also 13-8 on the run line, in part because of their 16 wins, 12 have come by at least two runs.
Toronto is only 6-6 at home so far this year.
Five of the Jays last seven games have stayed under the totals.
Rangers vs. Rays: MLB Predictions and Picks
Texas has been hot, but Toronto is underrated. And the Rangers might be cautious with Hamilton on the artificial turf at Rogers Centre. Darvish-Drabek should be a good one Monday night, but I like the Jays with the underdog price. Also, with Romero going on Wednesday, I'll take Toronto to win this series.
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