Toronto is the hottest team in baseball as the Blue Jays have won 19 of 23 and five straight after sweeping the Tigers. “We’re feeling good right now,” manager John Gibbons said. “We’re confident, and we’re playing good baseball. We’re rolling.” Toronto right-hander Marcus Stroman will be making his second Major League start after looking extremely impressive in his debut wherein he limited the Royals to one run in six innings of work.
Stroman is a consensus top-100 prospect who was drafted by the Blue Jays 22nd overall in the 2012 draft. He possesses five pitches in his arsenal, including a wipeout slider that has plus-plus potential and a four-seamer that sits at 93-96 mph. Stroman’s cutter has been described as having “tremendous late bite” at 93 mph, and his change-up and curveball are legitimate offerings as well. After serving a 50-game suspension last year for testing positive for methylhexaneamine, Stroman made twenty starts in Double-A, resulting in a 3.30 ERA, 3.33 FIP, 10.40 K/9 and 2.18 BB/9.
In seven starts this season at Triple-A Buffalo, Stroman posted a 3.03 ERA with a 45/9 K/BB ratio in 35.2 innings pitched. Stroman now faces a scuffling St. Louis lineup that is batting a woeful .252 with a .313 on base percentage this season (3.8 runs per game), including hitting .248 with a .303 on base percentage on the road (3.4 runs per game) and .199 with a .266 on base percentage over the last ten days (2.9 runs per game). Stroman also finds support in a rapidly improving Toronto bullpen that owns a 2.37 ERA and 0.89 WHIP over the last seven games.
Meanwhile, Toronto’s explosive offense is averaging 5.5 runs per game at home, 7.0 runs per game in interleague play and 6.1 runs over the last seven games. Edwin Encarnacion is hitting .362 with 11 homers and 20 RBIs in his last 16 games, Jose Bautista is batting .450 with 11 RBIs during his hit streak and Adam Lind is hitting .406 with seven RBIs and 11 runs in his last nine contests. While Encarnacion left Wednesday’s game with a sore back, he is expected to be back in the lineup tonight after getting a day off yesterday. “It’s been better today,” Encarnacion said Thursday. “I’m taking today off, and we’ll see how tomorrow goes.”
St. Louis starter Lance Lynn will certainly have his hands full tonight at the Rogers Centre, and the 27-year-old is coming off his worst outing of the season wherein he allowed seven runs (4 earned) on eight hits in just 3 1/3-innings against the Giants. It should also be noted that Lynn hyperextended his right knee Sunday, although subsequent tests revealed no major damage. When asked how his knee felt, Lynn said that is “didn’t feel great,” which hardly inspires confidence in the young hurler.
From a technical standpoint, Toronto is 9-2 (+7.8 units) versus teams with a winning record, 21-9 (+15.2 units) in the month of June, 25-16 (+9.0 units) at night and 14-4 (+11.2 units) following four or more consecutive wins. Conversely, St. Louis is 2-8 in its last ten interleague games, 4-14 in its last eighteen games as road underdogs of +150 or less and 0-4 in its last four series in game 1. With the Cardinals arriving to town having lost seven of their last 9 games, take the surging Blue jays as our free sports pick and invest with confidence.