Friday night will feature an AL East versus AL West matchup as the Toronto Blue Jays (25-43) square off with the Houston Astros (46-23) at Minute Maid Park in Houston. For the Blue Jays, they come off of a series win against the Baltimore Orioles, including a 12-3 win on Thursday. For the Astros, they come into this one after an off day on Thursday. Prior to that, they split a two-game series with the Brewers after losing 6-3 on Wednesday in 14 innings.
The pitching matchup for this one features Aaron Sanchez (3-7, 4.25 ERA) going for the Blue Jays against the Astros’ Gerrit Cole (5-5, 3.72 ERA). First pitch for this one is scheduled for 8:10 pm ET. The moneyline for this one features the Toronto Blue Jays at +220 and the Houston Astros at -260. The over/under for total runs scored is set at 8.
By The Numbers
Despite a plethora of injuries, the Houston Astros still remain respectable when it comes to runs per game. They are currently ranked 11th, averaging 5.14 (5.11 at home). For the Blue Jays, their offense has been a little anemic this season, come in at 28th in the league with 3.76 runs per game (3.88 on the road).
On the pitching side, it is once again Houston that comes ahead as they currently rank third in the majors in earned run average with a team ERA of 3.52 (3.51 at home). For Toronto, they come in at 20th with a 4.61 staff ERA (4.40 on the road).
When you put it all together, it is no surprise that the Astros come in much superior in run differential. They currently rank third with a run differential of +96 while the Blue Jays come in 26th with a run differential of -82.
Blue Jays Look To Develop
For the Blue Jays, this season is realistically less about competing for a playoff spot and more about the progression of some of their youngsters. With players like Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Cavan Biggio, and Lourdes Gurriel in tow, the future could be bright (there is also more talent on the way in the minors).
Just to exemplify this, in Thursday’s win, Biggio had two home runs while Gurriel had one. However, they currently do not sit in a position to compete this season as they are already 17 games back in the AL East. The most dynamic of their youngsters is probably Guerrero Jr. On the season he is hitting .255/.321/.448 with seven home runs, 17 runs batted in and 16 runs scored in 145 at-bats.
On the pitching side, Aaron Sanchez will take the ball on Friday. It is very possible that he could be a trade candidate come the deadline, so the Blue Jays obviously hope that he pitches well. On the season, he is 3-7 in 14 starts with a 4.25 ERA, 1.54 WHIP and opponents are hitting .259 against him. In 72 innings, Sanchez has allowed 71 hits, 34 earned runs, eight home runs and has struck out 61 versus 40 walks. In his last outing, a 6-0 loss to the Diamondbacks, he went six innings, allowing six hits, four walks, and five earned runs while striking out three.
Houston Tries To Bounce Back
To say that the Astros needed a couple off days this week would be an understatement. Their pitching staff has been gassed having gone extra innings in four of their last 10 games including a 14-inning loss on Wednesday to the Milwaukee Brewers. Their bullpen has been so taxed that on Thursday they sent down outfielder Derek Fisher, who has played relatively well since being called up, in favor for an extra arm in Rogelio Armenteros.
They will hope that Gerrit Cole will be able to go deep into the game Friday to give the bullpen some extra rest. On the season, Cole is 5-5 in 14 starts with a 3.72 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and opponents are batting just .206 against him. In 84.2 innings, he has allowed 65 hits, 35 earned runs, 15 home runs and has struck out 130 versus 20 walks. In his last outing, a 4-3 win over the Orioles, Cole received a no-decision after going seven innings, allowing four hits, three runs (one earned), and striking out 14.
On the offensive side, one of the best hitters this season for the Astros has been free-agent acquisition, Michael Brantley. On the season, he is hitting .316/.371/.516 with 10 home runs, 39 runs batted in and 32 runs scored. With the Astros missing three of their first five hitters to injuries, they have looked to players like Brantley, Alex Bregman, Yuli Gurriel and Josh Reddick to help pick up the slack.
Astros Take Game One
This one comes down to the pitching for me. While the Astros’ offense is statistically better, with the absences of Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve, and George Springer, it is not nearly as dynamic as before. Still, they can put up some runs, and Gerrit Cole certainly can keep runs off the board. He leads the majors in strikeouts, and I think he will feast on the Blue Jays’ young team. As much as I would love to bet on the underdogs and their very generous moneyline, the smart bet is on the Astros at -260.