MLB Friday predictions, odds: Red Sox the underdog vs. Blue Jays

Boston's Nick Pivetta faces playoff-bound Toronto

Boston Red Sox starter Nick Pivetta pitches to the Pittsburgh Pirates during the first inning of a baseball game Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022, in Pittsburgh.
Boston Red Sox starter Nick Pivetta pitches to the Pittsburgh Pirates during the first inning of a baseball game Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022, in Pittsburgh. The Associated Press

The Blue Jays clinched a wild-card spot on their day off following the Orioles’ loss to the Red Sox on Thursday. And with the Blue Jays currently on a six-game homestand, you can almost guarantee that the players had a decent night out in the T-Dot.

Toronto still has something to play for as it hopes to finish ahead of the Rays and Mariners to secure home-field advantage in the wild-card round. However, the Blue Jays offense is currently struggling, averaging just 2.7 runs over the past three games while on a two-game losing streak.

And now the Red Sox come into town fresh off a three-game winning streak against the Orioles. Can the Red Sox keep their streak alive against a Blue Jays team that might still be bleary-eyed from last night’s celebrations?

Let’s take a look.

Red Sox vs. Blue Jays MLB odds

Moneyline: BOS (+158) vs. TOR (-188)

Spread: BOS +1.5 (-134) vs. TOR -1.5 (+112)

Total: Over 8 (-106) | Under 8 (-114)

Red Sox vs. Blue Jays probable pitchers

Nick Pivetta (10-11, 4.48 ERA) vs. Alek Manoah (15-7, 2.31 ERA)

Red Sox vs. Blue Jays pick

Lean: Red Sox at +158

Red Sox starter Nick Pivetta won’t particularly mind if Toronto’s celebrations lasted into the wee hours of the night. After all, the Blue Jays have had tremendous success at the plate against Pivetta. According to Baseball Savant, Toronto’s roster is batting .306 against Pivetta, with a .411 wOBA and a .507 xSLG.

Things have gone a bit better for Pivetta recently against the Blue Jays. He’s allowed four earned runs in his past two starts compared to 25 earned runs in his first six starts against Toronto.

This season, Pivetta’s numbers are probably as good as they’re going to get when you consider that his 4.32 FIP and 4.48 xERA are right in line with his traditional ERA.

Since arriving in the big leagues, he’s struggled with the long ball. Pivetta has a career 1.50 HR/9 ratio, though that number is down to 1.32 this season. However, he’ll be up against a Toronto team that ranks in the top 10 in home runs (190). He’ll also have to keep pace with Blue Jays starter Alek Manoah, who is having a tremendous sophomore campaign.

Manoah dropped his ERA down from 3.22 to 2.31 in his second season in the majors. But one thing that greatly concerns me is the workload he’s had to endure. Manoah has already thrown almost 80 more innings this season than in his rookie year. That’s more than a 70% increase, which is something that you usually don’t see anymore in the modern day of baseball.

The young right-hander has also shown signs of regression, given that the combination of his 3.37 xERA and FIP is more than a run higher than his traditional ERA. However, to his credit, he’s been able to remain effective while walking fewer batters (3.22 BB/9 to 2.31), allowing fewer home runs (0.97 HR/9 to 0 .76), and striking out fewer hitters (10.24 K/9 to 8.31). Manoah’s also had much more success against this Red Sox roster as they’re hitting just .222 against him with a .255 wOBA and a .333 xSLG.

My model recognizes Manoah as the favorite in this contest, but I wouldn’t make his odds any higher than -178. And as for Pivetta and the Red Sox, I’d need odds of +161 or better to justify a play on the visitors.

Thus, this line is really in a dead zone for me.

But if I had to pick, I’d much rather side with the underdog than pay a higher premium with the Blue Jays. Nonetheless, this play is unlikely to make my official card on Friday.

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