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Two teams moving in different directions will meet in an interleague game on Friday night when the Toronto Blue Jays welcome the Atlanta Braves north of the border. The Braves are already starting to pull away in the NL East and establish themselves as the best team in the National League while the Blue Jays are scuffling and losing ground in the super-competitive AL East.
Yet, the Jays are hoping that a strong 9-3 home record can help them to get back on track.
Atlanta has been on track all season, already building a 6.5-game lead over their closest NL East rival. Despite losing on Wednesday, the Braves are 8-3 since the calendar flipped to May. They are also proving to be true road warriors, going 15-3 away from home this season.
On the other side, the Blue Jays are starting to fall apart a little bit. Despite sweeping the Pirates last weekend, Toronto dropped both games of a two-game series against the Phillies earlier this week. the Blue Jays are now just 3-7 over their last 10 games, dropping them to fourth in the AL
East despite still being five games over .500 on the season.
After a poor showing in April, Toronto starter Chris Bassitt is hoping that his strong start to the month of May can continue. Against the Pirates last weekend, Bassitt threw seven scoreless innings, allowing just four hits and four walks. His ERA is down to 4.28, steadily dropping after it shot up to 24.40 following a disastrous season debut. The good news for the Blue Jays is that they’ve won four of Bassitt’s last six starts with the veteran picking up the win in each of his starts that Toronto has won.
Of course, Bassitt will have his hands full on Friday with Atlanta's lineup. The Braves saw a healthy dose of Bassitt last year when he was with the Mets and found some success against him. In fact, Atlanta’s entire roster is a combined 19 for 52 (.365) against Bassitt with a .979 OPS. Atlanta is also averaging 6.3 runs per game during the month of May, showing signs that the Braves are starting to fire on all cylinders.
Despite having both Max Fried and Kyle Wright on the IL right now, the Braves will be able to send Spencer Strider to the mound on Friday. Strider has played the role of Atlanta’s ace this year, going 4-0 with a 2.70 ERA. The flamethrower is also averaging close to 1.7 strikeouts per inning, blowing away overmatched hitters at times. The only caveat with Strider is that he hasn’t gone beyond five innings in four of his seven starts, leaving the Atlanta bullpen a lot of work to do. However, the Braves are a perfect 7-0 this year in games started by Strider.
To be fair, facing the Blue Jays will be a new challenge for him, as Strider is yet to face most of Toronto’s hitters. When Toronto’s lineup is clicking, the Blue Jays can be one of the most dangerous teams in baseball. While the Jays haven’t been at their best just yet, Matt Chapman, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and Bo Bichette are all putting together all-star caliber seasons. On the other hand, the Toronto hitters will have to adapt to facing Strider just as much as he will be challenged by facing them. Given Strider’s track record, there is a chance he can slow down the Blue Jays whereas the Atlanta offense is in a much better position to get something going and help the Braves to another win on the road.
Both of these lineups are capable of doing some damage, so an over/under of 8.5 runs seems appropriate. But don’t forget that Strider has had a fantastic season while Bassitt is fresh off his best performance of the year. Also, while the Braves are one of the best teams in baseball at hitting the over, they are only 8-9-1 O/U on the road. Likewise, the Blue Jays are 3-8-1 O/U at home this season. Despite both teams having some firepower, the pitching should be good enough to keep the total under 8.5 runs.
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Bryan Zarpentine is a 2008 graduate of Syracuse University and has been working as a freelance writer and editor since 2010. During that time, he has contributed to countless sites while covering baseball, soccer, the NFL, college football, and college basketball.More info on Bryan Zarpentine
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