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The Tampa Bay Rays (13-0) are off to a historic start to this 2023 MLB Season. The Rays finished their first four series of the season with an undefeated record, typing the best start for any team in 138 seasons. Tampa Bay has been able to accomplish this feat by defeating the Detroit Tigers, the Oakland Athletics and the Washington Nationals, who are among the worst teams in the league. They do have a respectable four-home game series sweep over the Boston Red Sox that deserves solid recognition.
Tampa Bay will get their biggest test of this young 2023 MLB Season by going on a three-game road series against their AL East Divisional rival in the Toronto Blue Jays (8-5). The Blue Jays have been among the top contenders to win the ALCS and play in the World Series this season due to the talent throughout their field.
The Blue Jays have not had a heavy-hitting schedule either through their first 13 games this season. Toronto has lost two of their three games versus the St. Louis Cardinals and lost one game each to the Tigers and the Los Angeles Angels. The Rays will be the first test of the season for the Blue Jays as well.
Through the first 12 games of the season, the Rays have shown they are potentially the real deal when it comes to playing for a World Series title. The Rays’ pitching team, led by Shane McClanahan and Jeffrey Springs, are ranked first in the AL in ERA (2.17), hits allowed (75), runs allowed (27), home runs allowed (5) and walks allowed (28). Both Springs and Drew Rasmussen have a season ERA of 0.00 as they have not allowed a run in their 13 innings pitched each. McClanahan leads the team in strikeouts with 21.
The batting for the Rays is also among the best in the league as they are first in the AL in runs accounted for (92), home runs accounted for (30), fewest strikeout this season (85), on-base percentage (.367) and are ranked second in batting average (.286). Seven players for the Rays have accounted for at least three home runs. There is a special quality among each of the top seven batters this season for Tampa Bay as they can efficiently take a game over. Shortstop Wander Franco leads the team in hits (17), home runs (4), and stolen bases (3) as well as accounting for nine runs, a batting average of .340 and an on-base percentage of .370.
Toronto also has some high-valued batters this season as they are a team that can account for consistent hits at the plate. The Blue Jays rank first in the AL in hits (125) and first in batting average (.289). As a result of their tremendous hitting, they are second in the AL in on-base percentage (.349).
Blue Jays third baseman Matt Chapman, first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and shortstop Bo Bichette are three of the top hitters in the MLB this season and the reason for the team’s incredible performance at the plate. All three of these batters combine for 61 hits this season. Chapman has a ridiculous batting average of .489 and an on-base percentage of .538.
The biggest downfall for the Blue Jays that might be a serious indicator of the series between the Rays and the Blue Jays is Toronto’s pitching. The Blue Jays do not have the highly efficient pitching that most of the top teams in the AL, including Tampa Bay, possess. Toronto has a season ERA of 4.84 (10th in the AL) as well as given up 102 hits (sixth in the AL), 64 runs (10th in the AL), and 20 home runs (11th in the AL). They do not strike out many of their opposing batters as they have only accounted for 104 strikeouts (11th in the AL).
The over/under for the first game of the series on Friday was set at nine, which indicates this could be a high-scoring thrilling series. This is a series that will feature two of the top batting team in the MLB. Both Tampa Bay and Toronto have a variety of key batters to rely on once the series starts on Friday and goes into the weekend.
The Rays were on a hot streak by winning 13 of their games to start the season, but they are also on a serious scoring run. The loss to Toronto on Friday ended their run toward the record books. Tampa Bay has scored at least seven runs in eight of their last nine games before taking on the Blue. The Rays are coming from a solid 9-3 home victory over the Boston Red Sox with a 7-2 victory and a 9-7 victory before that.
The Blue Jays, on the other hand, are having to work to regain that momentum for the series against the Rays. Last Sunday, April 9th, the Blue Jays had to go into 10 innings just to defeat the Los Angeles Angels 12-11. In the first two games of the home series versus the Detroit Tigers, the Blue Jays won the first game 9-3 followed by a 4-3 win in 10 innings. The Blue Jays are coming off a 3-1 loss on Thursday to the Tigers.
The Blue Jays are likely to get to a break in the second game of the series as the Rays will have Josh Fleming, 6.43 ERA in 11 innings pitched this season, starting at pitcher. In the following game, the Rays will have their ace pitcher McClanahan conclude the series.
Tampa Bay Rays
Toronto Blue Jays
Josh Lowe (.385)
Matt Chapman (.489)
Wander Franco & Brandon Lowe (4)
Bo Bichette (4)
Randy Arozarena (15)
Matt Chapman (15)
Brandon Lowe (.459)
Matt Chapman (.538)
Wander Franco (17)
Matt Chapman (23)
Shane McClanahan (3)
Jordan Ramano (2)
Drew Rasmussen (0.00)
Kevin Gausman & Zach Pop (0.00)
Shane McClanahan (21)
Kevin Gausman (25)
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