Young Jays hope to ruin Rays year

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The likes of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio will get their first taste of meaningful late-September baseball this weekend, though it won’t exactly have any say on their own postseason fate.

Of course, that’s because the Toronto Blue Jays were eliminated from playoff contention long ago. They have, however, put forth a spirited effort in the second half that will have them avoiding the 100-loss plateau, not to mention staying above the basement of the American League East.

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Their final series of the year coming up still has immense implications, though, for one of their division rivals, the Tampa Bay Rays, who are seeking their fifth-ever playoff berth in franchise history — and first since 2013.

Entering Tuesday’s action, the Rays were in the second AL Wild Card spot and just a half-game back of the Oakland Athletics. However, they’re also only a half-game ahead of the Cleveland Indians, so one of these clubs is going to be the odd man out and facing a long offseason.

Will Tampa’s strong starting pitching, which has been their main strength all year, come through in the clutch? Or will Toronto’s promising youngsters rise up and keep the Rays out? Let’s try to get a read from the pitching matchups.

Tyler Glasnow vs. T.J. Zeuch (Friday): Before he was sidelined for about four months due to injury, Glasnow had all the makings of a significant breakout campaign in effect. He was even ranked amongst the league leaders in ERA (1.86), WHIP (0.91) and batting average against (.202) prior to suffering a forearm strain.

Despite only recently coming back, Glasnow looks like he hasn’t skipped a beat, allowing two runs combined across three starts. The issue, though, is that he’s gone no more than three innings each time out, presenting a tough obstacle for bettors to predict how much run Glasnow will have.

He’ll be going opposite a rookie southpaw that has made only four appearances, including two starts. But Zeuch has been solid, going at least four innings in each instance and holding his opponent to three runs or fewer. That also includes a pair of fine showings in as many tries against the dangerous New York Yankees. UNDER

Ryan Yarbrough vs. Trent Thornton (Saturday): Yarbrough is about to make the most important start of his life. For Tampa Bay to extend its 2019 season, the second-year left-hander must rebound right away after surrendering more than four runs in back-to-back starts for the first time in his young career — six runs apiece for each start, actually.

Another Toronto rookie, Thornton, takes the ball in this one, and while the 26-year-old has been relatively OK for a pitching-starving group, he’s had a lot of trouble when taking on the Rays. He’s made more starts against them (four) than any other opponent and has a dreadful 8.44 ERA and 2.25 WHIP to show for it. OVER

Blake Snell vs. Clay Buchholz (Sunday): With the season potentially on the line in Sunday’s finale (so long as they don’t have to play a Game 163 on Monday), Tampa Bay is understandably turning to Snell. Unfortunately, this may not be the same version of the club’s staff ace, as he only recently returned from injury. He’s made two starts and didn’t pitch beyond the second inning in either of them.

However, that was probably a case of the Rays easing their reigning AL Cy Young Award winner back into the fold after missing two months and should no doubt fully unleash Snell in this spot.

The left-hander will have a winnable matchup at least, given the disappointing string of pitching lately from his counterpart. In fact, Buchholz has allowed 13 runs over his last two starts — the first time he’s done that since 2009. Even so, I’d lean toward the veteran closing out the shoe with something better. UNDER

Last week: 2-1

Season: 44-35

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