After going 1-1 on Wednesday's best bets, Dalton Brown is back with two more picks - both on the Blue Jays-Rays game Thursday afternoon.
1:10 p.m. ET: Toronto Blue Jays at Tampa Bay Rays: Rays First 5 Innings ML (-130), Rays Team Total over 4 (-128) or 4.5 (+102)
The Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays will finish out their series on Thursday afternoon from Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. I'm betting two different angles on the Rays, who ought to jump on Blue Jays starter Alek Manoah early in the ballgame.
Manoah has surrendered a putrid 6.54 xERA this season, suggesting that he remains due for negative regression despite a 5.15 ERA through two months. This sample size on Manoah's inability to replicate his 2022 form is now large enough that it has become his new normal, and there are murmurs that the pitch clock is having a negative effect on the Blue Jays' hefty righty.
A quick look at Manoah's Baseball Savant profile reveals that he's allowing tons of hard contact, walking more batters than 90% of MLB pitchers, and not missing bats at nearly the rate he did in 2022. Thursday, he'll take on Tampa Bay's No. 1-ranked offense in wRC+ (133, 33% above MLB average) against right-handed pitching. The Rays already punished him once this season, pasting him for seven runs on nine hits and four walks over just 4.2 innings on April 16.
Add in that Toronto's bullpen ranks just 23rd in baseball with a 4.48 ERA since May 1, and the Rays are primed to comfortably eclipse five runs on Thursday. With how righty Zach Eflin has pitched this season, that should be all Tampa Bay needs.
While nobody will confuse the righty with Pedro Martinez, Eflin been more than serviceable for the Rays. His 2.93 xERA is excellent, and he's exactly the kind of low-variance pitcher (2.7% walk rate, 31:2 K/BB ration in May) I'd like to get behind in a first-five spot like this.