The Blue Jays raised their game for last week’s series with the Seattle Mariners, winning two of the three matches south of the border. Toronto needed to string a decent run of results together after a difficult spell and their latest triumph against the Tampa Bay Rays will calm a few nerves in the boardroom and around the city.
John Gibbons’ men, currently valued at 33/1 with Bet365 to win the World Series, appear to have found their feet after a very slow start to the campaign. In recent months, Toronto have been up there in terms of results and the Blue Jays will be confident of putting a playoff run together as the postseason draws closer.
Visiting Toronto this weekend, we have the Chicago White Sox. Not to be confused with the Red Sox of Boston, Chicago are struggling to inspire confidence in the American League Central and Toronto will fancy their chances. With just three wins in their last eight MLB fixtures, the White Sox are slipping out of playoff contention.
Toronto Blue Jays
On paper, this should be relatively straightforward for the Blue Jays. If Toronto can win all three games this weekend, they will be in a much better position going forward and Gibbons will be quietly confident of doing just that.
The Blue Jays failed to build momentum in the early part of the season but have flourished since – and that is why they are well fancied to compete for baseball’s ultimate prize this year.
Beating your divisional rivals is very important but winning against conference opponents is also crucial to reaching the postseason. Toronto have struggled at home this campaign but an unbeaten weekend could spur the Blue Jays on in the second half of the year.
KEY MAN: KENDRYS MORALES. In the last seven days, Morales has hit two home runs – more than any other Blue Jays player. That in itself is impressive but he also has a solid slugging percentage at .579; the joint third best ratio on the team.
Morales now has two homers in three games and Toronto head coach Gibbons will be demanding more from him in the coming weeks. If he can maintain this form, the Blue Jays will continue to shine.
KEY MAN: DOMINIC LEONE. With regards to pitching, Leone is probably Toronto’s most consistent option right now. He has recorded five strikeouts this week from just two games and he is yet to start a match; that may change if he keeps his current form up.
But perhaps most impressive of all, is that Leone has completed just two innings and that makes him a lethal threat with ball in hand. With an average hit rate of .143 on his pitches, he is maturing into an elite star at the position.
Chicago White Sox
As previously mentioned, the White Sox are languishing at the bottom of their respective division and Chicago will already have one eye on next season as a potential benchmark. It is almost impossible to envision the visitors coming back from their current standing.
On any given day, Chicago are capable of giving a decent account of themselves but this may be a step too far. Toronto are in fine form and the White Sox have lost 24 of their 38 away games this season. All signs point to a comfortable Blue Jays win.
KEY MAN: JAMES SHIELDS. After sitting on the side-lines through injury for two months, we will finally see James Shields back in action for the White Sox. He failed to inspire confidence prior to suffering that setback earlier on in the campaign, earning a 1.62 ERA in three starts at the beginning of the season.
However, he looked good on Tuesday in a rehab fixture. Shields threw 90 pitches, allowing two runs and six hits over a five innings spell – and he should be good to go on Sunday. If he finds his best form, Toronto could be in a spot of bother.
It is impossible to back against Toronto in this contest. On paper, the Blue Jays are a class above their opponents and Gibbons will be confident of victory in all three games. Chicago will be boosted by Shields’ return but this is only going one way and that is with the hosts.
TORONTO 5-2 CHICAGO