The Toronto Blue Jays will make their long-awaited return to Rogers Centre on Friday when they open a three-game weekend series against the visiting Kansas City Royals as heavy -200 favourites on the MLB odds at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.
Toronto's return home could not have come at a better time. The team has struggled to generate offence during a recent disappointing road trip that has dumped them out of the race for first place in the AL East standings going into Friday night's matchup against the Royals.
With 37 of their final 63 regular-season contests set to take place in Toronto, the Blue Jays enjoy a golden opportunity to get back into the hunt for an AL wild card berth. However, that advantage is somewhat tempered by the quality of the opposition the team is scheduled to face down the stretch at Rogers Centre. Of their 37 remaining home games, 22 come against teams sporting records of .500 or better, including eight total dates against the Red Sox and the AL Central-leading Chicago White Sox.
And with their interleague schedule soon winding down, the Blue Jays must find ways to generate better results against AL opponents, whom they have compiled just a 36-44 record against so far this season. The team's recent swoon and overall poor results against AL rivals have helped fuel their continued slide on the World Series odds, dipping to a +2500 wager.
The Blue Jays will be hoping that Ross Stripling can spark a turnaround when the right-handed veteran takes the mound for Friday's series opener. Stripling is coming off a steady performance in his last start, allowing just five hits and one earned run over five innings in when eventually ended in a 5-4 loss to the New York Mets last weekend.
Overall, the 31-year-old Stripling has earned just one win over his past nine starts, but has remained steady, allowing two or fewer earned runs on five occasions during that stretch. Stripling will likely need to maintain that momentum against a Royals team that arrives in Toronto set as +170 underdogs at betting sites for Friday night.
Kansas City maintained its recent torrid pace with a 5-0 win against the visiting White Sox on Thursday afternoon, and has now claimed victory in eight of its last nine contests. The Royals have also topped Toronto in three of four meetings this season, all on home turf, but have mustered just four wins over their past 22 road contests, including a 1-6 mark in seven away dates with AL East opponents.