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Rays and Jays: Which one can make a move?

The Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays have tons and yet nothing in common. They both play in the American League East and entering Sunday, are both 45-45 and 3.5 games behind the New York Yankees in the division. That’s pretty much where the similarities end.

Toronto is the best offensive team in the league, pacing the junior circuit with an obscene 476 runs. The Yankees have the next highest total … with 401. Tampa Bay is not a scoring juggernaut by any stretch of the imagination, checking in with 328 runs. Only the Chicago White Sox and Seattle Mariners have pushed across less in the AL.

On the flip side, the Rays can really pitch. Behind All-Star Chris Archer and the recent returns of both Jake Odorizzi and Matt Moore, Tampa Bay has one of the more formidable rotations in baseball. By contrast, Toronto was hoping to go into the 2015 campaign with young phenom Marcus Stroman taking the ball on Opening Day. Instead, the Long Island native tore his ACL during a fielding drill in spring training, putting him out of commission for the year. The Blue Jays have pieced together a rotation in his absence led by veterans Mark Buehrle and R.A. Dickey.

So which team has a better chance of getting hot in the second half and making a significant run toward the playoffs?

Always go with the pitching, so Tampa Bay gets the nod. Look, we all know about the potent bats in the Blue Jays lineup. After making a terrific offseason trade with general manager Billy Beane of the Oakland Athletics, Toronto was able to slot third baseman Josh Donaldson – who is making his second straight All-Star game appearance – in with Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion.

The results have been predictably devastating with Donaldson hitting .293 with 21 home runs and 60 RBI, leading the team in all categories. Encarnacion has been no slouch himself with 18 homers and 53 RBI, while Bautista has contributed 17 dingers and 59 RBI. However, Bautista and Encarnacion are only hitting .238 and .236, respectively.

Ultimately, while that trio is terrific, it doesn’t equate to the type of sustained success a quality pitching staff can. With Tampa getting Odorizzi and Moore back to compliment Archer, the Rays have a legitimate chance to win almost every night with a solid bullpen backing them up. Outside of Evan Longoria, nobody scares you at all in Tampa’s lineup, but the consistent threat of a 3-2 win is there.

The Rays don’t need a ton of offense, only enough to give the pitchers a one-run lead late in the game. The Blue Jays need to constantly score if they hope to win, a far greater task when you play teams with quality arms both in the rotation and later on. Look for Tampa Bay to hang around, while Toronto will fade once again.

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