The longest road trip in Major League Baseball if not American major professional sports history finally comes to an end for the Blue Jays on Friday. They will play a game at their home stadium of Rogers Centre in Toronto for the first time in 670 days when they host the Kansas City Royals to open a weekend series. The Jays are heavy favorites on the William Hill Sportsbook MLB odds.
Of course, the COVID pandemic essentially shut down the US/Canada border for the past 18 months and the Blue Jays have been playing their home games either in Buffalo or Dunedin, Fla. The Canadian government didn't allow the team to play in Toronto because of the risk of spreading COVID-19, citing frequent travel required in the U.S. An attendance limit will be set at 15,000 for now, and the upper deck at Rogers Centre won't be opened. All visiting players will be sequestered to their hotels and the ballpark.
On Friday, the Jays will be the first team to play home games in three different cities in the same season since 1903 when both Cleveland and Detroit did. Toronto will be the first team to play home games in three different states/provinces in the same season.
The Blue Jays weren't very good the last time the home folks saw them in person, which was on Sept. 29, 2019, when Toronto lost 8-3 to Tampa Bay to finish the 2019 season at 67-95. Now, the Blue Jays are playoff contenders and have one of the most electric talents in the sport in Vladimir Guerrero Jr., a Triple Crown threat who is a +250 second-favorite at William Hill behind Shohei Ohtani (-350) to win AL MVP. Sorry, Baby Vlad, but Ohtani is winning it.
Toronto also got better on Thursday ahead of Friday's MLB Trade Deadline in landing closer Brad Hand from the Washington Nationals. Hand 5-5 with a 3.59 ERA and 21 saves this season. The Jays lost projected 2021 closer Kirby Yates to Tommy John surgery to start the season. Toronto could make another deal today.
Still, it's going to be tough for the team to get a wild-card berth as it is 4.5 games out of the second spot in the AL and also has Seattle and the Yankees ahead of it. The Jays are +280 to earn a playoff spot and -360 to miss.
It's Ross Stripling (3-6, 4.84) on the mound for "Opening Day" – and, yes, there will be plenty of festivities. He has a 7.36 ERA this month and has not faced the Royals this year. Stripling was with the Dodgers the last time the Jays played a home game.
Kansas City rookie lefty Daniel Lynch (1-2, 7.88) is a touted prospect who hadn't had it easy in his first three big-league starts but showed why he's touted last time out in throwing eight shutout innings against the Detroit Tigers to lower his ERA from 15.75. It's his first look at the Blue Jays.
Injury-wise, Toronto outfielder Lourdes Gurriel is in question. He missed Thursday's win in Boston after being hit by a pitch on his elbow Wednesday. Gurriel is hitting .262 with 11 homers and 41 RBIs. Other than guys already on IL, the Royals appear healthy.
The Royals won three of four at home vs. the Blue Jays in mid-April.
How should you bet on every MLB game? And which teams could cost you your bankroll? Join SportsLine now to see who wins every MLB game, all from the model that simulates every at-bat 10,000 times.