Opening Day Series Preview: Blue Jays at Orioles
Can you hear that? It’s the sounds of half-baked excuses and miscellaneous doctor appointments being conjured up out of thin air as Torontonians ditch work to watch the Jays on Opening Day, and why not? The Blue Jays have graced us with back-to-back ALCS appearances and are starting their 2017 campaign against a heated-rival on the road.
Toronto (0-0) enters Baltimore (0-0) for a two game set against an AL East rival and you can bet emotions will be high. The Blue Jays are not the same team they were for those ALCS runs. Their parrot-toting-hero signed with the team that sent them packing, their all-star closer is starting off the season on the DL and a big bag of question marks is starting out in left field.
Still, there’s room for optimism and the Jays made a concerned effort to improve, or at least stay the same within their budget. This Toronto team is also a year older, and experience can often be just as effective as a big offseason signing. Grab your hot dogs, it’s Opening Day.
Meetings on the Mound
Game 1: Monday 3:05 p.m. Marco Estrada (0-0) at Kevin Gausman(0-0).
Marco Estrada takes the ball for the Jays on Monday afternoon in what many feel was a bit of a surprise start. At 33 years old and coming off a 9-9 season with a 3.48 ERA, Estrada didn’t have the lights-out performance he turned in two seasons ago. Still, the veteran gritted through a back injury and brought a calm to the franchise each time he touched mound. He feels like “night and day” in comparison to his injury last season and called it a “huge honour” to be named the Opening Day starter.
As for how he’ll fare against the Orioles on Monday afternoon, there’s some promising signs ahead. In his four appearances against Baltimore last season Estrada held the O’s to a .213 batting average with two wins and a 3.00 ERA. He stuck out 27 over the four games but gave up three home runs and walked 11. Estrada has also had success against the Orioles’ most dominant hitter in Manny Machado throughout his career. Machado has just two hits off Estrada in 24 plate appearances and has struggled to pick up what the Jays’ ace is delivering.
As for Gausman the Orioles’ opening day starter has had it rough against the Jays. Gausman made three appearances against Toronto last season and was lit up for six home runs, 14 total runs and seven walks. He finished the year as Baltimore’s best pitcher but has the tendency to give up the long-ball, an category Toronto doesn’t seem to mind racking up the numbers in.
Game 2: Wednesday 7:05p.m. J.A. Happ(0-0) at Dylan Bundy(0-0).
Happ is coming off an impressive 20 win season for Toronto after pundits and fans alike shot-down the idea of bringing him back to the Jays. All he did was place himself in the Cy Young conversation and become the Jays’ most consistent and dependable pitcher. His spot in the starting rotation allows him to draw the start for the home-opener and it’s an honour he deserves after his 2016 season.
Unlike Estrada, Happ will be concerned with Manny Machado all night. Last season he gave up two home runs, a double and two walks to the Orioles’ slugger and will need to find a way to mix up his pitches more effectively to a batter who seems to see everything.
Opposite Happ is Bundy who at 24 years old is already an MLB veteran. He was also brilliant against the Jays least season with an ERA of 0.00 in three appearances. He only pitched 3.2 innings and gave up two walks and a hit during that span. He only started 14 games last season and is still getting used to the role. If he doesn’t get some Jays out early it could be a long night for the right-hander.
Players to Watch
Toronto: Jose Bautista.
After playing cat-and-mouse during the offseason the Jays and Bautista developed a mutual agreement and the fan favourite is back in a Toronto uniform. Now only is that great for the culture of the franchise, but it looks like it’s going to put some wins on the board as well. Joey Bats has been on fire during Spring Training and the World Baseball Classic with combined numbers of a .383 average, .453 on base percentage, three homeruns and 13 RBI. He even gunned out a runner at home during the WBC and it looks like Bautista is more than eager to help fill the void left by Encarnacion.
Baltimore: Manny Machado
If we haven’t mentioned him enough yet, Machado is pretty good. He has a career .302 batting average against the Jays with 13 home runs and 40 RBI in 69 games. He’s even better at home where he’s racked up 36 doubles and 39 jacks over 678 plate appearances in his last two years. With Baltimore relying on power jut as much as Toronto you can expect Machado to take some big cuts in this two game set.
Roberto Osuna (10 day DL – back spasms)
Bo Schultz (out for the year)
Glenn Sparkman (fractured thumb, out until end of April)
Dalton Pompey (indefinite leave – concussion suffered during WBC)
Wade Miley (illness, day to day)
Anthony Santander (right elbow inflammation, day to day)
Chris Tillman (right shoulder soreness, day to day)