Series Preview

Series Preview: Blue Jays vs Red Sox

The Blue Jays (2-10) need something to go their way. Anything. Both Josh Donaldson and Aaron Sanchez are on the disabled list. J.A. Happwill likely follow suit. Throw in the league’s worst offence, and the Jays are a mess. To make matters worse, the Red Sox (8-5) are in town for a three-game series. It’s still early, but the Jays can ill-afford to drop another series at this point.

 The Meeting on the Mound

Tonight’s opener (7:07 PM) will see Marcus Stroman start for the Jays.Stroman has been the brightest spot of the season, as he has posted two fantastic starts so far. Stroman comes into this game with a 1.76 ERA. It’s worth noting that Stroman’s GB% is “only” at 57.8% for the season, which suggests that his two-seamer still has room to improve. On the other side, the Red Sox will turn to Brian Johnson. The Red Sox find themselves in an emergency situation, as Eduardo Rodriguez is unable to pitch tonight. This will be the former first-round pick’s second career MLB start. Johnson started the season strong in AAA, with a 1.69 ERA in two brief starts.

Wednesday’s game (7:07 PM) features a couple of enigmas. The Jays will send Francisco Liriano to the mound. The left-hander had a disastrous start to open the season, before he bounced back against the Orioles on April 13th. It will be interesting to see if Liriano’s string of good starts with Russell Martin behind the plate continues. The Red Sox will rely on Rick Porcello. The 2016 AL Cy Young winner has had a disappointing start to the season. Porcello’s BB/9 currently sits at 2.16, and his HR/9 at 2.70. To be fair, he has also been somewhat unlucky, as he has fought a .385 BABIP. This is a big year for Porcello, as he will try to prove that his 2016 numbers were not an anomaly.

Thursday’s finale will be an afternoon start (12:37 PM). It will feature Marco Estrada on the mound for the Blue Jays. Estrada was back to his usual self in his last outing against the Orioles, in which he held Baltimore scoreless over 7.0 innings. He shaved nearly 2.25 runs off of his ERA in the process. Estrada shone against the Red Sox last year, as he held hem to a 3.18 ERA and .643 OPS over 28.1 innings. Estrada will need to continue that trend on Thursday, as the Jays will be up against Chris Sale. The American League’s best pitcher has flourished over his first three starts with Boston. Sale has a 1.25 ERA, and a terrific 12.05 K/9 over 21.2 innings. Based on the Jays’ tendency to strikeout, this could make for a long afternoon.

Players to Watch

The entire Blue Jays’ roster could be listed here. With the exception of Darwin Barney, they’re all in a slump. Some of the more notable contributors are Jose Bautista and Steve Pearce.

Bautista’s performance has made his contract look like a significant mistake. That should correct itself over time, but right now, he is not doing much of anything. Bautista is batting a mere .136, with a 28.3% strikeout rate. It looks like he changed his stance at the plate this season, and the switch has not paid off. The silver lining is that Bautista’s defence has been considerably better than last season. Pearce has also been an underwhelming addition to start the season. His numbers are similar to Bautista, in that he has a .156 batting average, and 29.4% strikeout rate. Historically a lefty-masher, Pearce has a terrible -66 wRC+ against southpaws this season (albeit, in only 11 plate appearances). If the Jays are going to turn their fortunes around, then their corner outfielders simply must be better at the plate.

The Red Sox are not facing the same problems in the outfield. This series will give the Jays a good look at the presumptive AL Rookie of the Year, Andrew Benintendi. The Red Sox’ top prospect has lived up to the hype over the first two weeks. Benintendi has a terrific slash line of .314/.390/.431. If there was one thing that the Red Sox needed, it was more firepower in their offence. Benintendi might cause problems for the Jays for years to come.

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