The Jays may be battered, bruised and at the bottom of the AL East but thanks to an unsuspecting cast of characters they’re also just four games out of a Wild Card spot. While it’s too late to start counting games, it’s not too early to realize which ones are important. The upcoming three game set against the Baltimore Orioles certainly fits the bill and the Jays have a huge opportunity to climb back into relevancy in the AL East.
The Meetings on the Mound
Friday 7:05 PM – RH Aaron Sanchez (0-1, 2.95 ERA) against RH Chris Tillman (1-0, 2.89 ERA). Sanchez seems to have his finger woes behind him, at least for now. After a two week stint on the disabled list between starts Sanchez was held to a pitch count but made the most of his five innings on the mound. He didn’t allow a run and struck out four – but also gave up five hits and walked two batters. He’ll need to have his control against this powerful Orioles lineup if he wants to keep his team in it early.
Opposite Sanchez is Chris Tillman who just made his second start after beginning the season on the DL. Tillman was excellent in his first game but shaky in his second, giving up three runs on eight hits in just 4 1/3 innings of work. He needed 105 pitches before being pulled and simply wasn’t effective as he gets used to game action. Tillman has struggled against the Jays in his career with a 5-10 record to go along with a 5.44 ERA. He’s also given up 29 home runs in just 24 games which is more than any other opponent in his career. With the way the Jays have started to hit they may be in for another breakout if they can get to Tillman early.
Saturday 7:35 PM – RH Mike Bolsinger (0-2, 6.10) against RH Kevin Gausman (2-3, 7.19). As brutal as Bolsinger has been in his last two starts, Kevin Gausman has been even worse this season and now the two pitchers will have the chance at redemption for their clubs when they square off on Saturday night. Bolsinger was rocked against the Braves in his last outing but looked decent in his first start and hopefully that version of the 29 year old shows up on Saturday night.
As badly as Bolsinger would love a strong start, Kevin Gausman needs one even more. The Orioles’ starter owns a 7.19 ERA and has been yanked before the end of the fourth inning in two of his last three starts. He’s given up at least one run in every start this season but has had some success against the Jays with a 3.99 ERA and a 3-3 record. This game could easily turn into a high-scoring affair and if you’re a fan of the Over don’t be shy.
Sunday 1:05 PM – RH Marco Estrada (2-2, 3.60) against LH Wade Miley (1-1, 3.02) Marco Estrada has been the most consistent pitcher for the Jays lately – but for maybe the wrong reasons. Estrada has given up an early lead in virtually every start this season before eventually settling down, but that wasn’t the case in his last outing as he never found his stride and watched the Braves jump all over his change-up to the tune of five runs. Estrada and his teammates are pulling for him to get out of the first inning without giving up a run which could be tough against Baltimore’s potent lineup. With that being said, Estrada has pitched better against the Orioles than almost anyone else this season, giving up just two total runs over two starts.
Wade Miley is on the opposite mound and has his only win this season against the Jays. He still gave up three runs on five hits in that outing but also struck out eight. Toronto has struggled against left-handed pitching in the past, but thanks to Justin Smoak are improving this season. Smoak is hitting a blistering .400 against lefties this season with four home runs and 10 RBI to lead the team by a wide margin in every category. In seven games against the Jays for his career Miley has an ERA of 5.40 while giving up eight home runs.
Players to Watch
Kevin Pillar and Chris Davis. Pillar will sit out Game 1 in this series after being suspended two games for his homophobic slur against the Atlanta Braves. Pillar said and did all the right things to make amends for the issue, but was clearly distraught, and rightly so. The Jays’ most surprising player of the season will now need to find a way to stay focused and continue to help his team out but the reception of fans across the league will be weighing heavily on his mind. There are no excuses for his actions and the Jays and Pillar will be trying to make the incident right for however long it takes.
Davis meanwhile has been obliterating the ball. After a slow April “Crush”Davis is batting .467 in his last ten games with five home runs and 10 RBI. He also loves playing against Toronto. In 116 career games he has a .283/.377/.628 batting line with 37 home runs and 84 RBI.