SB Nation Blog
The Opponent, in one sentence
The Blue Jays have gotten off to a horrible start and are dealing with some key injuries but they still scare you every time you play them.
Down. This one is incredibly easy, as they’ve won only two games this season. Furthermore, one of those victories came in their third game of the year, meaning they’ve lost eight of their last nine. Most of the games have at least been close, but they are coming off an 11-4 drubbing at the hands of the Orioles.
4/18: Brian Johnson vs. Marcus Stroman, 7:07 PM ET
This was, of course, supposed to be Eduardo Rodriguez’ start before he left on paternity leave. That left a hole in the rotation, and Johnson has been selected to fill it. Most of what you need to know about Johnson right now can be found in the linked post above, although it is also worth noting that this will be his first time in Canada. That doesn’t matter in terms of how he’ll pitch, probably, but it’s interesting.
Stroman, meanwhile, is the best pitcher in the Blue Jays’ rotation with Aaron Sanchez on the shelf (more on that soon). After missing almost all of 2015 with a knee injury, he came back last year to put together a...fine season. This spring, he put himself back on the map in the World Baseball Classic and he’s been better through his first two starts this year by ERA, but the groundball pitcher has also seen a decrease in strikeouts. This is the worst pitching matchup of the series from a Red Sox perspective, but if Boston’s lineup can get balls in the air against Stroman they could have plenty of success.
4/19: Rick Porcello vs. Francisco Liriano, 7:07 PM ET
I think it is fair to say that Porcello has been disappointing to start the season. That is not the same as saying he’s not the same guy who won the Cy Young last year, but we haven’t seen enough of that guy just yet. This is a good chance to reclaim some of that magic against a good but slumping and somewhat depleted lineup.
As for Liriano, he has been one of the more inconsistent arms in all of baseball over the last few years. When he’s on, he’s one of the scariest pitchers in baseball capable of striking everyone in baseball, even Mookie Betts. He’s shown both sides this year, with a horrible start his first time out when he only recorded one out followed by a ten strikeout, two walk performance his next time out. The Red Sox are a patient lineup, and should be able to take advantage of his lack of control.
4/20: Chris Sale vs. Marco Estrada, 12:37 PM ET
Thursday is Sale Day, which is a bummer for those of you who work normal 9-5’s. As someone whose day off this week happens to be Thursday, this is very good news. There’s really no words to describe how great Sale has been in his early Red Sox career.
Estrada, meanwhile, is a very interesting pitcher. He’s somewhat quietly become one of the most effective starters in the American League, leaning on a fly ball approach that can be dangerous at times but mostly just limits opponents’ abilities to turn balls in play into hits. He saw an uptick in strikeouts last year, and it’s stuck around this far this year. Sale obviously has the advantage in this one, but it won’t be a cakewalk for the Red Sox offense.
The Blue Jays have but one old friend on their roster, but he is one that contributed to that 2013 World Series championship. I speak, of course, of Toronto’s backup catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Salty had a couple of decent years around the league in 2014 and 2015 after leaving Boston, but was horrible last year and has gotten off to a very slow start in 2016. The end might be near for the catcher, but we’ll always have 2013.
Jose Bautista is very clearly the face of the franchise, coming back in free agency this past winter while former lineup mate Edwin Encarnacion left for Cleveland. He has just a 33 wRC+ to start this season, but has at least played improve defense in right field early on. He’ll pick it up eventually, even if he never gets back to prime-level performance.
Kendrys Morales was Toronto’s answer to losing Encarnacion in the lineup, and while he’s not quite as impactful he’s still a very solid bat. His 106 wRC+ to start the year isn’t all that great considering he’s a DH, but his plate discipline has been good and his batting average on balls in play will improve over time. He’s an underrated bat in the middle of this lineup.
Troy Tulowitzki hasn’t been the addition the Blue Jays thought they were getting a few years ago, but at least he can still pick it at shortstop. Still, it’s becoming clear he’ll never again be the superstar he once was.
Russell Martin has been atrocious to start this season, repeating his early-season performance from a year ago. He was able to turn it around in a big way in 2016, but it’s hard to make that kind of turnaround two years in a row.
Roberto Osuna is one of the most underrated relievers in the game. He started the year on the shelf with a minor injury, but 22-year-old is about as good as it gets at the end of a game. The Red Sox will have a hard time mounting a comeback against him.
Josh Donaldson, easily Toronto’s best player, was placed on the disabled list on Friday with a calf injury. It doesn’t appear to be a major injury, but he’ll certainly miss this entire series.
Aaron Sanchez was a surprise Cy Young contender last year and he was just placed on the DL on Sunday with a blister that’s been bothering him since camp.
J.A. Happ, like Estrada, has quietly turned himself into a very solid pitcher. He isn’t on the DL right now, but he left Sunday’s start early and is undergoing tests to see what’s wrong with his left elbow.
This isn’t as important with the series taking place in Toronto, since the Blue Jays have a retractable roof. Still, outside baseball is always preferred. They may get it on Tuesday night, as the weather will be clear. However, it’ll also be a little chilly with the temperature expected to be in the 40’s. The next two days might force the roof to be closed, as there is possible rain in the forecast both days. There won’t be any postponements, but they may not be outside very much this week.