SB Nation Blog
The opponent in one sentence
The Blue Jays have been at the bottom of the AL East standings almost all year as one of the most disappointing teams in all of baseball.
Red Sox 2, Blue Jays 1
Down. Following an encouraging month of May, the Blue Jays had a tough month of June and it hasn’t gotten any better towards the end. After dropping two of three to Baltimore they’ve now lost six of their last nine game.
6/30: Doug Fister vs. Marco Estrada, 7:07 PM ET
Fister was fairly impressive in his Red Sox debut, showing off the control/command profile that has made him so good over his entire career. I still have my doubts as to how long he can sustain this for, but team scouts really liked what they saw from him in Triple-A. Believe it or not, those scouts are smarter than me. Of course, this will be a little bit more of a test for Fister, even if the Blue Jays lineup isn’t as productive as it usually is.
After surprisingly turning into a Cy Young candidate in his three seasons with the Blue Jays, Estrada is having a down year in 2017. He’s actually striking out more batters than ever and he’s not walking any more. Instead, his flyball tendencies just aren’t working any more. Typically, those tendencies prevent hits at a high rate, but he’s allowing a .335 batting average on balls in play in 2017, a 101 point jump from last year. Estrada tossed six shutout innings against the Red Sox last year and relies mostly on his fastball/changeup combination.
7/1: Chris Sale vs. Francisco Liriano, 1:07 PM ET
Saturday is Sale Day, the best day of the week. Sale had yet another fantastic outing his last time out against the Twins, although he didn’t strike out double-digit batters. Instead, the lefty only struck out nine. So, this time out he’ll have to strike out 27 batters to make up for it. Earlier this season he struck out 13 batters in eight shutout innings in Toronto.
Liriano is always a total wildcard and is kind of Buchholzian in the way you never know what kind of outing you are going to get when he takes the mound. He has the pure stuff to dominate any lineup in baseball, but his control comes and goes as it pleases. He’s pitched to a 5.46 ERA this year, so there’s clearly been more bad than good. His strikeout rate is actually on the way down and he’s walking a whopping five batters per nine innings on the year. He managed to shutout the Red Sox over 5 1⁄3 innings in his previous start against the Red Sox. Liriano will feature a mid-90s sinker to go with a slider and a changeup.
7/2: Drew Pomeranz vs. Joe Biagini, 1:07 PM ET
Pomeranz has been outstanding of late, and most importantly he’s been much more efficient and able to make it deep into games. Now, he only tossed five frames in his last start, but that wasn’t a matter of inefficiency as he only threw 83 pitches in the game. Instead, he was messed up by a long rain delay. He’s been throwing all of his pitches of late, and if he does so again he should have more success on Sunday.
Biagini has proven to be a very effective reliever over the last couple of seasons, but after some injuries in the rotation the Blue Jays have shifted him to the rotation. He’s now up to ten starts on the year and has pitched to a 4.93 ERA as a starter versus a 3.38 ERA as a reliever. However, it’s not quite as bad as it sounds as he’s only allowed a .693 OPS in the rotation and still has a solid 2.6 K/BB ratio. Biagini has a large repertoire that includes a fastball, curveball, changeup and cutter.
None. Stupid Canada. Well, Jarrod Saltalamacchia is in the organization, but not on the major-league roster.
There haven’t been a ton of positives for the Blue Jays in 2017, but Justin Smoak is clearly one of them. It’s been a breakout season for the first baseman who is hitting for huge power while also cutting his strikeout rate below 20 percent for the first time in his career. There’s not much about this performance that appears unsustainable, either.
Josh Donaldson has been very good this season, but he’s still taken a small step back from his typical MVP level. The biggest culprit has been a rising strikeout rate, and the Red Sox will need to prevent the third baseman from putting the ball in play as much as possible.
Jose Bautista is not the same hitter he once was, although he’s not completely done just yet. He’s still good for plenty of hard contact, but that contact is rarer that it once was.
Russell Martin is not going to get a ton of hits, but he has outstanding patience and makes strong contact more often than not and can run into plenty of extra-base hits.
Steve Pearce is only a part-time player, but when he does get in the game he ends up putting together solid production at the plate.
Kendrys Morales is Toronto’s Edwin Encarnacion replacement, and he’s been.....fine. The biggest issue for him is that he doesn’t quite draw enough walks to be a hugely valuable designated hitter. With that being said, he’s got enough power to scare opponents.
Troy Tulowitzki just hasn’t worked out for the Blue Jays and hasn’t been able to hit the ball with authority this season.
Kevin Pillar is a solid contact-oriented hitter, but where he’s really going to impact the game will be with his fantastic glove in center field.
Roberto Osuna is one of the best closers in baseball and has taken his game to another level this year. The 22-year-old is striking out more than 12 batters per nine innings while walking less than one batter per nine. Of course, he’s been battling some anxiety issues — and we saw last year with Brian Johnson how serious that can be — and that’s the priority for him right now. He’s pitching, but the team is giving him time off when it’s needed.
Ryan Tepera has stepped up as the Blue Jays primary set-up man after some key injuries and Biagini’s move to the rotation. Tepera has solid strikeout stuff, although his low home run rate doesn’t seem too sustainable given his low groundball rate. Hopefully the Red Sox can be the beneficiaries of his regression.
Danny Barnes is another flyball-heavy setup man in Toronto’s bullpen, but he has big-time strikeout stuff that helps make up for that.
Aaron Loup is the Blue Jays’ primary left-handed option and has a strong combination of strikeouts and ground balls.
Aaron Sanchez was supposed to be the ace of Toronto’s this season, but has only made five starts in 2017. The 24-year-old (he turns 25 on Saturday) is currently on rehab and the Blue Jays are hoping he’ll be back shortly after this series with the Red Sox.
Devon Travis is a solid but streaky second baseman for the Blue Jays. The infielder has been out since May with a knee injury, had to undergo surgery and there is no timetable for his return.
Joe Smith has been a shockingly great setup man for the Blue Jays this season and has been out since the middle of June with a shoulder injury. His absence shouldn’t be a long one, though.
Anthony Alford is a talented young outfielder who went down with a hamate fracture shortly after his major-league debut in May. He is likely going to be out for a couple more weeks, at least.
Dalton Pompey is another slightly less promising, slightly less young outfielder. He’d been out all year after suffering a major concussion in the World Baseball Classic but started rehabbing to return from that in early June. During that rehab stint, he hurt his leg and hasn’t returned to action.
Chris Coghlan is a bench outfielder who recently hit the 10-day disabled list with a wrist injury. It doesn’t appear to be a serious injury.
Leonel Campos has been an up-and-down reliever who hit the disabled list about a week ago with a groin injury.
J.P. Howell is a reliever who has been out since the beginning of June with shoulder tightness. His timetable to return is unclear at this time.
Darrell Ceciliani is a backup outfielder who has been out since mid-May thanks to a shoulder injury. It’s still unclear when he’ll be set to return.
Bo Schultz is out for the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
The Blue Jays have a retractable roof, so the weather won’t really be a concern this weekend. This is a good thing, as Toronto is looking at on-and-off rain all weekend long.