SB Nation Blog
The opponent in one sentence
The Blue Jays have been one of the most disappointing teams in the league thanks to an underperforming offense and an inconsistent-at-best pitching staff.
Red Sox 5, Blue Jays 1
Down. The Blue Jays came out of the gates of the second half slow, losing two out of three to Detroit in their first post-break series. Prior to the break, they were also trending a little downward, having lost seven of their last eleven games. They’ve gone on some runs this season, but mostly it’s been a series of downward trends.
6/17 7/17: Eduardo Rodriguez vs. Marcus Stroman, 7:10 PM ET
Monday marks the return of Eduardo Rodriguez, who has been on the disabled list with a knee injury since the beginning of June. The lefty had a rough initial rehab start with Portland before putting together a couple of impressive ones with Pawtucket. Prior to his injury, Rodriguez was putting together a breakout season in which he was striking out more batters than ever, improving on his control and going deeper and deeper into outings. If the Red Sox can continue to get that from the young southpaw not that he’s healthy, they will have a potentially lethal rotation.
Whereas most of his teammates have been disappointing in 2017, Stroman has been fantastic for Toronto in 2017 and is making good on all that potential he’s been lauded for since being drafted. The small righty has a 3.28 ERA over his 18 starts to go with a 3.85 FIP and a 3.46 DRA. He’s merely a solid strikeout pitcher with 93 Ks over 112 innings of work, but makes up for that with good control and an excellent ability to induce weak contact and keep the ball on the ground. The good news is Boston has had success against Stroman this year, scoring six runs in 4 2⁄3 innings against the Blue Jays righty in April. Stroman leans heavily on a sinker/slider combination.
6/18 7/18: Doug Fister (?) vs. J.A. Happ, 7:10 PM ET
The question mark is here because, while Fister is listed as the probable starter on the Red Sox website, he threw 53 pitches in Saturday’s 16-inning game. It seems likely, or even probable, that they won’t have him start after that. If he does, it could very well be his last appearance in a Red Sox uniform. It’s possible they’ll keep him around in the bullpen for now, but he doesn’t strike me as a pitcher who would be more valuable there and they’re likely better off giving someone like Brandon Workman a real chance to succeed in the bullpen. If this is indeed it for Fister, he had a solid run for the Red Sox and gave them what they needed as emergency depth.
Happ joins Stroman as one of the few Blue Jays matching or exceeding his expectations in 2017. The righty and 2016 Cy Young candidate has been solid this year, pitching to a 3.54 ERA over 11 starts with a 4.39 FIP and a 4.17 DRA. What’s really stood out has been the jump in his strikeout rate, as he’s setting down nearly a batter per inning this year while maintaining above-average control. Despite that, Happ does get into trouble with the longball sometimes, too. He features a fastball/sinker/changeup combination on the mound.
6/19 7/19: Drew Pomeranz vs. Aaron Sanchez, 7:10 PM ET
Pomeranz has been one of the most important players for the Red Sox in recent months, and came out of the gates with a solid start against the Yankees. While his final line wasn’t all that great, he really made just one bad pitch to Gary Sanchez and the catcher made him pay. Beyond that, his stuff and command looked sharp and he simply suffered from a little bad luck. Pomeranz pitching like this is the difference between Boston having a good rotation or a great one.
Sanchez was one of the biggest breakouts in the league in 2016, but he hasn’t been able to pitch much in 2017. He’s only made six starts this year and has a solid 3.94 ERA. The peripherals aren’t as encouraging, though, with a 5.68 FIP and a 6.31 DRA. Everything has fallen off for the righty in his small sample this year, as he’s striking out fewer batters, losing his control far too often and allowing more balls in the air than on the ground. He did allow just one unearned run in his last start against Detroit, for what it’s worth. Sanchez leans heavily on a sinker to go with a four-seamer and a curveball.
6/20 7/20: Chris Sale vs. Francisco Liriano*, 1:35 PM ET
Thursday afternoon is Sale Day, the best day of the week. It’s always a bummer when the ace has to pitch while so many of us are at work, but the Red Sox will take him on the mound whenever they can get him. Obviously, his last start didn’t go so well for the team, but that was through no fault of his own. In what has been a historically great year Sale may be coming off his best start of the season. There’s no reason to think he can’t dominate this Blue Jays lineup.
Liriano has made 15 starts for the Blue Jays this year and they have....not been good. He’s pitched to a 6.04 ERA over 70 innings of work to go with a 4.90 FIP and a 5.64 DRA. Liriano’s strikeout stuff has taken a slight step back, but that’s not his problem. Instead, it’s the control that has plagued the lefty as he’s walking five batters per nine innings. It’s nearly impossible to succeed when you allow that many free passes. Liriano has tossed a total of 11 1⁄3 innings against Boston this year and has allowed five runs (all in one start) with ten strikeouts and four walks. The southpaw features a sinker, a slider and a changeup.
*It’s worth noting that Liriano was hurt in his last start and may not be ready to make this start. He is listed as the probable pitcher on ESPN but MLB.com has the probable listed as TBA.
**Apparently it is July.
None. Stupid Blue Jays
Justin Smoak has been the Blue Jays best hitter this year in what has been a breakout season for the first baseman that earned him a start in the All-Star Game. He’s hitting for huge power for Toronto while improving his plate discipline. He may not keep this up, but there’s not much about his performance that looks unsustainable.
Josh Donaldson has missed some time with injury and is striking out more than you’d typically expect from the start third baseman, but he’s still one of the scarier hitters in the league. He could be a trade candidate if the Blue Jays decide to go full rebuild, but I’d be surprised if that happens.
Russell Martin isn’t always consistent and he’s not going to produce a good batting average, but he’s one of the better offensive catchers in the league thanks to elite patience and solid pop.
Jose Bautista has been disappointing this year thanks to a dropoff in power. If he’s not hitting the ball over the fence, there’s not a ton else you can get from the star outfielder.
Kendrys Morales was supposed to be the Edwin Encarnacion replacement, but he’s been a below-average hitter at DH due to below-average plate discipline.
Troy Tulowitzki’s fall from grace has been staggering, and he’s suddenly a negative in all areas of the game at this point.
Steve Pearce was an underrated acquisition this winter, and while he hasn’t given Toronto huge production he’s done his part for his role.
Kevin Pillar is merely okay with the bat, but he makes up for it by being one of the best defensive outfielders in all of baseball.
For my money, Roberto Osuna is the most underrated reliever in all of baseball. He deserves to be in the conversation with the truly elite in the game, and has been on their level for the entirety of his career. So far this season, the 22-year-old is striking out over 12 batters per nine innings while walking fewer than one. Boston is in trouble if Osuna gets into any game this week.
Things fall off after Osuna, though. Ryan Tepera is the primary setup arm right now, and while he’s got strikeout stuff and has had solid results, the righty also suffers from lapses in control. He also doesn’t have a long track record of success. Danny Barnes is the other setup arm, and like Tepera he has big strikeout stuff. For Barnes, though, the issue is that he allows a lot of fly balls, and that can be dangerous for a high-leverage arm.
From the left side, the Blue Jays feature Aaron Loup. The southpaw gets a decent amount of strikeouts and ground balls, but his control is a major issue.
Devon Travis is a solid young player and is supposed to be Toronto’s everyday second baseman. He’s been out since June with a bone bruise in his knee, and there is still no timetable for his return. He is progressing, though.
Joe Smith was the team’s second-best reliever before getting hurt. He’s been out for about a month with shoulder inflammation, but the setup man is expected to return at some point during this series in Boston.
Anthony Alford is one of Toronto’s top prospects, but the outfielder has been out since May with a hand injury. He’s begun his rehab, though, and could be back with the major-league squad soon.
J.P. Howell has had a rough year in Toronto’s bullpen and he’s been out since early June with shoulder tightness. It’s unclear when he’ll return.
Leonel Campos has been missing from the Blue Jays bullpen since late June. It’s unclear at this point when he can be expected back from his groin injury.
Dalton Pompey is a former top prospect who has been out all year since suffering a concussion in the World Baseball Classic. He restarted his rehab at the start of the month, but it’s still unclear when he might come back to the majors.
Luke Maile had been underperforming as the team’s backup catcher this year and he’s been out with a knee injury since the beginning of the month.
Chris Coghlan is a utility player who hit the disabled list with a wrist injury in mid-June. It didn’t seem too serious when it happened, but there’s still no timetable for a return.
Darrell Ceciliani is a bench bat who has been out since May with a shoulder injury. He’s not expected back soon.
Bo Schultz is out all season after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
Things should be good in Boston this week, with temperatures in the 80s every day and the sun shining. The one game that could run into trouble would be Tuesday’s as there may be thunderstorms in the area. Even if there are, though, it would almost certainly just result in a delay, not a cancellation.