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Red Sox at Blue Jays Series Preview

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A look ahead to the week’s series in Toronto.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Toronto Blue Jays Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports

SB Nation Blog

Bluebird Banter

The opponent in one sentence

The Blue Jays have put forth a disappointing season, thanks to a surprisingly poor offense and even worse pitching, in which they’ve somehow outperformed their run differential.

Record

61-69 (12 games behind the Red Sox)

Head-to-Head Record

Red Sox 7, Blue Jays 3

Trend

Down. The Blue Jays actually got off to a pretty impressive start in August and were putting themselves in the thick on the wild, if mediocre, battle for the second AL wildcard spot. Things have gone back downhill in the second half of the month, though, as they’ve lost their last three series and are losers of seven of their last nine games.

Pitching Matchups

8/28: Drew Pomeranz vs. Marcus Stroman, 7:07 PM ET

Pomeranz has obviously been one of the keys for the Red Sox all season, and he was on the mound the last time this team won a game. They’ll need him to be similarly effective this time out, as the offense would like to get on the board first for a change. The lefty was forced to leave early two starts ago, but came out strong, if inefficient, last time. The bullpen should be rested so efficiency shouldn’t be a major concern this time out, although it’s obviously preferable that he’s able to go deep into the game. Pomeranz has made two starts against the Blue Jays this year and while he’s allowed only two runs (one earned) in 12 23 innings, he’s walked seven batters while striking out only six.

Stroman is the Blue Jays’ best pitcher and one of the better young arms in all of baseball. He’s shy of being a true ace, but he’s a reliable righty who induces a ton of weak contact that has helped him pitch to a 3.17 ERA on the season. Although strikeouts aren’t a huge part of his game, he gets enough to get by and combines that with a huge groundball rate and overall strong command. The Red Sox have faced him twice this year, scoring six runs in 4 23 innings in April and scoring three unearned runs in 6 23 innings in July. Stroman leans heavily on a mid-90s two-seam fastball to go with a slider.

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

8/29: Chris Sale vs. Tom Koehler, 7:07 PM ET

Tuesday is Sale Day, the best day of the week. At least, most of the time. Sale is coming off an ugly start his last time out against the Indians and he’s looking to make a few changes before this upcoming start. The good news is we’ve seen Sale in angry mode after a bad start, and it’s scary for his opponents. After his last poor outing against Cleveland, he shut out the Rays over eight innings with 13 strikeouts. In two starts facing the Blue Jays this season Sale has 15 shutout innings with 24 strikeouts and two walks. That’s....that’s pretty good.

Koehler was a waiver wire pickup for the Blue Jays just over a week ago and this will be his second start with the team. The righty was really good in his first start with Toronto, allowing just one run in five innings with seven strikeouts and three walks. Despite the strong outing, Koehler has been underwhelming throughout his career. He doesn’t blow anyone away with strikeouts and pairs that with a flyball tendency and poor overall command. The Red Sox should be able to get some run support for Sale this time, though we’ve seen that can be easier said than done. Koehler features a mid-90s fastball to go with a slider and a curveball.

8/30: Rick Porcello vs. J.A. Happ, 7:07 PM ET

Over his three starts prior to his last one against Baltimore, Porcello looked like a guy ready to settle into a solid starter for the stretch one, even if it wasn’t one that would resemble his 2016 Cy Young self. Then, that outing against the Orioles happened and he took a massive step back. It’s fair to say that the defense cost him plenty of runs in that start, but he also allowed a ton of hard contact and didn’t help himself on defense either. This is a big chance for a bounce-back start in Toronto. Porcello has only made one start against the Blue Jays this year and allowed three unearned runs in seven innings with five strikeouts and one walk.

Happ was one of the most surprising starters in baseball last year, earning himself some Cy Young votes after a solid year. By ERA, he’s taken a big step back this year, but he mostly looks like the same guy. He’s actually improved a bit, if anything, with his strikeout rate climbing to one per inning for the first time in his career. He’s a flyball pitcher and that can lead to some home runs, but he’s been good at avoiding too many baserunners to limit damage. After a good start to August, Happ has allowed five runs in each of his last two starts. In his only start against Boston this year, lefty allowed two runs in five innings with two strikeouts and two walks. Happy features a low-to-mid-90s four-seamer, a low-90s two-seamer, a changeup and a slider.

Old Friends

None. Stupid Blue Jays.

Notable Hitters

Josh Donaldson is still the best player on the Blue Jays and one of the best in the American League. He’s continued to hit well in the second half despite a batting average on balls in play that has dragged his overall average down. To counteract that he is drawing a ton of walks and hitting for big power, like always.

Jose Bautista is completely lost at the plate and has been a disaster since the All-Star break. He’s striking out nearly a quarter of the time, and while he’s also drawing a bunch of walks he’s not really hitting much of anything with authority. He’ll still hit into a few home runs here and there, but that’s about it at this point.

Justin Smoak was a surprise All-Star this year and he hasn’t slowed down since the break. The switch hitter is still hitting for big power while showing strong plate discipline.

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Chicago Cubs Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

Kendrys Morales was the ostensible Edwin Encarnacion replacement, and that hasn’t really worked out, particularly since the All-Star break. He’s simply not hitting the ball hard at all and it’s cancelling out his solid if unspectacular plate discipline.

Steve Pearce has quietly been one of the best right-handed hitters in baseball over the last few years and he’s continuing that in 2017 with a good contact rate and plenty of power.

Kevin Pillar doesn’t really provide much beyond a lot of contact at the plate, but he more than makes up for that by being one of the best defensive outfielders in baseball.

Miguel Montero hasn’t been able to provide any punch from behind the plate in Russell Martin’s absence.

Bullpen Snapshot

Roberto Osuna has battled some anxiety issues this year and has allowed some big runs in some big spots, but the young righty is as talented as ever and remains one of the most underrated relievers in the game. He belongs right up there with the tier of relievers behind the Kenley Jansen/Craig Kimbrel group and is a tough beat every time out.

Ryan Tepera has stepped up in his first full season and is providing more than a strikeout per inning and enough weak contact to get by.

Danny Barnes has a flyball problem that can get him into trouble at times, but his K/BB numbers are solid enough to make him a late-inning arm in a lackluster bullpen outside of their closer.

Aaron Loup is the top lefty in Toronto’s bullpen, and while he has a great strikeout/ground ball combo he also has a tendency to lose control at times.

Injuries

Aaron Sanchez was hoping to build off his breakout 2016 this year but he’s been on and off the disabled list all season long. His latest stint started in July and while they hope he can come back before the end of the year it’s undoubtedly a lost year for the righty.

Troy Tulowitzki’s downfall since joining the Blue Jays has been startling to see and he’s going to miss essentially the entire second half after suffering an ankle injury in late July.

Russell Martin has been out from behind the plate with an oblique injury since mid-August and his timeline to return is still unclear.

Devon Travis has only been able to play in 50 games this year thanks to knee issues and it’s still unclear when he’ll be able to return.

Dalton Pompey suffered a major concussion in the World Baseball Classic last spring and he’s still not close to returning.

Luke Maille has been out with a knee injury and will probably be back in September to serve as the team’s third catcher.

Cesar Valdez had a rough run in the Blue Jays rotation and is now out with a shoulder injury that could cause him to miss the rest of the year.had a rough run in the

Darrell Ceciliani hasn’t been able to play in Toronto’s outfield since May and underwent season ending surgery in August.

Bo Schultz underwent Tommy John surgery in April and is hoping to be able to start next season on time.

Weather Forecast

They have a retractable roof in Toronto so the weather isn’t a major concern. That being said, they should be able to keep the top open this week as the weather looks sunny and in the 70s all week long. We are approaching the best weather time of the year.