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Red Sox vs. Blue Jays Series Preview

A look ahead to the season’s penultimate series

Toronto Blue Jays v Boston Red Sox Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

SB Nation Blog

Bluebird Banter

The opponent in one sentence

The Blue Jays are probably better than their place in the standings but they never recovered from a slow start to the year and couldn’t put themselves in contention all year long.

Record

73-83

Head to Head Record

Red Sox 12, Blue Jays 4

Trend

Up, slightly. Toronto has been treading water of late, which is better than they’ve been for much of the year. Over their last ten game, they won five. They are also coming off a series win that most Red Sox fans are likely aware of since they took two of three from the Yankees. We all appreciate their strong performance over the weekend but hope they cut it out for the next three days.

Pitching Matchups

These matchups are subject to change with it being the last week of the season.

9/25: Drew Pomeranz vs. Brett Anderson, 7:10 PM ET

It’s been a long time since there was any doubt as to who was the second best starter on the Red Sox behind Chris Sale. Pomeranz is going to pitch in Game Two of the ALDS — assuming the Red Sox don’t utterly collapse this week — and he absolutely deserves it. There is still a bit of worry that he is going to fatigue down the stretch, but he’s worked around some diminished velocity of late and has done nothing but put up great results all year long.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Baltimore Orioles Patrick McDermott-USA TODAY Sports

Anderson has always been a pitcher with a fair amount of potential and is the type of pitcher on whom teams are always willing to take a chance. Toronto is the latest team to take that chance, as they picked him up after the lefty was released by the Cubs back in July. He’s been healthy this year, at least, but the performance hasn’t been there. Although he’s never been a big strikeout pitcher, he’s been able to succeed in the past thanks to his ability to induce ground balls as well as strong control. He hasn’t done either of those things with Toronto and his numbers reflect that. Anderson does have one start against the Red Sox this year and allowed only one run in 5 23 innings. He features a low-90s/high-80’s fastball, a sinker with the same velocity, a slider, a changeup and a curveball.

9/26: Chris Sale vs. J.A. Happ, 7:10 PM ET

As of this writing, Monday Tuesday is Sale Day, the best day of the week. There is still a chance they could change that, but the best guess from this writer is that this will be Sale’s final start of the week as he tries to make one last push for his Cy Young win. Obviously, that is not the most important thing to either Sale or the Red Sox fan base, but it sure would be nice for him to get some recognition for his great season. Not to mention we’d all like him to have a little momentum carrying into October.

Judging by ERA and wins, this season has been a step back for Happ from the last couple of seasons. Of course, that’s not the best way to judge pitchers and the truth is he’s been just about the same guy he’s always been. His strikeouts are up some as are his walks and home runs, two facts that cancel each other out for the most part. He’s not someone teams would like to build their rotations around but he’s continued to prove that he’s a solid pitcher from the left side. In three starts against the Red Sox this year he’s tossed 16 23 innings and allowed six runs (four earned) on seven strikeouts and nine walks. Happ features a low-90s fastball, a low-90s/high-80s sinker, a slider and a changeup.

9/27: Rick Porcello vs. Marco Estrada, 7:10 PM ET

Porcello’s season has been frustrating, and as we reach the end of it he is firmly entrenched in a battle for a postseason rotation spot. Every time it appears that he’s ready to turn things around he takes a few massive steps back. That’s what happened in his last time out. There is some chance that the Red Sox will shuffle things around to try and make his last start against the Astros, but they may not want to go through the process to make that possible. As of now, his final audition will be against this Blue Jays team, and it’s a huge start for his personal goal of pitching in October.

Estrada had quietly been one of the better pitchers in the American League coming into this season, but things have taken a big step back this year. He’s always relied on fly balls to get outs, but he’s done a good enough job of keeping the ball in the yard for this style to not hurt him. That hasn’t worked out too well this year as his home runs are up and it’s been enough to destroy his numbers. In three starts against the Red Sox this year he’s allowed just two runs in 17 23 innings with 13 strikeouts and 12 walks. Estrada features a low-90s/high-80s fastball to go with a changeup.

Old Friends

None. Stupid Blue Jays

Notable Hitters

Jose Bautista is no longer the best hitter on this Blue Jays team, but this is a big week for him and Toronto faithful. The slugger is a free agent at the end of the season — assuming the Blue Jays decline his option, which they will — and it’s the end of an era for this team. If there are Blue Jays fans in Fenway this week expect to hear plenty of cheers for their biggest star in recent memory.

Justin Smoak has been one of the most surprising players in baseball this year and has been consistently scary in the middle of Toronto’s lineup all year. However, for whatever it may be worth, Smoak’s power has dropped off in a somewhat significant way this month.

Josh Donaldson remains the best player on the Blue Jays and almost certainly will be as long as he is on this roster. If they do decide to go through a rebuild, though, he’ll be the number one player they look to trade.

Teoscar Hernandez hasn’t been up with the Blue Jays for long, but he’s already worked his way to the top of their lineup and played a big role in their series victory over the Yankees. The outfielder strikes out a ton and hardly ever walks, but his power is a threat every time he comes to the plate.

Kendrys Morales has not lived up to the hopes of Toronto as he was brought in to take over for Edwin Encarnacion. His power has been fine, though it hasn’t been quite as elite as many had hoped and not nearly enough to make up for his lack of excellence elsewhere in his game.

Kevin Pillar makes a lot of contact and does little else at the plate, though he’s one of the best defensive outfielders in all of baseball.

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Baltimore Orioles Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Russell Martin hasn’t been able to make hard contact for much of the year but he’s been a solid hitter for his position thanks to extreme patience to get him on base.

Bullpen Snapshot

Roberto Osuna has had a tumultuous season that has involved some bad outings and, more importantly, some battles with anxiety. Through it all, he’s put up the best numbers of his career and at just 22 years old he remains arguably the most exciting reliever in all of baseball.

Ryan Tepera as solidified himself as the second most trusted reliever in the Blue Jays bullpen, and while he wouldn’t serve that role on a better team his strikeout ability definitely gives him a place in this league.

Dominic Leone is probably a little bit better than Tepera thanks to stronger command and slightly better stuff and he’ll get his due moving forward provided he can continue to keep the ball in the yard.

Aaron Loup is Toronto’s top left-handed option and though he’s fought some control issues this year he still gets plenty of strikeouts and keeps the ball on the ground.

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.

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 then suffered a knee injury during his rehab. He’s still not close to returning.

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.

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

It should be a nice week in Boston for this series, though expect some muggy and humid weather. Hopefully that will break on Tuesday — it’s September get out of here with this humidity — but that could also lead to a few showers during the second game of this series.