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Red Sox vs. Blue Jays Series Preview

A look ahead to the upcoming three-game set against 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 got off to a horrible start and were never able to recover, and now they are just cruising to the end of a year that cannot end quickly enough.

Record

63-74 (14 games behind Red Sox)

Head-to-Head Record

Red Sox 10, Blue Jays 3

Trend

Down. It’s hard to find many points in the year where this team wasn’t trending downwards, but the Blue Jays are certainly in a really tailspin right now. Dating back to the middle of August, Toronto has won just four of their last 16 games, though that does include two of their last four.

Pitching Matchups

9/4: Rick Porcello vs. J.A. Happ, 7:10 PM ET

Porcello makes his second straight start against the Blue Jays, and he’s looking for similar results as last time. It’s been an up-and-down year for the 2016 Cy Young winner, and there have been more downs than ups. Heading into last week’s outing in Toronto, he was coming off one of his worst starts of the year and was looking for a major rebound. He got it, allowing one run in 6 23 innings with seven strikeouts and just two walks. He’s now allowed just one unearned run (four total) in 13 23 innings against the Blue Jays this season.

Going up against Porcello last week was Happ, and these two 2016 surprises will face off again in this game. Like Porcello, the Blue Jays lefty has been a bit disappointing this year, though he’s coming around of late. Even his last start was a strong one, as he only allowed one run in six innings against the Red Sox. He did walk four batters while only striking two out and the Red Sox got to the bullpen in a big way after Happ left. They’ll be looking to get to the starter this time around. Happ features a low-to-mid-90s four-seamer, a low-90s two-seamer, a changeup and a slider.

9/5: Eduardo Rodriguez vs. Marco Estrada, 7:10 PM ET

Rodriguez hasn’t really been able to get things going since returning from the disabled list. It’s now been nine starts since he got back, and he’s allowed at least four runs in five of them, including three of his last four. His last two starts in particular have been rough, as he’s allowed ten runs over 11 23 innings. He’s made two appearances against the Blue Jays this year, though one of them came in his lone bullpen appearance of 2017. In his one start he allowed three runs in 5 13 innings with eight strikeouts and four walks.

Estrada has been disappointing in 2017 after being one of the more solid arms in baseball over the previous two years. He’s always walked a fine line as a flyball pitcher in a hitter’s park and he crossed that line this year. His command has taken a slight step back and he’s allowing a few more walks and a few more home runs, and it’s killing his line. The Red Sox have struggled against Estrada, scoring just two runs off him in two starts, though he only has ten strikeouts compared to nine walks. Estrada offers a low-90s fastball and a changeup, with some rare breaking pitches mixed in.

9/6: Doug Fister vs. Joe Biagini, 7:10 PM ET

Fister has been incredible for the Red Sox, and he continued that in his last outing in New York. As has been said many times over the last few weeks, it still feels dangerous every time he goes to the mound, but he’s done everything he possibly can to to put those worries to rest. Fister has made one start against the Blue Jays this year, allowing six runs (two earned) in 4 13 innings. Things have changed since then.

Biagini, if you recall, was one of the key members of the Toronto bullpen in 2016 and he started off in that role this year as well. However, he’s bounced between the rotation and bullpen a bunch this year. His strikeout and walk numbers have actually been better as a starter, but he’s given up a lot more hard contact in the rotation. He’ll be coming off his best start of the season in this one, as his last time out against the Orioles included seven shutout innings with ten strikeouts and one walk. The righty has made four scoreless appearances out of the bullpen against Boston this year, though he allowed seven runs in 5 13 innings in his lone start against the Red Sox. Biagini offers a mid-90s fastball to go with a changeup, curveball and cutter.

Old Friends

Note: The next four sections are largely copied/pasted from last week’s version of this article.

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.

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 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

The first two games of this series should not be in jeopardy as the weather looks sunny and dry. Wednesday’s game seems like it may be an issue, though. There is rain in the forecast that day and right now it doesn’t look like something that will clear up later in the night. There is still plenty of time for the forecast to change, but if this game is rained out the Blue Jays visit Fenway Park one more time in the last week of the season, so a doubleheader could be added to the slate in that series.