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Series Preview: Red Sox at Blue Jays

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A look ahead to the upcoming three-game set in Toronto

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Toronto Blue Jays Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

SB Nation Blog

Bluebird Banter

The Opponent in one sentence

The Blue Jays got off to a hot start but they’ve fallen back to Earth a bit due to some poor pitching that has put them out of games too early too often.

Record

20-18

Head-to-Head Record

Red Sox 2, Blue Jays 1

Trend

Down, really no matter the scale you are looking at. The Blue Jays have been on a downward trend since the series right before the last time these two teams played, and they haven’t quite been able to recover. They’ve lost five of their last seven, and if you want to extend it even further they’ve lost 12 of their last 19 dating back to mid-April.

Pitching Matchups

5/11: Chris Sale vs. Aaron Sanchez, 7:07 PM ET

The Red Sox ace is coming off his best start of the year last time out against Texas, and he’ll look to prove it wasn’t about hot weather nor was it about facing a Rangers team that strikes out a ton. He had the most consistent command of his slider that he’s had all year, and if he has that again it won’t matter who he’s playing. The interesting thing will be to see who is behind the plate for the southpaw Friday night. Christian Vazquez has caught him most of the year after Sandy Leon handled the duties last year, but the latter was behind the plate for that Rangers start. Let’s see if they stick with what’s worked.

Two years ago, Sanchez was one of the biggest breakouts in all of baseball after the top prospect looked as if he’d have to convert to relief. He missed most of last season with injury, and looked to come back in 2018 and prove that 2016 was no fluke. It...well, it hasn’t been a great start. Through his first seven starts he has a so-so 4.17 ERA, but the peripherals look worse. He currently owns a 4.87 FIP along with an ugly 7.33 DRA. Sanchez is an extreme groundball arm, but he also loses control at times, so the Red Sox will have to be patient. Boston faced him earlier in the year and scored two runs over six innings while striking out eight time and walking just twice. The righty leans heavily on a mid-90s two-seamer, along with a four-seamer of similar velocity and a changeup.

5/12: David Price vs. Marco Estrada, 4:07 PM ET

This is going to be a fascinating start for Price, who once again finds himself squarely in the middle of an absurd controversy. Last year it was the Eckersley incident, which while not great was blown out of proportion by this media market. This time, it’s carpal tunnel syndrome and everyone is losing their goddamn minds because of video games? Apparently it’s 1999 again, which is neat. Anyway, whatever you think of the injury there’s no denying that Price has been off over his last few outings and they need better from him. Command is key for the lefty, so if he is missing the edges consistently it’s going to be another long day.

Estrada is in the midst of his age-34 season, and it’s beginning to come clear that he is on the back-end of his career. The righty was definitley underrated a few years ago as an extreme flyball pitcher who regularly induced low batting averages on balls in play, but that hasn’t remained the case over the last few years. He’s allowing more homers than ever — nine through his first seven starts — and his strikeouts are way down. That’s what leads to a 5.21 ERA. At the end of April, the Red Sox were able to get to him for five runs over five innings, and there’s no reason they can’t have similar success this time around. Estrada features a low-90s fastball to go with a changeup and a curveball.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at New York Yankees Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

5/13: Drew Pomeranz vs. Marcus Stroman, 1:07 PM ET

Pomeranz is starting to look more and more like his old self as the year goes on, though he’s certainly not all the way there. His last couple starts have been much better than his first couple, but the velocity still isn’t up in the 90s on a consistent basis. Fortunately, his curveball looked great his last time out and that’s what’ll really get him through his outings, along with actually using his cutter. The hope has to be that we see a little more consistent velocity each time out and that he will be back to full-strength soon. This rotation could use the 2017 version of Pomeranz.

Heading into the season, Stroman was viewed as the best pitcher on the Blue Jays and it wasn’t particularly close. The righty is one of the more exciting pitchers when he’s on, but that hasn’t been the case this year. At his best the Blue Jays ace generates a ton of ground balls and misses a fair amount of bats while limiting his walks. This year, the grounders are there and the strikeout rate is solid, but he’s walking way too many batters. As a result, he has an awful 7.71 ERA, and while the peripherals aren’t that bad they still paint him as someone pitching like a mid-4’s ERA pitcher. If the Blue Jays are going to contend, they need Stroman to be better. The righty offers a low-to-mid-90s two-seamer along with a slider and a cutter.

Edit: Marcus Stroman was placed on the disabled list after this published. There is no word on who is replacing him, but my guess would be Joe Biagini.

Old Friends

None. Stupid Blue Jays

Notable Position Players

Josh Donaldson was injured the first time these two teams squared off, but he’s back in the middle of Toronto’s lineup. He hasn’t totally gotten it going with a strikeout rate higher than we’re used to and some bad batted ball luck, but he’s still one of the very best third basemen in the league and figures to be a major problem for the Red Sox all weekend long.

Justin Smoak has been a little disappointing for the Blue Jays after a breakout 2017. The first baseman has still been better than average thanks to strong on-base skills, but his power has fallen off tremendously. I’d still expect it to return.

Teoscar Hernandez has been a somewhat surprisingly big part of the Blue Jays lineup with big power from the right side of the plate.

Yangervis Solarte had been terrific in a super utility role this season, showing off tremendous plate discipline to go with big-time power.

Curtis Granderson got off to a scorching start and though much of his success is still built off BABIP he’s also walking a ton and hitting for power.

MLB: Seattle Mariners at Toronto Blue Jays Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

Kevin Pillar is off to a big start thanks to a high BABIP and shocking power, but his best quality will always be his glove in center field.

Russell Martin is pretty much home run, walk or bust at this point of his career.

Kendrys Morales has been perhaps the worst-hitting regular in baseball this year, which isn’t great considering he’s a designated hitter.

Lourdes Gurriel was just recently called up to take over at second base, but the early returns haven’t been great for Yuli Gurriel’s younger brother.

Bullpen Snapshot

Tyler Clippard just recently took over as Toronto’s closer for reasons we’ll get to soon. The righty has been much better this year than he’d been recently, but much of that is due to a low BABIP.

Ryan Tepera and Seung-hwan Oh have been effective set-up men from the right side all year. They aren’t totally unbeatable, but they’ll get the job done more often than not.

Aaron Loup is the top lefty in Toronto’s ‘pen, and he’s another solid yet unspectacular middle relief arm.

Injuries

Roberto Osuna is one of the best closers in baseball, but he won’t be pitching for awhile. It’s not an injury, but Osuna was arrested earlier this week for assaulting a woman, and he will wait indefinitely to hear from MLB.

Steve Pearce is out with an oblique injury. It doesn’t seem too serious, but it’s unclear if he’ll be able to return for this series.

Troy Tulowitzki is on the 60-day DL with a foot injury and it’s still not clear when he’ll return.

Aledmys Diaz had been filling in for Tulowitzki, but he’s now on the disabled list with an ankle sprain.

Randal Grichuk was starting in the outfield most nights until he went fown with a knee injury. He should be ready for a rehab stint soon.

Thomas Pannone is out for 80 games after failing a PED test.

Weather Forecast

The Blue Jays have a roof, so any weather issues can be counteracted.