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Series Preview: Red Sox vs. Blue Jays

A look ahead to this week’s series against Toronto

Boston Red Sox v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

SB Nation Blog

Bluebird Banter

The Opponent in one sentence

The Blue Jays have been reeling in the month of May and after sticking around the standings in April they have fallen out of the American League East race very early.

Record

25-28

Head-to-Head Record

Red Sox 4, Blue Jays 2

Trend

Down. They’ve actually been treading water over their last two series, winning three of their last six including taking two of three against the Phillies over the weekend. However, immediately preceding this six-game stretch brought a five-game losing streak for Toronto, so it’s been more bad than good.

Pitching Matchups

5/28: David Price vs. Aaron Sanchez, 1:05 PM ET

The Red Sox have gotten a couple of bad starts in a row, and they could really use a big one from Price on Monday. The bad news is he’s been a little too inconsistent all year to really have strong expectations either way. The good news is he’s been nails for his last two outings, and he even showed off his changeup a bit more the last time out. His command is the most important thing, and it’s been phenomenal of late. When it’s working at its absolute best, he can live with his fastball/cutter combo. Still, he’s obviously better when he has at least one of his changeup and curveball going too. The command is the biggest thing to watch, but be on the look out for some offspeed.

Sanchez looks like he should be one of the best starters in the year, and is one of the guys who you would think is elite if we didn’t have any numbers. His stuff is nasty and he had a huge breakout year a couple seasons ago, but he has been mostly “blah” this year. Through ten starts in 2018 he has pitched to a 4.07 ERA, though his peripherals are not great. He’s striking out just 6.8 batters per nine while walking a whopping five per nine, leading to a 4.93 FIP and a 7.72 DRA. He did throw five shutout innings his last time out, but he walked five and struck out only two. Sanchez has been pretty solid in two starts against the Red Sox this year, allowing five runs (four earned) in 11 innings with 12 strikeouts and five walks. The righty throws both a four-seam and two-seam fastball, both in the mid-90s, along with a changeup.

5/29: Rick Porcello vs. Marco Estrada, 7:10 PM ET

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Boston Red Sox v Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

While Price has been trending in the right direction, Porcello has been going downhill of late. The righty started off his season looking like his Cy Young winning self, painting the edges of the strike zone on a consistent basis. Lately, though, he’s been uncharacteristically wild and just generally ineffective. Porcello has allowed at least five runs in three of his last four outings. In his only start against the Blue Jays this season he allowed three runs in seven innings with nine strikeouts and three walks.

Estrada is on the back nine of his career after an underrated stretch with the Blue Jays. It’s been a rough year for the flyball-oriented righty, as he’s pitched to a 5.40 ERA over his first ten starts of the year, and his 5.44 FIP and 7.66 DRA don’t suggest he’s been better than the ERA indicates. Home runs have been the biggest issue for Estrada as he’s already allowed 12 on the season. The Red Sox have seen Estrada twice this season, scoring nine runs in 11 innings with ten strikeouts, two walks and two strikeouts.

5/30: Eduardo Rodriguez vs. Sam Gaviglio, 1:05 PM ET

Rodriguez certainly isn’t All The Way There, or whatever you want to call it, but he’s been looking much better of later. At least, he’s been keeping the Red Sox in all of his games as the lefty hasn’t allowed more than three runs in any of his last four starts, and he’s got a couple of outings with zero runs allowed mixed in there. The issue, as it’s always been, is efficiency. Rodriguez has a tendency to nibble around the edge of his zone rather than trusting his stuff, and it works his pitch counts and forces too many early exits. If we can get a version of Rodriguez that both trusts his secondaries and will challenge hitters even when up early in a count, there’s something special here. In the meantime, more often than not he’ll keep his team within striking distance at the very least.

Giviglio has been an up-and-down journeyman over the last few years, but he’s been pretty impressive between Triple-A and the majors this season. The righty has made four appearance (two of which have been starts) and he’s pitched to a 2.30 ERA in 15 23 innings with 18 strikeouts and four walks. He also pitched to a 1.86 ERA with 29 strikeouts and four walks in 29 innings. He has had some trouble with the long ball, though, so look for the Red Sox to take advantage of that.

Old Friends

None. Stupid Blue Jays.

Notable Position Players

Josh Donaldson is still one of the very best third basemen in all of baseball and has the capability of taking over any given series. That being said, he’s going through a down year to this point. He’s missed time due to injury, and when he’s been on the field he’s striking out more often than usual and not hitting for the same kind of power.

Yangervis Solarte has been great for the Blue Jays this season, making a ton of contact and hitting for way more power than anyone could have expected.

Justin Smoak got off to a slow start but he’s been turning it on of late and it’s looking less and less like 2017 was a fluke with each passing day.

Kevin Pillar remains one best defensive outfielders in the game, and he’s been better than ever at the plate.

Teoscar Hernandez has been a surprisingly big part of Toronto’s lineup as the young outfielder has shown off huge power in the middle of the order.

Russell Martin has had a weird season. He’s not the hitter he once was and is no longer and everyday catcher, but they are now giving him infield time including a recent start at shortstop. I don’t know either.

Curtis Granderson was on fire to start this season, and while he’s not quite as hot right now he’s still putting up good numbers thanks to a high walk rate and high batting average on balls in play.

Kendrys Morales has been horribly disappointing as a designated hitter who has been bad at every aspect of hitting.

Vlad Guerrero Jr. is the best minor-league player in baseball but is not yet in the majors for.....reasons.

Bullpen Snapshot

Tyler Clippard, Ryan Tepera, Seung-hwan Oh are splitting the closer duties and just late-inning duties in general from the right side as Roberto Osuna is going to be missing games for the foreseeable future.

Aaron Loup is the best left-handed reliever in this bullpen and has been an effective LOOGY over the course of his career.

Injuries

Roberto Osuna was arrested in early May for assaulting a woman and has been held out by the league since that point. It would be surprising to see him back on the mound any time soon, if at all this season.

Marcus Stroman has missed the last couple of weeks with a shoulder injury, and he’s probably at least a couple more weeks away from returning.

Troy Tulowitzki has been out all year after undergoing surgery on his heels, and while he’s running again it’ll be a while before he returns.

Steve Pearce went down with an oblique injury in early May and it’s still not clear when the platoon outfielder will return.

Randal Grichuk sprained his PCL in late April but he’s back in rehab games right now. He could be back soon.

Aledmys Diaz was supposed to play shortstop in Tulowitzki’s absence but he’s been out since early May with an ankle injury. He’s expected to start a rehab assignment soon.

Thomas Pannone was suspended for 80 games due to a failed PED test prior to the season.

Weather Forecast

There’s not much danger in any games being delayed or cancelled in this series, though Monday’s game is going to be kind of a drag. There is a slight chance of rain but even if it doesn’t it’s expected to be cool and cloudy all afternoon. Tuesday and Wednesday look great, though.