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Series Preview: Red Sox vs. Blue Jays

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A look ahead to a three-game set in 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 struggled mightily on both sides of the ball after a hot start to the year and they don’t expect to get much better down the stretch after selling a couple key pieces at the trade deadline.

Record

51-60

Head-to-Head Record

Red Sox 10, Blue Jays 3

Trend

The Blue Jays are actually playing pretty solid baseball, completely contradicting what I said about things probably not getting better. They are fresh off taking three of four from a struggling Mariners team in Seattle, and before getting swept in Oakland they took two of three from the White Sox. Overall, since the All-Star break this Toronto team is 8-8 since the All-Star break.

Pitching Matchups

8/7: Drew Pomeranz vs. Marcus Stroman, 7:00 PM ET

Pomeranz is getting another start for this Red Sox team on Tuesday, and I’m going to go out on a limb and say that many fans probably aren’t super psyched about it. To be fair to the lefty, he did have solid results last time out against the Phillies, allowing just two runs over five innings of work. Of course, even as he limited the damage it was hard to be too confident moving forward. He was still mostly sitting in the mid-to-high 80s with his fastball, and if he doesn’t have impeccable command he can and will get crushed. The good news is his curveball was impressive his last time out. I still don’t see Pomeranz being a major factor down the stretch, but the team keeps giving him chances so they must think there’s at least an outside shot. In one previous start against Toronto earlier this year the lefty allowed three runs over four innings of work.

Philadelphia Phillies v Boston Red Sox Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

It’s been a tough year for Stroman, who at times in his career has looked like one of the more exciting young pitchers in the American League. He’s spent some time on the disabled list early in the summer, and when he’s been healthy the results haven’t been great. Over his first 15 starts of the year the righty has pitched to a 5.63 ERA. That being said, his peripherals look better than that, and really put him somewhere in the middle of this year’s bad ERA and last year’s impressive 3.09 mark. Stroman doesn’t have huge strikeout tendencies, but at his best he can keep the ball in the strike zone and gets a ton of ground balls. He just hasn’t been at his best on a consistent basis this year. The Red Sox have faced Stroman once this year, scoring four runs (three earned) over five innings. He’ll feature a low-to-mid 90s sinker along with a slider and a cutter.

8/8: Brian Johnson vs. Mike Hauschild, 7:05 PM ET

Johnson continues to be a solid, though unspectacular, member of this Red Sox team and he has filled in admirably in the rotation. The best version of this Red Sox team still doesn’t feature him in the rotation, but they need him right now and he’s stepped up. Despite largely unimpressive stuff, Johnson has gotten good results and now boasts a 2.57 ERA as a starter in 2018. His last outing wasn’t great in terms of runs, but he still made it through five innings and somehow struck out eleven batters. He’s struggled against the Blue Jays this year, with one solid start in which he allowed two runs in 4 23 innings but two relief appearances, both of which included two runs and no outs.

Hauschild is a new face for the Blue Jays, having recently been signed after being released from the Astros earlier in the summer. The righty has only pitched once for Toronto this year, tossing six innings out of the bullpen — the Blue Jays used an “opener” in that game — and not allowing a run. In 19 starts with the Astros Triple-A club, he pitched to a 4.88 ERA with a solid strikeout rate and a little worse-than-average walk rate. The 28-year-old has mostly bounced around Triple-A stops, but he does have a little major-league experience with the Rangers in 2017 as well. He throws a low-90s sinker along with a slider and a changeup.

8/9: Rick Porcello vs. Ryan Borucki, 7:05 PM ET

After some ups and downs throughout the summer, Porcello seems to be settling into a groove of late. His last start in particular was amazing when he allowed one run over a complete game on just 86 pitched against the Yankees. He also tossed six shutout innings against the Orioles not long before that. With David Price in a groove and Chris Sale being Chris Sale, adding something close to the 2016 version of Porcello to the rotation would be huge in terms of putting this group over the top. It’s too early to say he’s back to that form, but the signs are trending in the right direction. Porcello has made three starts against the Blue Jays this year, with two of them being good-to-very-good and the most recent being an absolute disaster.

Borucki is another inexperienced pitcher making a start for the Blue Jays this week, though he is both better and has more experience than Hauschild. The lefty has impressed in the first seven starts of his major-league career, pitching to a 2.30 ERA with a 2.56 FIP to match. That last number is a bit misleading, however, as he has yet to allow a home run. He does keep the ball on the ground about half the time, which would help keep that home run rate down, but he doesn’t miss enough bats to believe this ERA is indicative of his talent. That being said, he’s held the Astros, Yankees and Mariners to two or fewer runs over at least six innings this year, so he can handle good lineups. In fact, the Red Sox are the only team to get to Borucki this year, scoring seven runs (four earned) over just three innings against the lefty in July. The southpaw will feature a low-90s fastball with a changeup and a slider.

Old Friends

None.

Notable Position Players

Justin Smoak is the guy the Red Sox will fear the most in the Blue Jays lineup this week. The switch-hitting first baseman got off to a slow start, but he’s recovered and then some. He’ll strike out a bit but also provides big power and draws a ton of walks in the middle of this lineup.

Toronto Blue Jays v Boston Red Sox Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Teoscar Hernandez does not have the plate discipline of Smoak, but he is also someone to be wary of simply because of his ability to hit for power. He’ll be a threat to go deep every time he comes to the plate, and he’s tied with Manny Machado for 21st on the Isolated Power leaderboard this year.

Yangervis Solarte somewhat surprisingly wasn’t traded before the deadline, and though he’s struggled this year much of that is due to some really bad luck on balls in play.

Kendrys Morales has been a disappointment this year, and while he’s been slightly above-average at the plate that’s not really what you’re looking for from a DH-only player.

Randal Grichuk has also been a bit of a disappointment after coming over from the Cardinals this past winter. He has big power, but also bad plate discipline.

Brandon Drury was part of the J.A. Happ deal with the Yankees, and while he’s had a rough start to his Toronto career it’s also been only eight games.

Kevin Pillar is not a good hitter and rarely hits the ball with authority, but he puts the ball in play and more importantly plays stellar defense in center field.

Russell Martin remains a shell of his former self, getting most of his value these days from an ability to draw walks.

Aledmys Diaz has been solid when healthy this year, and he’s be downright outstanding if he could get his BABIP up.

Bullpen Snapshot

Ken Giles was the biggest part of the return in the Roberto Osuna trade, and while he’s not officially the Blue Jays closer he is the favorite going forward. The former Astro and Phillie has the stuff to be a top-ten reliever at his best, but he’s been maddeningly inconsistent over his career.

Tyler Clippard and Ryan Tepera are the other righties in the late-inning situations and are also possibilities to appear in save situations. They don’t have the upside of someone like Giles, but Clippard goes on strong runs and Tepera has been solidly consistent for a few years now.

Jaime Garcia is the lone lefty in the Blue Jays bullpen after he’s converted from the rotation over the last few weeks. His last outing was a disaster, but before that he was solid in his new role.

Injuries

Josh Donaldson was supposed to be the biggest trade chip for Toronto this year, but he just hasn’t been able to get healthy. They are hoping their star third baseman will be back from his leg injury at some point this month.

Aaron Sanchez, meanwhile, was supposed to be their best starting pitcher but he’s been out since June with a finger injury. There’s no exact timetable for his return, though they are hoping to start a rehab assignment soon.

Troy Tulowitzki hasn’t played a game in about a year, and there’s still no timetable on when he could return from his foot injury.

Lourdes Gurriel was red-hot before getting hurt, posting multiple hits in 11 straight games. a foot/ankle injury put him on the DL, though, and they still aren’t really sure just how severe the injury is.

Rhiner Cruz is on the 60-day disabled list with a calf injury.

Weather Forecast

Weather isn’t super important in Toronto since the Blue Jays have a retractable roof that should prevent any delays and/or cancellations. That could come in handy as the humidity plaguing the East Coast (seriously, I’m dying) could lead to some thunderstorms north of the border this week.