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Series Preview: Red Sox vs. Blue Jays

Looking ahead to the three-game set against the Blue Jays

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 have a bright future (that they are inexplicably keeping in the minors) but for now they are suffering through a terrible season due to average-at-times offense and poor pitching.



Head-to-Head Record

Red Sox 12, Blue Jays 4


Down, sort of. The Blue Jays certainly aren’t playing well right now, but it’s not too difficult to see things going worse for them. They are coming off a split with Cleveland, which given the talent on the other side is a win for them. Prior to that they lost two of three to the Rays, but everyone is losing two of three to the Rays. Still, though they are .500 over their last ten that stretch was immediately preceded by the team losing four in a row.

Pitching Matchups

9/11: Chris Sale vs. Ryan Borucki, 7:10 PM ET

Tuesday is the first Sale Day in quite some time, though it’s not going to be a real Sale Day. The Red Sox ace makes his return from the disabled list for the first game of this series, but the team is going to ease him back into action and he’ll serve as an opener for this game. The plan is for him to toss two innings before giving way to Nathan Eovaldi, who gets some practice coming on in the middle of a game. The plan, of course, is for Eovaldi to transition to relief for the postseason, though he’ll go back to a traditional starting role after this game. I’m not really sure how I feel about this plan for Sale, as they are looking to increase his workload by an inning every time out. What thing I am sure about: It’ll be fun to see him back out on the mound again. Sale has made two starts against Toronto this year, allowing six runs over 15 innings of work (3.60 ERA) with 19 strikeouts and two walks. (I should note that 15 of those strikeouts were in one outing.)

Borucki is an interesting young pitcher in this Blue Jays rotation, currently in the midst of his first major-league season after coming up about midway through the year. The 24-year-old lefty got off to a hot start, but he’s slowed down considerably since then. Overall he’s tossed 69 23 innings over 13 starts and has pitched to a slightly below-average 4.39 ERA with a 3.91 FIP and a 5.05 DRA. He’s done a good job keeping the ball in the yard, which is why his FIP is so solid relative to the other metrics, but his control is merely fine and he hasn’t been able to miss bats. As I said, Borucki has slowed down of late, pitching to a 7.76 ERA over his last six outings. This will be the third time the Red Sox have seen the southpaw, and they’ve had success with 11 runs (eight earned) in just eight innings with seven strikeouts and seven walks. Borucki will feature a low-to-mid-90s fastball with a changeup and a slider.

MLB: Houston Astros at Boston Red Sox Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

9/12: David Price vs. Aaron Sanchez, 7:10 PM ET

In Sale’s absence, the Red Sox rotation hasn’t been quite the same, but they have had a frontline starter on which to fall back in Price. The lefty has been absolutely incredible for most of the season, but in particular since Sale went on the disabled list. He’s done well against good and bad teams alike and the lefty is showing off the kind of impressive command that he needs in this next stage of his career. When he’s hitting the corners, particularly the glove-side corner with his cutter, and getting called strikes, he’s dominant. Price has pitched to a 1.78 ERA over his last eight starts with 53 strikeouts and nine walks in 50 23 innings. The lefty has a 3.71 ERA in three starts and 17 innings against Toronto this year with 18 strikeouts and seven walks.

It was only two years ago that Sanchez, as a 23-year-old, was looking like one of the best young pitchers in the game and Toronto looked poise to ride him and Marcus Stroman to a long run of success. Then, the righty spent most of last season on the disabled list and in 2018 he’s been hurt some of the time and bad the rest of the time. Coming up through the minors, control was always pointed to as his potential Achilles’ heel and that has proven true this season. He’s walking five batters per nine innings en route to a 5.17 ERA, 4.75 FIP and 5.96 DRA. He’s getting ground balls like he always has, but it hasn’t helped limit the damage. The Red Sox have seen Sanchez three times this year already, scoring 12 runs (11 earned) over 16 innings with 16 strikeouts and six walks. The righty will feature a pair of mid-90s fastballs along with a changeup and a curveball.

9/13: Eduardo Rodriguez vs. Sam Gaviglio

If you’re looking for an X-Factor in the Red Sox playoff rotation, look no further than Rodriguez. We know what kind of talent the young lefty has, and we’ve seen it a lot this season. However, we’ve also seen the downsides and how things go when he’s not willing to use all of his pitches. After spending a chunk of the year on the disabled list, he’s made two starts with one being great and the other being, well, not great. Look for how well he’s hitting his spots early in the game along with the pitches on which he’s leaning. If he’s mixing things up and hitting the glove, it should be a good start. If not, well, the back two starters in the postseason could be something to worry about. In his previous three starts against Toronto this year, Rodriguez has allowed five runs over 18 23 innings with 15 strikeout and two walks.

Gaviglio has been around the majors for a few years now, but this is the most work he’s ever gotten. He’s had some good moments in 2018, but by and large things haven’t been positive. Over 22 outings (20 of which were starts) this season, the righty has a 5.25 ERA to go with a 4.72 FIP and a 4.85 DRA. The advanced statistics suggest a bit of a bad luck, but it’s still not great whichever way you slice it. Gaviglio will miss some bats and rack up some strikeouts and his control is fine, but when the ball is put in play against him it is often done so with authority. He’s allowed at least one long ball in six of his last seven outings and is averaging 1.6 homers per nine innings on the season. He’s been struggling in general of late, too, pitching to a 6.75 ERA over his last four starts with at least four runs allowed in three of those four, with two not making it through five innings. The Red Sox have seen him four times this year, though two of them were for his two relief appearances in 2018. Overall they have scored six runs in 13 23 innings with 12 strikeouts and two walks.

Old Friends


Notable Position Players

Justin Smoak is the most intimidating hitter in this Blue Jays lineup, but he’s been more good than great in the second half. He’s striking out a bit too much, but he does pair that with plenty of walks and a swing that is a threat to launch one out of the park every time up.

Lourdes Gurriel is a really exciting young player and the younger brother of Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel. The Blue Jays infielder doesn’t have a ton of power, but he’ll put the ball in play and has the bat-to-ball skills and athleticism to make the most of that style. He’s fun to watch.

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Toronto Blue Jays Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Randal Grichuk has been on a roll in the second half, and while he’s still not walking he’s cut his strikeout rate to just a little above average and is hitting for big-time power since the break.

Kendrys Morales has been much better in the second half, hitting for the power he used to while also showing off great plate discipline. If he doesn’t walk or hit a homer, though, it’s hard for him to do a ton of damage with his lack of speed.

Kevin Pillar is essentially a defensive specialist at this point, as he never draws walks and while he puts the ball in play a bunch he rarely does much damage with it.

Teoscar Hernandez has a ton of swing and miss in his game and that has only gotten worse as the year’s gone on, but when he makes contact it can go a long way.

Aledmys Diaz has looked really good in the second half thanks to surprising pop and an ability to put the ball in play to counteract his lack of walks.

Devon Travis has always shown flashes in his career but he still can’t put it together consistently and is in the midst of a rough second half.

Bullpen Snapshot

Ken Giles has the potential to be a great back-end arm for the Blue Jays, but he was in a bad way when he came over from Houston. He’s striking out a batter per inning and his walk rate isn’t bad with Toronto, but despite a high ground ball rate he’s still allowing a ton of homers. He’s prone to implosions and has a wide range of possibilities.

Ryan Tepera and Tyler Clippard form the set-up crew in front of Giles in that bullpen, and both righties had home run issues this season. Clippard does get more strikeouts and fewer walks, but his more extreme flyball tendencies make him more boom-or-bust.

Tim Mayza has been the top lefty in the Blue Jays bullpen and he does get some strikeouts but also struggles with rough bouts of control.

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays-Workouts Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports


Troy Tulowitzki has had another season decimated by injury, this time his heel, and his focus is on getting back to the field for the 2019 season.

Brandon Drury came over from the Yankees in the J.A. Happ deal, but he fractured his hand shortly after that deal. Things are progressing well but he may run out of time before he can return to the field this year.

Joe Biagini has been shut down with an oblique injury and the swingman probably won’t be returning this season.

Rhiner Cruz went down with a groin injury in July and hasn’t been able to pitch since.

Weather Forecast

As we start to get into Fall (thankfully) the weather isn’t looking great this week in Boston. There are thunderstorms and showers in the area for the first two games, but it looks like they should be able to work around that and get all three of these games off without a cancellation.