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Red Sox at Blue Jays Series Preview

A look ahead to the four-game series north of the border.

Toronto Blue Jays v Boston Red Sox Photo by Kathryn Riley /Getty Images

SB Nation Blog

Bluebird Banter

The Opponent in one sentence

The Blue Jays are starting to get an infusion of young talent but they are still not quite ready to compete and have struggled to score runs this year.



Head-to-Head Record

Red Sox 1, Blue Jays 1


Down. The Blue Jays are coming off a solid series in Chicago in which they split a four-game set against the White Sox, but overall they are struggling lately. Going all the way back to April 30 Toronto is just 5-13.

Pitching Matchups

5/20: David Price vs. Edwin Jackson, 1:07 PM ET

The Red Sox play some afternoon baseball on Monday with it being Victoria Day up in Canada. They’ll be sending former Blue Jays ace David Price out to the mound, too, for his first start since landing on the injured list a couple of weeks ago. There was never any major concern around this injury, but he’s still coming off a couple of weeks not being on the mound and you never know how a pitcher will react to that. Toronto hasn’t been a great lineup this year, but they still have talent on this offense that can punish Price if his command isn’t there. Look for the lefty to hit his spots on Monday as well as how he’s mixing his pitches. He did not pitch when these teams met for a two-game set in April, but Price pitched to a 2.63 ERA over four starts against Toronto last season.

Jackson has been in the news around the baseball world of late after signing with the Blue Jays. When he inked this contract the Blue Jays became the 14th team with which he’s played in his career, the most for any player of all time. The veteran made three starts for Oakland’s Triple-A club before being released and has made one start for Toronto since being signed by the Jays. In that start the righty allowed three runs (two earned) in San Francisco over five innings with two strikeouts and a walk. Jackson made 17 starts last season for the A’s and finished with an impressive 3.33 ERA, but his peripherals suggested he should have been much worse. Boston hasn’t seen Jackson since September of 2016 when he struck out 11 in seven scoreless innings. These days, Jackson features a pair of low-to-mid-90s fastballs along with a cutter and a slider.

5/21: Eduardo Rodriguez vs. Marcus Stroman, 7:07 PM ET

The numbers on the year still look ugly for Rodriguez, who still owns a 4.89 ERA in 2019. He’s clearly been much better of late, though, even despite getting roughed up a bit in his last start against the Rockies. The lefty pitched well for most of that game before being left in an inning too long and loading the bases in the seventh before eventually getting pulled. Results aside, Rodriguez is using all of his pitches well lately including a cutter that he is going to more and more and finding real confidence in. Even more than the pitches, though, it’s the confidence that is most important with Rodriguez. As I say in this space basically every time he pitches, if he attacks with two strikes he’ll be good.

MLB: Colorado Rockies at Boston Red Sox Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

Stroman’s career has been something of a rollercoaster after coming into the league with a fair amount of hype. The former first round pick has been very good this season, though, pitching to a 2.95 ERA over his first ten starts of the year. The righty doesn’t get a ton of strikeouts, though he is up to a career-high 7.9 per nine innings this season. More importantly, he is a ground ball machine which helps limit big damage and this year he’s managed to keep his walk rate down. It is worth noting that, while his FIP is an impressive 2.98 FIP his DRA is up to 4.70, which would be the highest of his career. Last season Stroman pitched to a 2.25 ERA in two starts against the Red Sox. He’ll feature a two-seam in the 93 mph range along with a slider and a cutter.

5/22: TBD vs. TBD, 7:07 PM ET

Okay, so I’m extremely confused about how the Red Sox have their probables listed on their website. If they stuck with their current rotation, and there’s been no indication they’re planning on making changes, this would be Rick Porcello’s start with Hector Velázquez going on Thursday. However, Porcello is listed for Thursday. That leaves two options. One would be that this is a mistake and it will be fixed to show Porcello starting on Wednesday. The other is that Velázquez will be out of the rotation, at least temporarily. It’s worth noting that Mike Shawaryn could be fully rested for this start, though again this is entirely speculation. I’m just super confused.

The Blue Jays also have this slot in the rotation listed as TBD, a trend that is becoming very annoying to me. I wish teams would take my needs into consideration when they list starters as TBD. Anyway, it seems reasonable to assume it’ll be Aaron Sanchez getting this start if he’s healthy, so let’s go with that. The righty is having something of a comeback year for Toronto, though it may not be entirely sustainable. Through his first ten starts of the year he has pitched to a 3.88 ERA and is striking out nearly a batter per inning. That’s all good! However, he’s pairing that with nearly five walks per nine — that’s bad! — as well as six homers in just 51 innings. The big question here is whether or not he’ll even be able to pitch as he was removed from his last outing with a blister. If he doesn’t go, I’m not going to pretend to know who would take his spot.

5/23: Rick Porcello vs. TBD: 12:37 PM ET

Like I said above, I don’t really understand why Porcello is listed for Thursday instead of Wednesday. I have a feeling it will change, but it won’t really change this section of the preview other than the placement. Porcello has been on a roll of late culminating in a very impressive outing last time out against the Astros. He shouldn’t have been left in to face George Springer and allow that homer, but he was outstanding however you want to look at it. Over his last six starts the 2016 Cy Young winner has pitched to a 2.97 ERA while averaging over six innings per start. As long as he’s throwing strikes, he’ll have success.

Again the Blue Jays have their starter listed as TBD. If they stick with their current schedule, it will be left-hander Ryan Feierabend taking the mound. The southpaw first pitched in the majors over a decade ago across three seasons with the Mariners before coming back very briefly in 2014 with the Rangers. Since then he spent four years in Korea before signing a minor-league deal with Toronto this past winter. He made three starts at Triple-A with a sub-3.00 ERA (but much worse peripherals) before being called up for his first major-league appearance of 2019 on May 18. The 33-year-old allow four runs in four innings to the White Sox with two strikeouts and a walk. I have buried the lede here, though, as Feierabend came back to the States as a knuckleballer! A left-handed knuckleballer! He threw the pitch 60 percent of the time in that last start.

Old Friends

Clay Buchholz was one of the most enigmatic pitchers the Red Sox have ever had, becoming (in my opinion) extremely underrated by the end of his run with the organization. As was the case throughout his time in Boston, injuries have kept him off the field often since leaving Boston.

Notable Position Players

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. was the most hyped prospect in quite some time, being dubbed the best hitting prospect since Miguel Cabrera. That’s huge praise even without remembering his father was a no-doubt Hall of Famer. Vladito’s career got off to a bit of a slow start but he’s been scorching of late, showing off his great plate discipline as well as huge power. He’ll be must-watch TV every time he comes up.

Justin Smoak has had something of a strange season, not really hitting for the power we’ve come to expect from him despite the explosion of power around the league. Even with that, he’s been well above-average at the plate largely due to walking more than he strikes out.

Randal Grichuk is going to swing and miss and he’ll walk at an average rate at best, but the big difference-maker with him is what kind of power stroke he has. The righty can make loud contact, though it’s been a bit inconsistent this year.

Rowdy Tellez has been very similar to Grichuk this year, with slightly higher rates all around. He also hits from the left side instead of the right.

Freddy Galvis has slowed down a bit since a hot start to the year but he’s still been shockingly productive, particularly in the power department.

Eric Sogard has emerged as Toronto’s leadoff hitter most days, and he’s also hitting for surprising power while also walking more than he strikes out.

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Chicago White Sox Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

Brandon Drury has had a dreadful season, striking out 33 percent of the time with a five percent walk rate.

Danny Jansen has not lived up to some preseason hype behind the plate this year, walking a decent amount but also striking out a bunch and rarely hitting the ball with authority.

Billy McKinney puts the ball in play a fair amount and has the potential to do so with good contact, but he’s struggled to do so on a consistent basis in 2019.

Bullpen Snapshot

Ken Giles has had a big bounce-back year for the Blue Jays in 2019, showing off some of the potential for which he was known when he first got the Astros. Through his first 20 appearances he is striking out 14 batters per nine while allowing just two walks per nine and he’s allowed just one home run. He’ll be a tough beat in the ninth if it any games this week come down to that.

The Blue Jays don’t have a clear pecking order ahead of Giles in the late-innings, though Sam Gaviglio has been their second-best reliever. He has a 1.76 ERA so far this year, though that is heavily aided by an unsustainable .164 batting average on balls in play.

Tim Mayza is the top lefty in this bullpen, and while he has real control issues he can also miss plenty of bats.


Buchholz, as mentioned above, is hurt right now. He was hoping his shoulder injury was minor, but an MRI revealed a tear and he is going to miss significant time.

Devon Travis has been out all year after undergoing knee surgery in March, and while he’s working his way back there is no timetable for him to get back into action.

Matt Shoemaker was off to a hot start but tore his ACL in April and is going to miss the rest of the year in a brutal break for a pitcher whose dealt with injuries his entire career.

Ryan Borucki has had some issues with his elbow since before the season started, and while he had hoped he’d only miss about a month he was later transferred to the 60-day IL. So, the lefty is now at least another week or two away.

Clayton Richard was potentially set to return this past weekend but was pushed back. Perhaps he’ll take one of the starts currently listed as TBD for this series. He’s been out all year with a knee injury.

David Phelps is on his way back from Tommy John surgery which he underwent last year. Toronto is hoping for a July return from the right-handed reliever.

Dalton Pompey has had multiple concussion issues in his career and he suffered another in spring training. He’s making progress, but as expected the Blue Jays won’t mess around with an injury like this and will take their time working the outfielder back.

Weather Forecast

Weather isn’t much of a concern here since they have the retractable roof in Toronto. It shouldn’t be needed this week, though, as it looks clear for all four games. It’s not exactly going to be blisteringly hot, however.