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Red Sox vs. Blue Jays Series Preview

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A look at the upcoming four-game set at Fenway.

Boston Red Sox v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

SB Nation Blog

Bluebird Banter

The Opponent in one sentence

The Blue Jays, who the Red Sox have seen an awful lot of late, are one of the worst teams in baseball whose bright future has not quite arrived just yet.

Record

35-59

Head-to-Head Record

Red Sox 7, Blue Jays 5

Trend

Down. The Blue Jays have really been trending in the wrong direction all year, and that is the case right now as well. Toronto lost two of three in their first series of the year against the Yankees, though obviously that was a tough opponent. They also struggled heading into the break, losing four of six including two of three from the Red Sox a couple weeks ago.

Pitching Matchups

7/15: Rick Porcello vs. Trent Thornton, 7:10 PM ET

It’s hard to overstate just how important this second half is for Rick Porcello, both in terms of its importance to the team’s success and his own personal goals. For the Red Sox, they need the rotation to carry a large portion of the load going forward if they are going to get into the postseason. Porcello has been the worst pitcher in this rotation and one of the worst in all of baseball, but we know he can be much better. Granted, he’s (probably) never going to win the Cy Young again, but he’s better than what he’s shown in 2019. He’s also a free agent after this season, and he’s going to make or lose himself a whole lot of money based on his performance over the next couple of months. Porcello has seen Toronto twice this year, going six innings in both starts but allowing just one run in the first before allowing five runs in the latest.

New York Yankees v Boston Red Sox Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

The Red Sox are becoming awfully familiar with this Blue Jays rookie over the last month or so. Thornton had been solid to start this year, but he was hitting a real rough patch prior to the break. That said, he did finish the first half with a bang, tossing six shutout innings against the Orioles in his final start before the All-Star break. Overall, though, Thornton has pitched to a 4.85 ERA with a 4.38 FIP and a 7.00 DRA on the year. He has struck out plenty of batters, but he’s giving up a lot of hard contact when he’s not missing bats and his walk rate is a bit higher than you’d like to see. Bostons struggled against the righty in late June, scoring just two runs over 6 13 innings. Earlier in July, though, they got Thornton for seven runs in just 2 23 innings. The rookie will feature a fastball that sits in the 93-95 range along with a slider, a cutter and a curveball.

7/16: Andrew Cashner vs. TBD, 7:10 PM ET

Tuesday is a relatively big day for the Red Sox as it will mark the debut of new acquisition Andrew Cashner. Obviously, he’s not quite a new face for most fans as he’s spent the couple years in the division with the Orioles. The righty has been roughly league-average on the whole this year, but he’s been even better than that of late. He was on a legitimate hot streak prior to the All-Star break leading back to the start of June. Cashner had allowed two or fewer earned runs over his previous five starts and tossed at least six innings in all of them. In total, he pitched to a 1.41 ERA over those 32 innings with an 18/4 K/BB ratio. He’s faced the Blue Jays once this year way back on April 2, pitching six scoreless innings.

It’s not clear who will make this start for the Blue Jays.

7/17: Eduardo Rodriguez vs. Aaron Sanchez, 7:10 PM ET

Rodriguez hasn’t been quite as bad as Porcello this year, but he’s been nearly as frustrating because of the wild inconsistencies. That has been the case over the course of his career, of course, but as a 26-year-old in his fifth year it is starting ( if we want to be generous) to be unacceptable. The good news is that he’s on a bit of a hot streak, having allowed two or fewer runs in each of his last three starts. He went seven innings his last time out, too, and could have went deep in his start before that had the game not been delayed by rain. Of course, it seems like every time we start to feel good about what we’re seeing from the lefty he comes back with a five-run start. That’s pretty much what happened in his one previous start against the Blue Jays this year when he allowed six runs over five innings back in May.

Speaking of frustrating 26-year-old pitchers, Sanchez is having a truly terrible season for the Blue Jays in 2019. It was only a few years ago when the righty appeared to be one of the better up-and-coming arms in baseball, but the last two years have made that narrative totally disappear. Sanchez has made 20 starts this year and has been well below-average with an ERA over 6.00 and peripherals to match. He’s getting ground balls, but doesn’t get a whole lot of whiffs and has horrible control issues. The Red Sox have seen Sanchez twice this year, scoring three earned runs (six total) over eleven innings with ten strikeouts and six walks. The righty will feature a pair of mid-90s fastball along with a curveball and a changeup.

7/18: Chris Sale vs. TBD, 1:05 PM ET

I’m not sure what there is to say about Sale that hasn’t already been said. The Red Sox ace has been anything but this year and is in a terrible stretch right now in particular. None of his pitches are working quite like they should, but it’s the fastball in particular that is standing out to me. He’s still getting some whiffs on the offering, but he’s also allowing a ton of hard contact on the pitch. One would think a game against the Blue Jays would be what he needs to get back on track, but that certainly hasn’t been the case in 2019. Sale has faced Toronto three times this year, allowing a total of 14 runs (13 earned) over 14 23 innings (8.59 ERA). In his last start against the Blue Jays just a couple weeks ago he allowed three homers.

As with Tuesday’s game, it is not yet clear who will start this game for Toronto.

Old Friends

Clay Buchholz signed with the Blue Jays this past winter but has made only five starts before hitting the injured list.

Notable Position Players

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. took the world by storm last week at the Home Run Derby, putting on a show for the ages. In actual games, though, the former top prospect has yet to find his footing. He’s been a bit below-average at the plate this year with good plate discipline but without the consistently hard contact we all expect.

Lourdes Gurriel Jr. has, somewhat quietly, been phenomenal this year. He can play a few different spots around the diamond and at the plate he has made up for below-average plate discipline with huge power and consistently hard contact.

Cavan Biggio has slowed down a bit since he was first called up, particularly in the power department, but he has a solid baseline due to his ability to draw walks.

Freddy Galvis is also slowing down a bit, but he’s still been a league-average power thanks to, again, good contact making up for poor strikeout and walk numbers.

Justin Smoak isn’t hitting for as much power as we’re used to from him and is getting killed by the BABIP gods to produce a just-barely above-average season at the plate.

Randal Grichuk is always a threat to run into one and go deep, but his inability to make consistent contact holds him back on a regular basis.

Danny Jansen buried himself with a brutal start at the plate but the Blue Jays catcher has turned it on as the year has gone on.

Boston Red Sox v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

Eric Sogard has had a shockingly strong season at the top of Toronto’s lineup, making contact, drawing walks and hitting for above-average power.

Teoscar Hernandez is, and I say this for every Blue Jays series preview, a slightly worse version of Grichuk.

Bullpen Snapshot

Ken Giles is going to be one of the most talented relievers available at this trade deadline, and arguably the most talented. The Blue Jays closer has had a huge 2019, but he is dealing with an injury after a bad massage. Yes, you read that right.

Daniel Hudson is another potential trade target from this Blue Jays bullpen, though his good ERA is likely to come down at some point if he can’t figure out the command issues that have plagued him this year.

Joe Biagini has always shown flashes in relief but ultimately just doesn’t have the stuff to get by with his command issues in a high-leverage role.

Tim Mayza is the top lefty in this bullpen and while he gets a bunch of strikeouts he shoots himself in the foot by allowing over five walks per nine innings.

Injuries

Buchholz, as mentioned above, is on the IL. He has a major shoulder strain and will likely be out for at least another month and potentially longer.

Ryan Borucki has missed the entire season to this point with an elbow injury, but he could be back in the Blue Jays rotation within a few weeks.

Devon Travis underwent preseason knee surgery, but there’s still no timetable on his return.

Ryan Tepera has been out since May with an elbow injury and will be out until at least August.

Dalton Pompey has been out all year with a concussion and given his issues with head injuries throughout his career the Blue Jays are being understandably cautious.

Edwin Jackson hit the injured list with a back injury earlier this week.

Matt Shoemaker got off to a hot start this year before tearing his ACL. He’ll miss the rest of 2019.

Evlis Luciano, the first major leaguer born in the 2000’s, will be out until at least August with an elbow injury

Weather Forecast

The first two games should be able to be played without any issue, but we may not be so lucky for the second half of this series. There are thunderstorms in the forecast for Wednesday evening and then more Thursday afternoon from Hurricane Barry.