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Red Sox at Blue Jays Series Preview

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A trip up to Buffalo

Tampa Bay Rays v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images

SB Nation Blog

Bluebird Banter

The opponent in one sentence

The Blue Jays are currently in the last playoff position in the American League, though somewhat surprisingly they are doing it with slightly better pitching than hitting.

Record

14-13

Head-to-head record

Red Sox 2, Blue Jays 1

Trend

Up. Despite having lost Bo Bichette, their best player, the Blue Jays are winning some baseball games of late, including on Monday to salvage a split against the Rays. In total, they’ve won nine of their last 11 which includes a pair of back-to-back sweeps of the Orioles and Phillies.

Pitching Matchups

8/25: Kyle Hart vs. Chase Anderson, 6:37 PM ET

Hart is set to make his third start of his career on Tuesday, and perhaps he’ll be a bit more comfortable because it’ll be in a Triple-A stadium? The lefty simply hasn’t gotten it done in his first two chances, and while the Red Sox have every incentive to keep giving him more shots at turning it around, at a certain point you’re just causing him to lose confidence for the future. To be clear, we’re not there yet, but it’s something to consider as the season goes on. His big issue is that his stuff just is too easy to hit, and if he doesn’t locate he’ll get crushed. And he hasn’t located, which has led to that crushing but also a ton of walks. To with, he’s walked a whopping 20 percent of the batters he’s faced this year. He has to throw more strikes, but it’s hard to feel good about that, either.

Philadelphia Phillies v Boston Red Sox Photo by Kathryn Riley/Getty Images

Anderson was one of the new additions to this roster made over the offseason, but he got off to a late start this year due to an oblique issue. He’s come back for three starts so far, including his first against the Red Sox early this month, but he’s not fully stretched out yet. Over his three starts so far this year he has yet to make it through four full innings. He has been good when he has pitched, though, with the righty pitching to a 2.79 ERA over 9 23 innings, though he’s done so with fewer strikeouts than his last few seasons. Anderson is an extreme fly ball pitcher, so look for the Red Sox to try and launch some balls out of Buffalo’s park on Tuesday. He will feature a fastball that sits around 93, along with a changeup, a cutter and a curveball.

8/26: Nathan Eovaldi vs. TBD, 6:37 PM ET

The Red Sox came into this shortened 2020 season with Nathan Eovaldi as the most important player on the roster. As things have turned out, no one player would change anything with this team, but Eovaldi hasn’t exactly pitched to the level we’d hoped. Granted, a big reason his ERA is almost 5.00 is because of one terrible outing in which he allowed eight runs in 5 13 innings, but just generally he’s giving up some homers and hard contact. More positively, he is striking batters out and limiting walks, and he’s also coming off his best start of the season by Game Score. This will be his second start of the season against the Jays, having struck out ten with no walks while allowing three runs in six innings in the previous matchup.

The Blue Jays have watched their rotation get decimated by injury of late, and thus they have no announced starter as of now. I literally have no idea what they’re planning. Anthony Kay could be an option, though he pitched out of the bullpen on Sunday. I think it’s most likely that they’ll just go with a bullpen game, but again, who knows.

8/27: TBD vs. TBD, 6:37 PM ET

Speaking of bullpen games, we get another one from the Red Sox for this series finale. Well, most likely. Maybe they’ll surprise us with a call-up, but there’s no reason to believe that will be the case. Instead, it’s most likely Colten Brewer for three or four innings then closing your eyes and hoping for the best.

Technically, this is another TBD for the Blue Jays according to their website as of this writing Monday night, but presumably it will go to staff ace Hyun-Jin Ryu. The big addition to the roster over the winter, he has been predictably fantastic atop this rotation. The former Dodgers southpaw has pitched to a 3.19 ERA with a nearly identical FIP over six starts with what would be the best strikeout rate of his career if the season ended today. He’s been particularly fantastic since the calendar flipped to August, having not allowed more than one run in his four starts this month. He also hasn’t issued a walk over his last two starts. Ryu leans most heavily on his changeup and also throws a changeup that sits around 90 mph, a cutter and a sinker.

Old Friends

After Dave Dombrowski’s worst trade, Travis Shaw produced well in Milwaukee for two seasons before slipping and falling in it last year. He was non-tendered last offseason and is now moving around between first, third and DH for the Jays.

Notable Position Players

Cavan Biggio has been phenomenal atop the Blue Jays lineup this year and hasn’t really shown any weaknesses in his line. He walks a ton, he’s striking out at a lower rate than league-average, and hitting for big power. He’ll be a pest in the leadoff spot this week.

Teoscar Hernández has been the surprise for the Jays this year and his emergence makes the aforementioned Bichette injury less of a concern. He still strikes out a ton, but he has an absurd .357 Isolated Power (seventh in baseball) on the back of ten homers.

Randal Grichuk has been another stud with big power in this lineup, and he’s cut down on his strikeout rate a bit this year as well.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is still waiting to make good on all the potential that was laid out for him prior to his rookie year in 2019. The plate discipline is there, now they’re looking for the quality of contact.

Lourdes Gurriel Jr. has been a disappointment after a breakout 2019 thanks to a big dropoff in his power production.

Shaw simply hasn’t made the contact required this year to be an above-average hitter, but he’s still playing nearly every day.

Rowdy Tellez is an underwhelming hitter most of the time, but he’s an MVP against the Red Sox with a career 1.144 OPS against Boston pitching.

Joe Panik has been thrust into more playing time with the Bichette injury, and he’s been brutal to the tune of a 19 wRC+.

Danny Jansen has walked almost as much as he’s struck out but is still scuffling at the plate thanks to a lack of power and a .150 batting average on balls in play.

Bullpen Snapshot

Jordan Romano has emerged as the closer of late, having earned their last two saves. He’s having a big year, and while his 0.64 ERA is definitely fluky, there is room for plenty of regression and still a very good performance.

Anthony Bass and Rafael Dolis are the top two setup men in the bullpen right now, with the former relying on weak contact and the latter managing to work around major control problems.

Ryan Borucki is the top lefty in the bullpen, and he’s been both a strikeout and a walk machine early in the year.

Injuries

Bo Bichette suffered a grade 1 LCL sprain during a game on August 15th that landed him on the 10-day IL. As of now, there’s no timetable for his return.

Uber-talented rookie Nate Pearson reported pain in his elbow after his last start on August 18th and was put on the 10-day IL with elbow tightness. He has undergone an MRI and while he is feeling better, is seeking the results from a second opinion.

About a month back, Ken Giles strained his right forearm. He’s been throwing off flat ground over the past two weeks and should be throwing off a mound soon.

After a solid start on Saturday, Matt Shoemaker was shut down with right shoulder inflammation and placed on the 10-day IL. The hope is that he’ll make a quick turnaround.

Trent Thornton left in the first inning of his start on Sunday with an elbow injury dealing another blow to Toronto’s already tattered rotation. Thornton had just come off the IL with an elbow related issue but it’s too early to tell if he’s headed back or not.

Way back on July 30th, Derek Fisher left a game with tightness in his left quadriceps. He was placed on the 10-day IL six days later and had started running bases as of ten days ago. He hasn’t seen live pitching in a while so he’s not close to returning.

Yennsy Diaz was placed on the 60-day IL back in march with a lat strain and hasn’t been heard from since.

Shortly after being added to the player pool in late June, Elvis Luciano went on the IL with [REDACTED]. I wish him a speedy recovery.

Hector Perez also came down with a case of [REDACTED] back on July 2nd. He linked back up with the Toronto camp 11 days later so I’m not sure why he’s still on the special IL.

Weather Forecast

Tuesday is looking good with clear skies but Wednesday night could bring thunderstorms. Thursday night should bring a return of clear skies.