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Series Preview: Red Sox vs. Blue Jays

Let’s get ready for a weekend of AL East baseball with the Red Sox and Blue Jays.

MLB: JUL 30 Nationals at Blue Jays Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

SB Nation Blog

Bluebird Banter

The Opponent in one sentence

The Blue Jays haven’t played as much as other teams after a COVID-19 outbreak for the Phillies wiped out a series, but they can always pick up momentum thanks to a bevy of top level position player prospects.

Record

4-6

Head-to-Head Record

0-0

Trend

Down. In a season where every game is an away game technically, the Blue Jays have dropped four of their last five contests, although they were idle during what was meant to be a three-game series with the Phillies last weekend.

Pitching Matchups

8/7: Ryan Weber vs. Tanner Roark, 7:30 ET

Weber just hasn’t had it in the early going of the 2020 season. Although nobody expected him to come out and pitch like a top of rotation starter, his production so far has been below even the most modest of expectations. He has yet to pitch past the fourth inning in his two starts and has already been tagged for four home runs, helping to boost his ERA to a sky-high 11.57 mark and his FIP to an even higher tally of 13.41. He also hasn’t recorded his first strikeout of the year while walking seven.

Roark has been a roughly league average starter the last few seasons and was brought in to fortify the Blue Jays’ rotation so the young bats wouldn’t have to score 10 runs a game to keep the team competitive. Roark has only made one start this season, but it was a pretty good one. He lasted five innings and struck out five batters while letting up just one earned run in a 5-1 win against the Nationals on July 28.

8/8: Zack Godley vs. Matt Shoemaker or TBA 7:30 ET

Anyone who thought Godley was going to be the savior for the Red Sox’s rotation was sorely disappointed when he finally got a start. After he threw four shutout innings in relief against the Mets in his first appearance, there were some hopes he could translate that into a starting gig against the Yankees on Aug. 1. After Godley was beaten up to the tune of five earned runs across 3 1/3 innings, its clear that he still has some work to do.

Shoemaker was originally projected to start Sunday, but MLB.com has him penciled in for Saturday now due to an injury to Trent Thornton. It’s possible Shoemaker will still start Sunday and someone else will fill in on Saturday, although its unclear who that would be.

Shoemaker is actually second on the Blue Jays in innings pitched as of writing. That is certainly more due to the lack of opportunities for others because the 33-year-old right-hander has lacked consistency. He’s posted a 5.91 ERA and a 6.92 FIP in 10 2/3 innings across two starts and his walk rate (10.9 percent) is dangerously close to his strikeout rate (13 percent).

8/9: TBA vs. Shoemaker or TBA, 1:35 ET

It’s difficult to know who will get the ball for the Red Sox in the series finale on Sunday afternoon. Due to the lack of depth in the starting rotation, they’ve experimented with the back of the rotation, particularly the fifth spot. Austin Brice got the start the last time someone other than Nathan Eovaldi, Martin Perez, Weber and Godley started, but he only pitched one inning. We should expect to see another game where Ron Roenicke tries to stitch together nine innings with his bullpen.

It’s also unclear who will get the ball for the Blue Jays. As I mentioned, Thornton was scheduled to start on Saturday, but is now on the the injured list. Thomas Hatch is the only player outside the regular five-man rotation to make a start for the Blue Jays this season. In that outing he faced nine batters in 2 1/3 innings, striking out three and walking two while allowing zero hits or earned runs to the Tampa Bay Rays.

Old Friends

Travis Shaw is the most recognizable old pal on the Toronto roster. The left-handed hitting corner infielder played for the Red Sox in 2015 and 2016 and then went to Milwaukee in the disastrous Tyler Thornburg trade. That deal didn’t just look bad because Thornburg never panned out in Boston but because Shaw excelled for a time as a Brewer. He was worth 3.5 fWAR in 2017 and 3.6 fWAR in 2018, but he regressed heavily in 2019 before heading to Toronto for 2020. He’s only played in three games and logged 10 plate appearances so far, accumulating two hits and two walks along the way.

Toronto Blue Jays v Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images

Elsewhere on the roster, although not on the 28-man roster, is infielder Santiago Espinal, a former 10th round pick for the Red Sox. Espinal slashed .317/.360/.433 in Triple-A last year, but he has a 36.4 percent strikeout rate in 11 plate appearances at the MLB level this year, his first in the bigs.

Some of the guys on the coaching staff have connections with the Red Sox as well, including Pete Walker, Luis Rivera and Dante Bichette.

Notable Position Players

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is the poster child of Toronto’s youth movement and after he smashed 15 home runs last season, he kept the hype building. Normally a third baseman, Guerrero Jr. has been playing first more frequently and he’s still trying to find a groove at the plate, slashing .200/.238/.350 with one home run.

Bo Bichette mans shortstop for the Blue Jays and is another exciting future star. He hit 11 home runs in only 46 games last season, but he has also had a slow start to 2020, with a 94 wRC+. However, he hit his first home home run of the season on Thursday and now has a slash line of .273/.273/.424 slash line in 33 plate appearances.

Cavan Biggio is the elder statesman of Toronto’s trio of rising stars who are the sons of former MLB standouts. However, he is also struggling this season, with a 54 wRC+ despite launching a pair of long balls in 44 plate appearances.

Lourdes Gurriel Jr. might not have as much name recognition as the three players I just wrote about, but he has a ton of potential as well. After posting nearly two fWAR in 84 games a year ago, he has a 120 wRC+ right now.

Teoscar Hernandez has outpaced everyone in the lineup so far, cementing his status as a reliable power hitter for a team that has plenty. The 27-year-old outfielder has already launched four home runs this season and his wRC+ of 172 leads the team.

Rowdy Tellez is another home run threat. He usually fits in as a DH or first baseman and had 21 home runs in 409 plate appearances a year ago. He has just one this season and is batting .174, but he has drastically cut his strikeout rate, which currently stands at 10.3 percent.

Danny Jansen is still developing and takes most of the reps behind the plate. However, although he’s shown some patience in 2020, he’s still slashing just .182/.321/.318. Reese McGuire is the primary backup at catcher.

Brandon Drury had been taking more of the reps at third base than Shaw even though he has been lost at the plate, posting a -35 wRC+ in 22 plate appearances. However, Shaw got the start at third base on Thursday. Joe Panik can fill in at multiple infield spots as well.

Randal Grichuk has been given chances in the outfield and at designated hitter but hasn’t done much, slashing .250/.318/.2250 in 22 plate appearances

Bullpen Snapshot

The bullpen is without Ken Giles, but Anthony Bass has fared well in the closer role in Giles’ stead. He’s recorded two saves and has yet to give up an earned run, but its tough to believe in the journeyman reliever, especially since his strikeout rate sits at 11.1 percent.

Jordan Romano and Rafael Dolis are two of the key bridges to Bass and they’ve both been solid, particularly Romano and his 0.00 ERA and 40 percent strikeout rate.

Shun Yamaguchi, A.J. Cole, Wilmer Font and Hatch are among the additional depth options for the bullpen.

Injuries

Giles is dealing with pain in the elbow of his throwing arm and has been out since July 26. Thornton is suffering from a similar ailment.

Outfielder Derek Fisher has been solid, but he is now suffering from a strained quad.

Chase Anderson has a strained oblique and hasn’t pitched yet this season.

Yennsy Diaz has been dealing with a strained lat since March.

Elvis Luciano and Hector Perez are listed as injured for undisclosed reasons, according to FanGraphs.

Weather Forecast

According to Weather.com, aside from some clouds on Friday and storms on Saturday morning, the weather should be all good this weekend in Boston, with temperatures ranging from the mid 60s to the mid 80s.