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Red Sox vs. Blue Jays Series Preview

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A look at a busy weekend for the Red Sox.

Boston Red Sox 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 one of the most exciting young teams in the game and they currently have a tenuous grip on the final playoff spot and pushed in at the deadline to make sure they stay in that position.

Record

19-16

Head-to-head record

Red Sox 3, Blue Jays 2

Trend

Up...ish. Toronto hasn’t done well in the very immediate past, having split a two-game series against the Marlins that came on the heels of a series-ending loss to the Orioles. So, they’ve lost two of their last three, but immediately before that they had won four in a row. They also saw their front office show some confidence in them with some trades to push in at least a bit for this season, which can only be a positive for confidence.

Pitching Matchups

*The final four matchups here are all educated guesses, as they are all listed as TBD vs. TBD on the team websites.

9/3: Martín Pérez vs. Taijuan Walker, 7:30 PM ET

With Nathan Eovaldi on the injured list, Pérez is the lone legitimate starter that can actually go deep into a ballgame on the Red Sox pitching staff. That distinction is particularly important for this start since it the first of five games over four days. The Red Sox need innings from their starter in this one. The bad news on that front is that, for as good as Pérez has been for most of his starts this year, he’s gone at least six innings only once. That was two starts ago, to be fair. The lefty is coming off his worst start of the year his last time out, having allowed six runs over four innings against the Nationals. This will be his first start against the Blue Jays this year, and there is a fair argument to be made that the innings are going to be the most important part of his stat line in this one.

Washington Nationals v Boston Red Sox Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

Walker was one of the acquisitions the Blue Jays made prior to the trade deadline, having picked him up from the Mariners after a resurgence to start this season. The former top prospect had seen injuries derail his career, but he’s stayed healthy this year and in total has pitched to a 3.27 ERA. The peripherals aren’t quite as appealing with a 4.62 FIP that comes thanks to being about average in strikeouts and walks while allowing a few too many homers. That said, he’s coming off a very good debut with the Jays having pitched six scoreless innings against the Orioles with four strikeouts and three walks. Walker will offer a low-to-mid-90s fastball along with a cutter, a splitter, a two-seam and a curveball.

9/4*: Chris Mazza vs. Tanner Roark, 4:10 PM ET

It seems likely that Mazza is going to get one of the starts of the doubleheader on Friday, which is also the first look we’ll have at seven-inning baseball this year. The righty has been up and down for the Red Sox this year and isn’t quite stretched out for a normal starter’s load, nor has he looked good enough to go six strong anyway. That’s not to say he’s been terrible, because he hasn’t been, but it’s been mediocre at best. His last time out he looked solid the first time through the order before getting knocked out of the game after allowing three runs in the third inning. In all, he’s pitched to a 7.88 ERA over three outings and eight innings with ten strikeouts and five walks.

Roark has long been one of the steadiest, unspectacular starters in baseball, good for roughly league-average production for 180 innings year in and year out. The Blue Jays had a need for that in their rotation and added him over the winter, but he’s taken a step back in the move to the American League. His control, which has generally been solid over his career, has fallen off to the tune of a 12 percent while his strikeout rate has fallen off a bit as well. All of that has led to a 5.33 ERA. In one start against the Red Sox earlier this year, he allowed four runs over three innings. The righty will offer a pair of low-90s fastballs along with a slider, a changeup and a curveball.

9/4*: Zack Godley vs. Ross Stripling, 7:10 PM ET

First of all, it should be noted that because baseball is totally bizarre this season, the Blue Jays are actually the home team for this second game of the doubleheader. For the Red Sox, Godley is likely to start one of these games — him and Mazza could be switched. I have no idea — as he continues what I would view as a very strange season. I don’t think he’s been quite as bad as his 7.71 ERA would suggest, but he’s also had some starts where he’s looked much worse. His last time out was one that started off solid but he struggled as the night went on, eventually allowing five runs in 4 23 innings. Godley’s issue has been baserunners, as he’s given up 37 hits and has issued 13 walks in 25 23 innings. In other words, he averages about two runners per inning, which is not what you want. The good news is in his only other matchup against Toronto this year he tossed four shutout innings.

Stripling was another one of the Jays’s acquisitions at the deadline, with this one coming through right at the wire. The righty came over from the Dodgers, who are so good that they are able to sell off pieces even in the midst of a season with World Series aspirations. He has struggled mightily this year, though, pitching to a 5.61 ERA over seven starts, largely due to major home run problems. He’s already allowed 12 this year, which comes out to more than three per nine innings. Stripling has allowed at least one homer in every start this year and at least two in each of his last four. He will offer a low-90s fastball along with a curveball, a changeup and a slider.

9/5*: Colten Brewer vs. Chase Anderson, 7:30 PM ET

I have some thoughts on Brewer I’m still trying to flesh out in full article form at some point in the future, but the short version is: I think he’s pretty solid and is being done a disservice by being thrust into this role. I don’t really blame the team, to be fair, because they don’t have many other options, but Brewer’s numbers, to me, don’t reflect who he is. Take his last start, for example. In the box score, he allowed five runs over four innings. In reality, he did his job for four innings, having allowed just two runs. They tried to push him for a fifth out of necessity and he allowed three more runs without recording an out. Anyway, I assume they’ll continue to roll him out as a starter because, again, what other choice do they have? But I hope they at least do what they can to not push him further than he should go.

Anderson was a free agent addition over the winter and he got off to a late start this season. Since joining the rotation about week into August, though, he’s been very good, albeit with a limited workload. He’s tossed only 19 23 innings over five starts, but he’s pitched to a 3.20 ERA with peripherals to match. The big difference for the righty this year has been his control, as he’s walked less than five percent of his opponents so far this year. He’s also coming off a gem against the Orioles, throwing five innings of one-run ball with eight strikeouts and no walks. The Red Sox did score four runs (three earned) in five innings against him earlier this year. Anderson will feature a low-to-mid-90s fastball along with a changeup, a curveball and a cutter.

Atlanta Braves v Boston Red Sox Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

9/6*: Ryan Weber vs. Robbie Ray, 1:35 PM ET

Weber is another guy who is miscast on this team out of necessity. He started the season as a starter and was brutal, got sent down, came back up in a mop up role and thrived. He was put back in the rotation for the last turn and had a horrible first inning before settling down. It’s not as simple as just having him miss the first inning and then let him go but... Also it might be? Nobody is expecting ace-like performances from Weber in any role, but it’s certainly worth trying throwing him out there after an opener handles the first inning and seeing what happens. What do they have to lose?

Ray was yet another trade deadline addition for the Jays earlier in the week, and he came into the year as one of the more interesting pitchers in baseball. The lefty is a free agent after the season and has tantalizing stuff, striking out at least 12 batters per nine in each of the last three years. He remains on that pace for this season as well. However, his control is borderline unplayable, and this season he walked a batter per inning with the Diamondbacks to help lead him to an ERA of 7.84. The southpaw made his Blue Jays debut out of the bullpen, but given the five-games-in-four-days situation here, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get the start this time through.

Old Friends

Travis Shaw was the center piece of easily the worst trade in the Dave Dombrowski era, having been sent to Milwaukee (along with Mauricio Dubon) for Tyler Thornburg. Shaw thrived with the Brewers for a couple seasons before falling off last season. This is his first season with Toronto.

Santiago Espinal has become a contributor for the Blue Jays after heading there in the Steve Pearce trade in 2018. It’s come as a bit of a surprise to me, both in terms of his overall skill level as well as how quickly it’s translated to the majors.

Notable Position Players

Shaw is the everyday third baseman for the Blue Jays for now, but he has struggled to hit the ball with enough authority to make an impact this season. His role could be clouded whenever Bo Bichette returns from injury.

Teoscar Hernández has been one of the most surprising stories in baseball this year, mashing in the middle of the Blue Jays lineups. He already has 12 homers as well as an eye-opening .321 Isolated Power.

Cavan Biggio has been scuffling a bit of late, but he is a fantastic leadoff hitter who draws a ton of walks and provides a little bit of pop at the top of the lineup as well.

Randal Grichuk isn’t going to be the most patient hitter at the plate and he’ll swing and miss some, but when he makes contact it’s often loud and he’s ridden that power to a 127 wRC+ this year.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is starting to heat up at the right time for this Blue Jays team. The overall numbers are still a bit disappointing in the power department, but he has phenomenal plate discipline and we know the power is in there somewhere.

Jonathan Villar was yet another trade deadline acquisition and gives Toronto big-time speed on the bases, though his power output dropped off significantly in Miami compared to 2019.

Rowdy Tellez against most teams is a solid, low-average, big-power batter. Against the Red Sox, he is prime Barry Bonds.

Lourdes Gurriel Jr. is an underrated member of this Blue Jays lineup. Although he’s not really great in any one area at the plate, he is at least solid all across the board.

Danny Jansen has been brutal at the plate with a 64 wRC+, largely due to a low BABIP, but he’s still been significantly better than Reese McGuire, his backup, who has a -48 wRC+.

Bullpen Snapshot

Anthony Bass has climbed to the closer role thanks to a couple of key injuries in the Blue Jays bullpen. Bass isn’t the classic blow-you-away type of closer, but his command has enabled him to put up a very strong season so far.

Rafael Dolis and A.J. Cole tag-team things from the right side in the late innings. Dolis has worked around some control issues to keep runs off the board while Cole has somehow managed to keep the ball in the yard all year despite strong fly ball tendencies.

Ryan Borucki is the top lefty in the bullpen and has been almost all strikeouts and walks all season.

Injuries

Bo Bichette is working his way back from a knee injury. His timetable is still unknown, but he seems to be trending in the right direction.

Ken Giles has been out for most of the year with a forearm injury, which is always scary, but it seems like he may be a week or so away from returning.

Nate Pearson went down with an elbow injury, but like Giles should return, though Pearson’s return is likely going to be a bit later if it comes.

Matt Shoemaker went down in mid-August with a lat injury and is hoping to return to the rotation before the season is over.

Trent Thornton went down with an elbow injury a few weeks ago and had to undergo season-ending surgery earlier this week.

Jordan Romano had taken over as the closer for Giles but then went down with a finger injury. He should return at some point.

Elvis Luciano has been out all year and it doesn’t really seem like he’s going to make it back.

Hector Perez is another minor-league arm who is probably going to miss the entire season.

Yennsy Diaz was put on the IL back in March and nothing really has been said about him since.

Weather Forecast

It’s looking like it should be a nice weekend in Boston. The only possible question mark would be the series opener with some showers in the forecast, but it doesn’t look bad enough to cancel the game.