SB Nation Blog
The opponent in one sentence
The Blue Jays are hanging around in this AL East race, leaning on their high-powered offense to mask some issues with the pitching staff.
Down. The Blue Jays are in the midst of a tough stretch on their schedule, with their last two series prior to this one coming against the White Sox and Astros. The Red Sox know how tough the latter team can be, at least, and Toronto struggled against both. They lost two of three against each, making them losers in four of their last six.
6/11: Garrett Richards vs. Ross Stripling, 7:10 PM ET
In my eyes, it’s been a series of three seasons for Richards in the Red Sox rotation. He started the season terribly, then turned it around and dominated for a bit, and now he’s settling in somewhere right in the middle. To his credit, he is getting results, having not allowed more than three runs since May 8. But over his last few starts he’s allowed a good number of baserunners and has been constantly working out of trouble. At the end of the day, it’s only the results we care about, but these tough outings feel like they are going to result in a blow up eventually. Richards has already faced Toronto twice this season, allowing six runs over 11 1⁄3 innings (4.76 ERA) with 10 walks and seven strikeouts. To be fair, one of those starts came early in the season when he was at his worst.
Based on the numbers, it has been a pretty rough season for Stripling. The righty has an ugly 4.71 ERA, and while his strikeout and walk numbers look pretty solid he’s being hit hard and it’s resulting in runs. Home runs in particular had been brutal, as he’s allowed eight in nine appearances (eight starts plus one relief appearance). And his one meeting with the Red Sox went poorly for him, allowing six runs over 3 2⁄3 innings. However, since then he’s been on an upward trajectory, allowing two runs over 17 innings with 14 strikeouts and four walks. That’s been over a span of three starts, and the Red Sox will look to nip that trend in the bud here on Friday. Stripling will feature a low-90s fastball along with a curveball, a slider, and a changeup.
6/12: Nick Pivetta vs. Steven Matz, 4:10 PM ET
As has been the case with Richards, Pivetta is walking a tightrope of sorts lately with his performances. He hit a little bit of a snag late in May with two starts in which he allowed at least four runs, but he’s renounced with two runs in his pair of starts so far in June. Like Richards, however, there have been a few too many baserunners and it’s felt like he’s been asking for trouble. Last time out specifically the righty had to be pulled before he could even complete the fifth inning. But with that said, Pivetta is continuing to get the job done and is firmly holding down his spot in the rotation. In his one start against Toronto this year, he allowed five runs (four earned) over five innings on seven hits and two walks with eight strikeouts.
It’s been a bit of a strange season for Matz, who is in his first year with the Blue Jays after being traded from the Mets. He got off to a great start, but then came crashing back down to Earth and has now settled into an uneven performance that is oscillating between good and bad. In totality, he’s been roughly league average, allowing a few more homers than you’d like to counteract solid strikeout and walk numbers. The Red Sox did get to the southpaw in their one meeting this year, scoring five runs over six innings on 10 hits and two walks with four strikeouts. Matz will feature a mid-90s sinker to go with a changeup, slider and curveball.
6/13: Martín Pérez vs. Robbie Ray, 1:10 PM ET
It seems like every stretch of this season has had a Red Sox pitcher performing way above his head, leading the way in a rotation that had so many question marks coming into the season. For the second half of May and very early June, Pérez was the guy. He was only getting stronger as the year went on, and was legitimately dominating by the end of this stretch. But then he ran into the Astros (who he also shut down just a week earlier) and things took a terrible turn. This last time out was the lefty’s worst start of the season by a wide margin, only lasting two innings while allowing six runs. Now, he’s in search for a big bounce back to prove that was not a turn back to what we expected him to be, which was just a fine back-end starter. This will be his first matchup with the Jays this season.
Ray has been one of the most surprising pitchers in baseball this year, and it’s not just the results. The lefty has a 3.36 ERA, which is great, but he’s a guy who got Cy Young votes back in 2017 so it’s not like he’s never had success. But we’ve never seen it quite like this. He’s always been a guy who needed his stuff to mask any sort of control issues, but this year the control has been elite. Ray is walking only less than six percent of his opponents, and for context he’s only walked less than nine percent once in his career. It will be interesting to see if the Red Sox sit back and wait patiently against him or if they come out swinging in their first meeting against him. Ray will feature a mid-90s fastball along with a slider and a curveball.
6/14: Nathan Eovaldi vs. Alek Manoah, 7:10 PM ET
Eovaldi has been really up and down this season, starting off the year phenomenally before falling into a bit of a lull in late April and early May. Toward the end of May he started to turn it back on again, though, and was looking like the top-of-the-rotation arm they were hoping he’d be early in the year. Unfortunately, as they did against Pérez, the Astros knocked him off from his momentum with a tough outing. Now, he’s looking for a bounce-back against a good lineup he has not seen yet this year. For Eovaldi, it’s all about location. If he is working the edges, he’s going to have success. If he’s right in the middle of the zone, well, the offense better be prepared to give out support.
Manoah is one of the best prospects in the Blue Jays system, and Toronto finally called him up at the end of May to join their rotation. He’s made three starts so far, starting off his career with an outstanding performance against the Yankees, and more recently performing admirably on the road against the White Sox. In between, however, he was hit around a bit by the Marlins in a start that included three homers coming against him. He has terrific stuff and will miss bats, but the Red Sox need to be on the hunt for mistakes and jump on them when they come. The young righty will feature a mid-90s four-seam to go with a slider, a sinker and a changeup.
Santiago Espinal went the other way in the trade that brought Steve Pearce to Boston in 2018. Although Espinal has turned into a better player than I think many people anticipated, and more quickly as well, the Red Sox will still live with that deal.
Joel Payamps never actually played a game with the Red Sox, but was on the roster a couple of times as he found himself in waiver wire limbo this past winter, eventually landing with the Blue Jays.
Notable Position Players
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is probably the favorite for AL MVP at this early point of the season, and it’s not without merit. He’s making good on the promise he showed in his prospect days, walking a ton, hardly ever striking out and showing off massive power. He’s the entire package at the plate, and will be a problem for all four of these games.
Marcus Semien has been a little bit under-the-radar, but has been every bit as valuable as George Springer was supposed to be. The former MVP finalist has returned to that 2019 form, hitting for power and getting on base while holding down a middle infield spot.
Bo Bichette doesn’t have the plate discipline to be consistently great at the plate, but he hits the ball hard enough that he will be good pretty much all the time and will look otherworldly for stretches throughout the season.
Teoscar Hernández isn’t hitting for the power he was showing off last season, but he’s making up for it with a high BABIP that is keeping his numbers boosted.
Randal Grichuk is going to swing at just about everything, but he makes a surprising amount of contact and hits for big power, making him an underrated threat in this lineup.
Lourdes Gurriel Jr. got off to a rough start and his overall numbers still look bad, but he’s been getting better and better as the season has gone along.
Rowdy Tellez is a Certified Red Sox Killer, but this season he’s been kept in check by everybody.
Joe Panik will put a lot into play, but he doesn’t walk enough nor hit for enough power to really make much of an impact at the plate.
Reese McGuire has been filling in behind the plate, but he’s not providing much of anything with the bat.
Jordan Romano is the Blue Jays closer at the moment, and while he has had some lapses with control, his stuff and groundball style have helped him put up strong numbers.
Rafael Dolis has even worse control problems than Romano this season, and he hasn’t been able to mask them nearly as well.
Anthony Castro hasn’t been up too long, but he’s used his stuff to quickly take a later-inning role in this bullpen.
George Springer has barely gotten a chance to play this year with his new team, and is currently out with a quad injury. He’ll be out for this series, but his return doesn’t appear to be too far off.
Kirby Yates underwent Tommy John surgery shortly before the season began, and will not pitch at all for the Blue Jays in 2021.
Cavan Biggio has been out with a neck injury, though it’s possible we’ll see him back in the lineup for this series.
Alejandro Kirk is still working his way back from a hip injury, though he should be ready to return when he’s eligible toward the end of the month.
Danny Jansen is another injured Blue Jay, and while his hamstring injury doesn’t appear serious he’ll miss this series.
Julian Merryweather went down in April with an oblique injury and then suffered a setback that pushed his recovery back, and it’s still not clear what his timetable is.
Travis Bergen has been out since the end of May with a shoulder injury, and his timetable is still not clear.
Ryan Borucki went down in mid-May with a forearm issue, which is always scary, though the full extent is still a bit unclear.
Thomas Hatch is currently on rehab from an elbow injury, so his return shouldn’t be too far off.
AJ Cole went down earlier this month with a neck injury and will at least miss this series.
Patrick Murphy is dealing with a shoulder issue that could keep him out for the entire season.
David Phelps went down with a lat injury in early May, and a few weeks later decided to undergo season-ending surgery.
Tommy Milone has been out since the beginning of May with a shoulder injury, and it doesn’t seem like he’ll be back any time soon.
It seems there will be showers in the area on Friday, Saturday, and Monday, but the Red Sox and Blue Jays should luck out and not really be affected by any of it. That could always change, of course.
A big thank you to FanGraphs, and particularly their Roster Resource tool, as well as Baseball Savant for research.