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Red Sox at Blue Jays Series Preview

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Looking ahead to a huge series north of the border.

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Toronto Blue Jays v Boston Red Sox - Game Two Photo By Winslow Townson/Getty Images

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Bluebird Banter

The opponent in one sentence

The Blue Jays are one of two division rivals hot on the Red Sox tail, grabbing reinforcements at the deadline to add to an already scary roster, making for a huge weekend series in Toronto.

Record

57-49

Head-to-head record

Red Sox 9, Blue Jays 6

Trend

Up. Way up. The Blue Jays have come out firing in the second half, and especially over the last couple of weeks. They split two with the Red Sox just a few series ago, and have not looked back since. Including the final win of that four-game set, Toronto has won seven of their last eight, including three in a row.

Pitching Matchups

8/6: Nathan Eovaldi vs. Alek Manoah, 7:07 PM ET

The Red Sox really can’t afford to get off on the wrong foot here this weekend, and the good news on that front is they have their best healthy starting pitcher on the mound for the opener in Eovaldi. The righty is coming off a rough one his last time out against Tampa, but looking at his season he’s done a good job of not letting bad outings snowball into bad months. You have to go back to his fourth and fifth starts of the season for the last time — and only time this year — he’s allowed more than two runs in consecutive starts. Boston desperately needs that trend to continue. Surprisingly, this will only be the second time Eovaldi was faced Toronto this year, tossing 6 23 shutout innings in the other matchup back in mid-June.

Boston Red Sox v Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

Manoah is now at the bottom of the Blue Jays rotation thanks to some reinforcements added at the deadline, but the talented rookie is still someone to be concerned about facing. The righty’s back on the mound after missing his last matchup against the Red Sox due to injury, and he’s having a great year with a 2.47 ERA. The peripherals are a bit worse than that as he will have bouts of control issues and can give up some hard contact, but he misses plenty of bats and when he’s in a groove his stuff is tough to square up. The Red Sox should be looking to make their mark against him early. They failed to do so in their lone matchup against him, scoring just a run over six innings. Manoah will feature a mid-90s fastball along with a slider, a sinker and a changeup.

8/7: Nick Pivetta vs. Robbie Ray, 3:07 PM ET

In a rotation full of struggling arms, Pivetta has sort of flown under the radar of late thanks to the even larger and more pronounced struggles of Garrett Richards and Martín Pérez. But just like those guys, the Red Sox need the righty to turn things around. Pivetta, to his credit, has generally avoided total blow up starts, but he’s also consistently disappointing, pitching to a 5.63 ERA if you go back to June 12, allowing 12 homers in those nine starts. Four of the long balls came in one game against this Toronto lineup, which is concerning here for this start. If he can keep the ball in the yard, he’s been fine. But that has been a rarity of late.

Ray has emerged as perhaps the best pitcher on this Blue Jays staff this year, and at the very least is a guy they can feel good about starting in a playoff series if they reach that point. The southpaw misses a ton of bats, and unlike the rest of his career prior to 2021 he is keeping his walk rate in check. The one way that teams have been able to beat him this year is, again, with the long ball. The Red Sox need to hunt mistakes as they did a few weeks ago when they smashed three homers off the lefty. Ray will lean mostly on his mid-90s fastball and his slider, while occasionally tossing in other secondaries.

8/7: Tanner Houck vs. José Berríos, 7:07 PM ET

Berríos was the big addition to the Blue Jays roster at the deadline, and the former Twin is going to be in this rotation next year as well. But we’re worried about the here and now, and he provides a huge boost to a rotation that needed one more arm. He’s coming off six shutout innings against the Royals in his debut with the Blue Jays, and the Red Sox now look to give him a proper welcoming to the AL East. They did see him way back in April, knocking him out with one down in the fifth having scored four runs. Berríos will lean most heavily on his curveball while also featuring a pair of mid-90s fastballs and a changeup.

8/8: Garrett Richards vs. Hyun-Jin Ryu, 1:07 PM ET

I mean, what else is there to say about Richards at this point? That he’s still making starts is frankly a disaster for this roster, and it sure seems like they’re going to need a whole lot of runs, or a whole lot of innings from their bullpen — not an ideal scenario the day after a doubleheader! — to compete in this game. That’s basically the long and short of it.

It will be tough to get all of those runs on the board, though, because they’re facing a tough lefty who entered the year as Toronto’s ace. There’s a debate whether or not he holds that title now, but it’s not all that important because he’s still really good. Despite his strikeout rate taking a dip this year, the southpaw has a 3.22 ERA, and he’s been particularly hot of late. He has pitched to a 1.84 ERA with about a strikeout per inning over his last five outings, a stretch that includes six shutout innings against these Red Sox. Ryu will feature a fastball, changeup, cutter and curveball, none of which sit above 90 mph.

Kansas City Royals v Toronto Blue Jays
Santiago Espinal
Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

Old Friends

Santiago Espinal was the prospect sent over to Toronto in the Steve Pearce deal back in 2018, and he’s somewhat surprisingly emerged as a core bench piece for the Blue Jays. He’s temporarily starting more with Cavan Biggio on the shelf.

Notable Position Players

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is the non-Ohtani MVP of the American League, and has emerged as the best hitter in the game this season. He does everything well, drawing walks, making hard contact while rarely whiffing, and hitting for bananas power. It’s about slowing him down, not stopping him.

George Springer missed a whole lot of time early in the year, but he’s fully back now and doing huge damage at the top of this lineup. He will strikeout a bit, but the power more than makes up for that.

Bo Bichette can be had thanks to his aggressive approach at the plate, but that only limits him so much. The shortstop makes some of the hardest contact in the league, translating to big power and high BABIPs.

Marcus Semien has been perhaps the best signing of the offseason, finding the form he had when he was an MVP finalist in 2019 and making a huge impact in the middle of this order.

Teoscar Hernández gets lost in the shuffle some in this talented group, but he is another scary power hitter who makes up for whiffs with hard contact.

Lourdes Gurriel Jr. still has overall numbers that leave plenty to be desired, but that’s largely due to a poor start as he’s heated up with the weather.

Corey Dickerson is more of a platoon player who just joined this lineup after being acquired from the Marlins while injured, but with the Red Sox throwing all righties this weekend we should see a lot of him.

Espinal is starting, as mentioned above, and has masked his lack of power with a high BABIP and a ton of contact.

Reese McGuire will likely get at least a couple starts behind the plate, and is a good hitter for a catcher thanks in large part to a high BABIP.

Bullpen Snapshot

Jordan Romano is trouble late in games because of his swing and miss stuff, though he does have some outings where the command is just off, so it’s not a hopeless battle if he’s on the mound.

Brad Hand was a trade deadline acquisition, and while he’s past his prime he can still handle lefties and sometimes these deals can rejuvenate a player going to a contender. Just ask the Yankees.

Rafael Dolis can miss a ton of bats and is tough to square up, but he also has major control issues that can be exploited.

Injuries

Kirby Yates never actually got to pitch for the Jays, undergoing Tommy John surgery before the season began which will keep him out all year.

Cavan Biggio hit the IL with what the team called a nagging back issue, but while he’ll miss this series he isn’t expected to miss much more, if any, than the minimum.

Julian Merryweather has been out for most of this season with an oblique injury, and after another setback he doesn’t appear close to returning.

Joakim Soria was just acquired by the Blue Jays in a trade, but quickly went down for a finger issue. His absence isn’t expected to be long.

Danny Jansen hurt himself a few weeks ago against Boston with a hamstring issue, but should be pretty close to returning.

David Phelps went down with a lat strain in early May, and ended up needing season-ending surgery.

Tommy Milone has been rehabbing for a few weeks now, but still hasn’t rejoined the big-league squad.

Carl Edwards Jr. suffered an oblique injury in June, and should be out for at least another month or so.

Anthony Castro was just put on the injured list about a week ago with an elbow injury, and he isn’t expected to miss much time.

A.J. Cole has been out since June with a neck injury of his own, and he’s started throwing again so shouldn’t be too far off.

Weather Forecast

Toronto has a dome so it doesn’t much matter, though they do want to keep it open as much as possible, and should be able to for this whole weekend.


A big thank you to FanGraphs, and particularly their Roster Resource tool, as well as Baseball Savant for research.