Joining me for the series preview is Derek Stykalo, Staff Writer on FanSided’s great Red Sox site BoSox Injection and he’ll be adding everything on the Red Sox after the jump. Here’s everything you need to know:
Toronto Blue Jays
2011 Regular Season Record: 15-20, 4th in A.L. East (5.5 GB)
Boston Red Sox
2011 Regular Season Record: 17-18, 3rd in A.L. East (3.5 GB)
May 10: Kyle Drabek vs. Jon Lester
M: Drabek is still finding his sea legs and pitching against the Sox should be a great test for him. It’s his 25 walks that have hurt him most, because he’s averaging just about 1 hit allowed per inning pitched. If he can keep the ball in the strike zone, and get some calls for once, he may do enough to surprise versus the Sox. Expect a low scoring game in this one.
D:There has always been that little bit of comfort and confidence for a Red Sox fan when Jon Lester takes the mound and this year is no different. Lester is off to another strong start to the season as evidenced by his sixth straight quality start last week against the LA Angels. Lester also struck out a season high 11 batters in that game en route to his fourth straight win.
Lester’s lifetime v.s Toronto (8-4, 3.30 ERA) 87.1 Innings with 77 strikeouts
May 11: Jesse Litsch vs. John Lackey
M: I’m actually a believer in Jesse Litsch, and his latest 9 K and 1 ER outing has me believing that he’s capable of getting better in and more consistent in 2011. Versus the Sox, he’s 4-3 with a 4.11 ERA and 24 Ks, and I expect that he’ll do well enough to give the Jays a chance to win this one versus the volatile Lackey.
D: After two consecutive dominating starts, John Lackey has now reverted back to his batting practice ways during his last two starts. His lack of command and for the most part, lack of velocity has left Lackey vulnerable to hitters and he’s paying the price. His last two starts combined; Lackey has gone 10 innings, giving up 17hits and 10 earned runs. He’s walked 7 batters and only struck out 4 during that span. He’s been difficult to figure out this year and if he shows up with the wrong stuff on Wednesday, this Jays team will make him pay. Lifetime against the Jays at the Rogers Centre, opponents are hitting 3.17 against Lackey and he owns a 3-3 record with a 3.82 ERA at the ol’ dome.
Lackey’s lifetime v.s Toronto (4-5, 4.58 ERA) 96.1 innings with 75 strikeouts.
Blue Jays: Jose Bautista
M: Sadly, nobody even comes close and there’s really nothing to not like about his stats. Every AB is dangerous with him, he generates runs and attacks pitchers every time out, and he’s a machine that just can’t be stopped! Just imagine what he’d do if he had any help whatsoever!! His .359 AVG, 31 walks (more than double all other Jays hitters), .524 OBP and 10 HRs are all that you need to know about how hot he is.
Red Sox: Jacoby Ellsbury and Adrian Gonzalez
D: Jacoby Ellsbury – nicely entrenched in the midst of an 18 game hitting streak, Ellsbury has been unstoppable at the plate. During his hitting streak, the Sox centre fielder has gone 29-79 for a .367 AVG, while driving in 8 runs and swiping 8 bags. He’s returned to the leadoff spot in the order and it’s clear that’s where he’s most comfortable and the most dangerous.
Adrian Gonzalez – the coveted acquisition has hit safely in 16 of his last 17 games and is now batting .317, .370, .500. He’s hit 4 home runs and leads the team in RBI with 25. Gonzalez has appeared to found his swing as he’s ringing balls off the monster thanks to his smooth swing that drives the ball the other way; a big reason why the Red Sox so desperately wanted to acquire the gold glove first baseman.
Blue Jays: Edwin Encarnacion
M: The absolute worst DH in the majors and is quickly earning a spot in the lower end of the lineup. The Jays are currently “forced” to hit him 4th due to injuries, but when everyone’s heatlthy he’s a DH that hits 7th or 8th in the lineup. ‘Nugh said.
Red Sox: Dustin Pedroia
D: While Ellsbury is enjoying a hot streak, Dustin Pedroia is struggling through his worst slump of his career. Despite going 2 for 3 in last night’s finale against the Twins, Pedroia is batting a mere .237 on the season. Over his past 10 games Pedey has an average of .146 while striking out 9 times. He’s frustrated to say the least and when he snaps out of this rut, he will bring another weapon to an offense that appears to be on the verge of consistently breaking out.
15-day DL: Jayson Nix (left knee contusion)
60-day DL: RP Jesse Carlson (left shoulder), RP Dustin McGowan (right rotator cuff)
15-day DL: Matt Albers (right latissimus strain), Bobby Jenks (P) – 15-day DL, Right biceps strain – experienced cramping during game on May 4. Return TBD, Dan Wheeler (P) – 15-day DL, calf strain – Placed on DL May 5. Return TBD, Marco Scutaro (SS) – 15-day DL, injury to left side – Underwent MRI on May 8. Return TBD
60-day DL: Junichi Tazawa (torn ulnar collateral ligament)
Mat: Is there anything in John Lackey’s pitching that indicates he may turn his season around soon?
Derek: The precarious case of Mr. Lackey continues. He stinks to begin the season, has two brilliant outings, then reverts back to stinking again. He’s an interesting case to try and figure out. Talk about inconsistent, Lackey is the definition of that word. During his two game run where he was almost unhittable, Big John had great control of his fastball and while he’s lost a little on it over the years, he was still hitting 93mph. His last two starts, he’s struggled to maintain 91mph and everything is up and over the plate. Talk about a hitter’s dream, Lackey is it right now. The question has to be asked if Lackey is not100%, if something is ailing him. How does a guy go from two dominating performances to throwing batting practice, almost overnight? If Daisuke Matsuzaka can continue to pitch well, then maybe Lackey should be considered as a trade option come July. The problem is, who wants a mid 30s pitcher, with an inconsistent arm and is paid too much? Any takers?
M: Has Carl Crawford shown any sign of turning things around at the plate and how “angry” are Sox fans about his performance thus far?
D: Crawford has shown signs of a heartbeat lately. His walk-off double in Monday’s game against Minnesota extended his hitting streak to a modest 9 games. It was also his second walk-off hit of the home stand for Crawford who is slowly turning things around at the plate and with Red Sox fans. It’s funny because for the month of April he was having awful at bats and Sox fans were letting him know about it. Some went as far as to throw dollar bills to Crawford in late April when he was in the batter’s box. Then on May 1st, everything seemed to change. He got his first walk-off hit against Seattle and since then he’s hit safely in 9 straight games for an average of .361. While his season average is still only .211, its what he’s been doing of late that counts.
M: How excited are Sox fans to see Jose Iglesias make it to Boston, even if he does ride the pine a little?
D: There has been mixed reaction with the Iglesias call up, but for the most part everyone is excited to see this youngster at the Major League level. It’s been made known that Francona will only have Iglesias for around 2 weeks, until Marco Scutaro gets healthy. None the less, Sox fans will take the glimpse of the future and it’s only going to wet our appetite of what’s to come. We got a pretty good taste on Monday night when Iglesias pinch ran in the 11th and scored on a close play at the plate when Crawford doubled off the wall. It’s no secret that Iglesias needs to work on his plate discipline at the AAA level, which is where he’ll spend most of this year. An injury to Yamaico Navarro in Pawtucket led the way for Iglesias, other wise it may have been Navarro’s plane ticket to Boston.
Derek: With Jose Bautista out of the lineup for over a week now, how have the Jays handled the absence of his big bat?
Mat: Well, he actually returned for the last few games versus the Tigers, but it’s fair to say that without Adam Lind, the Jays lineup would have been entirely anemic. Lind and Bautista have been carrying this lineup all season long, along with some help from Yunel Escobar at the top of the lineup. It’s fair to say that once others get going in the lineup, namely Aaron Hill and Edwin Encarnacion, things may get much better for this team as a whole. And here I thought hitting was contagious! If that was the case, with Bautista hitting as he has when in the lineup, the Jays should be driving in 10 runs a game!!!
D: Jo-Jo Reyes owns the distinction of being winless in his first 34 starts? (correct me if I’m wrong). At what point do Jays management cut their losses with this kid and send him to Las Vegas to help get some confidence back?
M: Well, first it is 24 starts, not 34, and it’s consecutive – not first. He won 2 games in ’07 and 3 games in ’08 for the Braves. But, that’s still a very telling stat (I’m not a fan and find his pitches don’t offer enough deception, hence his getting beaten up the 2nd/3rd times through the lineup). To be fair, he has had 2 decent starts with the Jays, but he seems to lose his concentration at times while always seems to wind up hurting him to the tune of 4+ ER each time out. That means that the Jays have to drive in at least 5 runs and not allow any more runs from the pen in order to get him that all-elusive win. As for going to Vegas, he can’t. He would have to pass through waivers first since he’s out of options, and chances are that a team needing a lefty in the pen – at a minimum – would grab him. He may get a shot in the pen if he doesn’t stay in the rotation, but to me, his days with the Jays may soon come to an end in the same way that the 2010 Dana Eveland experiment ended – with a small albeit surprising return (Ronal Uviedo).
D: Travis Snider has way too much talent to be wasting away in AAA. But when he gets to the big club he appears to show flashes of brilliance, before falling back into the types of struggles Jays fans are all to used to. What’s do you think the best spot for Snider is within the Jays organization at this point in his young career?
M: Blame Cito Gaston and all of the Jays executives that rushed the player everyone named “The Franchise” to The Show. Let’s remember that this is a kid that hit 62 extra base hits playing from HiA all of the way through to The Show in 2008 as a 20 year old. So how do the Jays and Cito Gaston reward him in 2009? They sit him at the bottom of the lineup to start the year. Not only did that put him in the absolutely worst state of mind, because it told him that they didn’t think he could handle it and that they didn’t trust him, but it forced him to try to do too much in order to “earn” a spot in the middle of the lineup. Add to that the fact that it meant fewer ABs with nobody ever on base ahead of him and a weak hitter behind him, and you’ve got one huge recipe for disaster. Thankfully, the new regime saw fit to allow him to take a breath in the minors, and once he regains his confidence, he should fit right back into the lineup in the 5th/6th spot, where he belongs.
Thanks to Derek for joining me on this series preview, and feel free to check out BoSox Injection for anything to do with Red Sox!