The Toronto Blue Jays start an important series against Chris Davis and the Baltimore Orioles on Monday night. The Orioles, sitting at 10-8 are two games back from the first place Boston Red Sox. However, that puts Baltimore 2.5 games against the last place Blue Jays, who presently sit 4.5 games behind Boston in fifth place.
With the Blue Jays coming off of a solid win against the Yankees on Sunday, this is a team looking to make a run. To do so, they’ll have to develop some consistency, both on the mound and at the plate. This series against Baltimore is as good a time as any to get that ball rolling.
Let’s take a quick look at this week’s series with Baltimore.
Game one features a pair of starters going in the wrong direction. J.A. Happ, coming off a strong first start of the season, struggled in both of his last two outings, failing to get through the sixth inning in each match-up and surrendering 4 and 5 runs respectively. In his last outing against the White Sox, it was the long-ball that did Happ in and handed him his first loss of the season.
He’ll be opposed by Chris Tillman, who has pitched into the 6th inning just once this season. Tillman’s trouble has been with the walk, where he’s tallied 8 in just 14 innings pitched in 2013.
Game Two will see R.A. Dickey toe the rubber against Miguel Gonzalez. Dickey is coming off of two straight solid starts, but was also pulled from his last start due to tightness in his upper back and neck. He threw a bullpen session on Sunday and everything appeared to be okay, but this will bear watching.
Miguel Gonzalez will take the mound for the O’s. Gonzalez was rocked in his last start, surrendering three home runs to the Tampa Bay Rays, but has looked solid in his other starts.
The teams will wrap up the three-game set by sending Brandon Morrow to the hill to face a yet-to-be-determined starter for the Orioles. Morrow will look to put his Jekyll and Hyde start behind him after two up and two down starts in 2013. His last start came on Friday against the Yankees, and was not pretty, with the right-hander giving up 9 hits and 7 runs (5 earned) over 5.1 innings.
Steve Johnson was intended to make the start for Baltimore in game three. However, the Orioles have opted to have Johnson make another rehab start at Triple-A, which means that another starter will need to be determined for the series finale.
The following are the probable line-ups for both squads.
Toronto Blue Jays:
1. SS: Munenori Kawasaki
2. LF: Melky Cabrera
3. RF: Jose Bautista
4. 1B: Edwin Encarnacion
5. DH: Adam Lind
6. C: J.P. Arencibia
7. CF: Colby Rasmus
8. 3B: Brett Lawrie
9. 2B: Maicer Izturis/Emilio Bonifacio
The Blue Jays offense showed a little bit more life this past weekend against the New York Yankees, yet came away with only one win to show for it. Ultimately, the team continued to struggle with runners in scoring position, finishing 6 for 21 in the series. The insertion of Munenori Kawasaki into the lead-off role on Sunday seemed to spark the team a bit and the Blue Jays did a much better job of playing small ball during the win on Sunday. Still, the offense has a long way to go before it can even be deemed efficient, let alone stellar.
Meanwhile, the Orioles come in as one of the better offenses in the game, currently ranking sixth in both runs scored and team batting average, while placing fifth in OPS. Chris Davis and Adam Jones get a lot of the publicity on the offensive side of the ball, but young Manny Machado has been just as important, hitting .368 with 2 home runs and 11 RBI with runners in scoring position. Dial that up to having two out and runners in scoring position, Machado is hitting an astounding .667 with a 2.548 OPS, 2 home runs, and 8 RBI. That makes him clutch!
The Final Word:
The Blue Jays are still not playing up to potential. And while we can say that this team still has plenty of season ahead of it, Toronto is digging themselves quite a hole in the early going. A series win would be a good place to start, especially since Toronto have done so just once in 2013. With this week continuing the run through the AL East, now if the time for Toronto to step up and play like the division favorites everyone pegged them as.