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Apr 23, 2013; Baltimore, MD, USA; Toronto Blue Jays first baseman Edwin Encarnacion (left) is congratulated by Jose Bautista (right) after hitting a three-run home run in the sixth inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The Orioles defeated the Jays 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

Toronto Blue Jays/New York Yankees Series Preview: 4/2/6/13


It seems we could mirror the same thing we would have said after the last Yankees series heading into Baltimore: Toronto (9-13) hopes to build off a series ending win as they travel from the bright orange sea in Baltimore to the House That Jeter Built…Yankee Stadium to visit the New York Yankees (11-9). After the Blue Jays near disastrous showing over the past weekend when we allowed Vernon Wells and Lyle Overbay to come back and haunt us, perhaps the thrilling extra inning victory over the Orioles will begin a cascade of great fielding, timely hitting and some decent starting pitching.

What do we have on the go for the upcoming series against the never say die New York Yankees?

Starters:
Game 1: Mark Buehrle (1-0, 5.87 ERA) v/s Hiroki Kuroda (2-1, 2.35 ERA)
Game 2: Josh Johnson (0-1, 6.86 ERA) v/s Ivan Nova (1-1, 6.14 ERA)
Game 3: J.A. Happ (2-1, 3.68 ERA) v/s C.C. Sabathia (3-2, 3.34 ERA)
Game 4: R.A. Dickey (2-3, 4.66 ERA) v/s Phil Hughes (0-2, 5.14 ERA)

Game 1 is a rematch of last weekend where Kuroda and Buehrle both pitched great games but ultimately resulted in a 5-3 loss for the Jays. Kuroda has been just as dominant as last year and Buehrle has been…well Buehrle: lots of hits and a higher than normal ERA but a guy who knows how to keep his team in the game. Kind of like a 21st century Jack Morris. With Buehrle’s track record we should see that number continue to drop closer to his career norm of 3.84 and feeding off of some replacement players should help him just fine as long as he keeps the ball in the park.

Game 2 sees the enigma Josh Johnson hitting the mound for Toronto. He has had quite the season so far. This is not the Josh Johnson of old. His pitches seem flatter and that extra bite he has had in the past is still trying to find it’s way to his pitches. He had a stellar outing versus the Chi Sox but then lost it against the Yankees at Rogers Centre. He needs to relax and let his natural talent come out. Unless he is nursing an injury, we should start to see the real Johnson stepping up for us.

Johnson’s counterpart, Ivan Nova, seems to be going through the motions and those motions include high pitch counts, lots of walks (8 in 14.2 innings) and short outings having not gone more than 5 innings in any of his starts so far. If we exhibit some patience at the plate it seems we may be nicely rewarded.

Game 3 sees our most consistent start J.A. Happ taking the ball. Happ has by far the best starter’s ERA on the team and is coming off 6 innings of shutout ball against the Orioles. Every game it seems that Happ has to prove himself but he has been consistent and very average which is what you would expect out of your 5th starter. He keeps us in games and works very hard.

It won’t be easy going up against CC. Sabathia is still an inning eating, strikeout inducing ace of the fabled franchise. He has not gone lower than 5 innings and has gone 8 twice already this year. Couple that with a 3:1 K/BB ratio and you see he is having his usual stellar season.

To wrap up the 4 gamer we will send our prized ace R.A. Dickey up against the always baffling Phil Hughes. Dickey seems to be tossing a lot of pitches this year. He has yet to get into the 7th inning in any of his starts and is walking an alarmingly high number of batters in the early going (14 in 29 innings). I hope his stiff neck and shoulder account for this and as it loosens up we will see the Cy Young winner we traded for.

Hughes has been getting scorched so far this year. A .337 BAA and a 1.57 WHIP are the hallmarks if the baffling Phil Hughes. Is he the 16 games winner of a year ago who finally seemed to be putting it all together or is he just another flash in the pan pitcher? He has a 10.27 ERA this year in day games and the game is at 1:05. Hmmmmmm….

Line-Ups:

The following are the probable line-ups for both squads.

Toronto Blue Jays:

1. DH: Rajai Davis
2. SS: Munenori Kawasaki
3. RF: Jose Bautista
4. 1B: Edwin Encarnacion
5. LF: Melky Cabrera
6. C: J.P. Arencibia
7. CF: Colby Rasmus
8. 3B: Brett Lawrie
9. 2B: Maicer Izturis

New York Yankees:

1. CF: Brett Gardner
2. DH: Ben Francisco
3. 2B: Robinson Cano
4. LF: Vernon Wells
5. C: Francisco Cervelli
6. RF: Ichiro Suzuki
7: SS: Eduardo Nunez
8. 1B: Lyle Overbay
9. 3B: Jayson Nix

The Blue Jays can thank the bullpen for keeping them in games, like the four innings of shutout ball yesterday. Brett Cecil has become sort of a re-born Scott Downs type: a lefty who can mow them down. Our bullpen overall must be given some props. With the starters all struggling to get out of 6 innings and with the team in the midst of 21 games in a row, they have been the glue that has kept the team from sliding into oblivion. Sure we are 9-13 but all teams struggle. The way we won the game with small ball was a blessing. 4 homers is great but if they are all solo shots then we are still going to struggle. If we keep working the counts like they did in that fantastic 11th inning then it should plant the seeds of confidence.

The Yankees (11-9) are coming off a 3-0 drubbing at the hands of Alex Cobb and the pesky Tampa Bay Rays. After outduelling the Jays over the weekend, the pinstripes only managed to score 5 runs in the three game set down in Florida. Perhaps we are finally seeing the injury replacements playing like injury replacements. Any team that loses Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira should feel the loss of power and yet the Yankees sit 1st in the AL in home runs (Toronto currently sits 2nd) thanks to Robinson Cano, Travis Hafner and Vernon Wells (???). Can they keep it up?

The Final Word:

Potential is great and all but when it stays as such there isn’t much to hope for going forward. If the starters can feed off one another this go through the rotation and give our bullpen a rest we should be able to take this series. This Yankee team seems ripe for picking and a sweep would settle our stomachs down and allow the team to re-focus and exude the talent that they collectively have. With only one series win still in this young season and a chance to vault up the standings against some suspect Yankee bats and pitching, it could be the beginning of a surge that is desperately needed.

Tags: New York Yankees Toronto Blue Jays

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