Jun 11, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays second baseman Maicer Izturis (3) is congratulated by his teammates for hitting a home run during the tenth inning at U.S. Cellular Field. The Toronto Blue Jays beat the Chicago White Sox 7-5. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

Series Preview: Toronto Blue Jays (38-36, T-4th AL East) vs Tampa Bay Rays (39-37, T-4th AL East)



I sit here with a buddy trying to figure out what I want to say about the team. What new tidbits can I throw out that hasn’t been dissected and decimated by the media. Well I found that the last team to do a 10 game or more winning streak to go past .500 was the 1979 Cleveland Indians. 34 years people. The longest streak in the majors since 12 were done in by the 2011 Detroit Tigers. We all know that if the Blue Jays win against Jeremy Hellickson and the Rays tomorrow that we will set a Blue Jays record for consecutive wins. Something even the ’92 and ’93 teams didn’t do (the roaring ’89 Jays and the Delgado/Green ’98 Jays are the only teams to match this streak). It won’t go on forever but what it proves once again is that baseball is a long season and the very good teams will have their troubles but most likely will be there in the end when it counts. The AL East just got that much more interesting.

The Rays are coming off a series split with the Yankees and a 3-4 road trip overall. Even with David Price down Alex Cobb has been everything he was trumpeted to be. Until his massive fall off in June (10.61 ERA), Matt Moore had also been holding down the fort. Now with Chris Archer added to the mix they have done a good job of holding down the fort and making the losses of James Shields and Wade Davis easier to swallow. Their bullpen has been suspect which is why the Rays have fallen to 12th in team ERA (and Baltimore is now 14th…the Jays? 8th). Fernando Rodney is human again and Kyle Farnsworth is proving to be a bit of a liability with a .310 opp BA, a 1.50 WHIP and a homer given up every 5 innings. With such young starters and an injury depleted rotation the Rays may just be ripe for the picking.

Probable Starters

Game 1: Esmil Rogers (3-2, 3.14 ERA) vs Jeremy Hellickson (5-3, 5.50 ERA)
Game 2: Mark Buehrle (4-4, 4.60 ERA) vs Matt Moore (9-3, 4.13 ERA)
Game 3: R.A. Dickey (6-8, 5.15 ERA) vs Roberto Hernandez (4-8, 5.14 ERA)

The last time Esmil Rogers was a somewhat regular in a starting rotation was the 2011 Rockies. Out of 18 games played he made 13 starts and he has a 6.05 ERA in those starts. Kid had the arm but was learning to harness it. Flash forward to 2013. He was put in our rotation May 29 because, frankly, there was no one else. His starting numbers this year? 2-0. 1.71 ERA. .200 opp BAA. 0.95 WHIP. Now that is a kid who has learned to harness it. He has yet to give up more than 2 runs in a start and the pitch count limit has been taken off. He is methodical, has a great easily repeatable delivery and has been able to put lots of movement on his pitches. Until he falters, I expect big things this year and he is going to make the return of J.A. Happ and Brandon Morrow very interesting.

Jeremy Hellickson was expected to take on a bigger role in the rotation. He has given up 3 runs or less only 3 times in his last ten games. Much more is expected of this kid. His ERA is over 2 runs worse than it was in 2012 (5.50 compared to 3.10 in 31 starts last year). He had a decent K:BB ratio and a .244 opp BAA last year and it was assumed he would take a bigger step forward to secure his spot in the rotation. Funnily, his WHIP is the exact same as last year (1.25) but his opp BAA is 26 points higher at .270. He has the capability so if he can keep the ball in the park (14 HR allowed in his 15 starts) he can give the Rays a shot. I see 12 in our future though….12 straight.

Mark Buehrle was driving me mad in April. I knew he was so much more than he was presenting and I thank the good whatever above that he has turned his season around. This June alone he has made 4 starts with an ERA of 2.16. Opponents are still hitting him at a .263 clip but he has always been a guy to give up hits. His biggest strength lately is keeping out of the big inning (hear THAT Dickey?). He has been fast, efficient and kept us in the game all month. Expect his streak to ride and cause fits for the Rays. This will work out swell because I see a thumping in Matt Moore’s future.

Moor was doing so well. A 1.13 ERA in April. 3.30 in May. June, however, has bit him hard. Even with the decent game against the Yankees his last time out his ERA in June is the aforementioned 10.61! He has the capabilities to bounce back but until he throws a few starts together as he did earlier in the year I am not sold. So what more to say about Matt Moore? Here is my favourite little piece of knowledge. He has an ERA with the bases loaded of 189 (1/3 of an inning 7 earned). His numbers are pedestrian now so pick the Jays to take this one.

I will rant about R.A. Dickey soon enough. He has been pretty much the biggest disappointment in perhaps all of baseball so far. For his 16 starts, every third game he pitches he gives up 6 or more runs. He has seemed quite susceptible to the big inning and moreso the home run (17 so far and counting). I don’t know what more to say. Let’s hope that his knuckler is dancing under the dome the way he likes and we will see him continue the win streak. I have a funny feeling though that it ends here…still 13 in a row is pretty choice!

I choose the Jays to fall not because of the Rays Roberto “Fausto Cormona” Hernandez but because of the law of averages. Hernandez has been pretty medicore all year as his high ERA will attest. He definitely has not been the same since the name change. He has given up 4 or more runs in 6 of his last 10 starts and it is because, well, he gives up hits (72 in his last 57.2 innings) an home runs (13 so far in 14 starts). I see this game as a slugfest but the Rays are too good to get swept. Let’s give them this one and leave them mired in fifth when we leave town.

Probable Starting Lineups

Toronto Blue Jays

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

Tampa Bay Rays

1. DH: Matt Joyce
2. CF: Desmond Jennings
3. 2B: Ben Zobrist
4. 3B: Evan Longoria
5. 1B: James Loney
6. RF: Wil Myers
7. LF: Kelly Johnson
8. C: Jose Molina
9. SS: Yunel Escobar

I have been amazed with Adam Lind all year and especially during the streak but let’s look at a guy who started the year off terribly in all aspects of his game: Maicer Izturis. He has been a great catalyst during the last ten games in which he has hit .316 to up his average from .215 to .232. He has had big home runs, steady defense and a team first attitude. If we are going to make a run at this we need contributions from every one 1-25(35). Izturis won’t win a lot of games for us but he can pick up the slack if some of the bigger names are having an off night. I am slowly seeing the type of player he can be and I consider him one of the “glue guys”.

The big name making the rounds for the Rays has been Wil Myers. The big piece in the James Shield’s trade with Kansas City, he has already made a name for himself by hitting a grand slam for his first major league home run. He is slugging .400 so far and has shown the world glimpses of why he has been rated the top prospect in baseball by Baseball America and other fine baseball institutions. The Rays were already hitting pretty well and the addition of Myers bat may help to off-set the pitching issues. Yes folks, the Rays are better on offense than pitching this year…who would have seen that coming?

Final Word

I have loved this streak. I want to see it go on forever and ever. It won’t but it at least saved the season from being a complete write off. With speed, power, stellar pitching and decent defense there is no reason to believe we will fall back into the madness of April. When Jose Reyes comes back (during this series hopefully) and Brett Lawrie, Brandon Morrow and J.A. Happ return we will have some very interesting decisions to make (not to mention Kyle Drabek and Drew Hutchison on rehab assignments after their Tommy John surgeries). It has been a long time since the talent level spilled out past the 25th man but here it comes. Our present looks bright and our future is right up there too. Enjoy this streak while it lasts. The don’t come around too often…

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