Well folks, it took us three months, but we are officially at the half-way point of the season, and unfortunately the Blue Jays record reflects that, with the team seating at 40-41 and 8.5 games out of 1st place (6.0 out of the Wild Card).
After a disappointing 4-game set against the division-rival Boston Red Sox, where Toronto dropped 3 of 4, the Blue Jays return home for another 4-game series, this time against the visiting Detroit Tigers. Now may be a good time to catch the Tigers as well, as Detroit is just 4-6 over their last 10 games. Then again, after winning 11 games in a row, the Blue Jays are just 5-5 in their last ten games, so momentum may not be the best indicator either.
With the trade deadline now looming at the end of the month, the Blue Jays need to make a positive statement in this series that will make those deadline decisions easier.
Probable Starting Pitchers
Game 1: R.A. Dickey (7-8, 4.72 ERA) vs Jose Alvarez (1-1, 3.78 ERA)
Game 2: Chien-Ming Wang (1-1, 5.24 ERA) vs Doug Fister (6-5, 3.50 ERA)
Game 3: Josh Johnson (1-2, 5.21 ERA) vs Max Scherzer (12-0, 3.10 ERA)
Game 4: Esmil Rogers (3-3, 3.12 ERA) vs Justin Verlander (8-5, 3.77 ERA)
The Blue Jays will have a tough task ahead of them as they get three of Detroit’s best pitchers to compete against.
Toronto will start the series with R.A. Dickey on the hill. The knuckle-baller is coming off his best game in a Toronto uniform, throwing a 2-hit shut-out against Tampa Bay last week. The 38-year-old Dickey will be getting his first look at Detroit this season, but holds a decent career mark with a 4-2 record and a 4.00 ERA over 14 appearances (7 starts) against the Tigers. He’ll be countered by Jose Alvarez, who is making just his fourth career start in the Major Leagues.
Chien-Ming Wang will take the ball in game 2. Wang had an abbreviated start on Thursday when the Red Sox assaulted him for 7 earned runs over 1.2 innings pitched. This could be a big start for Wang, as it will be indicate if the Blue Jays need to add a starting pitcher at the deadline. He’ll face Doug Fister, who aside from having one of the best names in baseball, owns a career line of 2-2 with a 3.19 ERA against the Blue Jays. He also beat Toronto on April 11th, tossing 8 innings of 1-run ball and striking out 5 for the win.
Josh Johnson will draw the nod in game 3, and like Wang was roughed up in his last appearances, throwing just 3.1 innings pitched (90 pitches) and allowing 5 earned runs. Johnson’s earlier results against Detroit are not much better, with his lone start coming on April 11th, where he gave up 6 runs on 7 hits over just 1.1 innings one a cold Detroit day. It won’t get any easier for him either, as Johnson will be opposed by 12-game winner Max Scherzer, who has designs on a Cy Young award.
Speaking of Cy Young awards, the Blue Jays will have to face Justin Verlander in the series finale. Verlander has been decidedly human this year, holding an 8-5 record and 3.77 ERA heading into this start. Still, the Blue Jays would take that production. He’ll have to best Esmil Rogers in game four. Rogers has been throwing the ball extremely well since converting to a starter and is coming off of 6 shut-out innings against the Red Sox on Saturday.
Toronto Blue Jays
1. SS: Jose Reyes
2. RF: Jose Bautista
3. 1B: Edwin Encarnacion
4. CF: Colby Rasmus
5. LF: Rajai Davis
6. DH: J.P. Arencibia
7. 3B: Maicer Izturis
8. C: Josh Thole
9. 2B: Munenori Kawasaki
1. CF: Austin Jackson
2. LF: Andy Dirks
3. 3B: Miguel Cabrera
4. 1B: Prince Fielder
5. DH: Victor Martinez
6. SS: Jhonny Peralta
7. RF: Torii Hunter
8. 2B: Omar Infante
9. C: Brayan Peña
Unless the team makes a roster move prior to Monday’s Canada Day game, the Blue Jays could be playing with an extremely short bench, with only Emilio Bonifacio on the pine with Adam Lind and Mark DeRosa nursing back and neck injuries respectively.
One thing is for certain, Jose Bautista needs to continue to rock the high socks, as he has hit 3 home runs over the last 2 games with the hose held high. He’ll need to keep mashing against a high-powered Detroit line-up which leads the Majors in hitting and featured a red-hot Miguel Cabrera that is trying his best to land another Triple Crown.
As I said above, this becomes a very important series for the Blue Jays, as is any series from here out. The team really needs another sustained run in order to pick which direction they go at the trade deadline, as it doesn’t make much sense to become buyers with a .500 record.
The Tigers will be a tough test, and will show what mettle this Blue Jays team is truly made of. While it would be necessary for Toronto to take 3 of 4 in the set, the pitching match-ups don’t really align themselves well for the Blue Jays, and the gauntlet of Fister, Scherzer, and Verlander may be too much to ask them to overcome, especially with Lind possibly out for the series.