May 6, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Toronto Blue Jays left fielder Melky Cabrera (53), center fielder Colby Rasmus (28) and right fielder Jose Bautista (19) celebrate winning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. The Blue Jays defeated the Phillies, 6-5. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Series Preview: Blue Jays in full funk going up against the Yankees

So have the Blue Jays hit their season low? After a 3-7 road trip that followed a bit of a flat line last time they were at home I would say yes. Every team has their ebb and flow throughout a season, up and down. All of the supposed great teams in the majors have had funks such as the Dodgers and the Tigers. The real crux of the issue is battling through the injuries that have derailed the seasons of Brett Lawrie, Brett Cecil and Jose Bautista. I am really starting to wonder if we are one of those teams just prone to injury. Lawrie was a fluke and Cecil doesn’t have a huge injury history but I wonder about Bautista. Do the Blue Jays have the depth to carry on and break out of this mid-season funk? That is the question of the week.

The real crux of the issue is battling through the injuries that have derailed the seasons of Brett Lawrie, Brett Cecil and Jose Bautista

The Yankees haven’t exactly been barn burners, having gone 9-10 in June so far but due to the Blue Jays swoon sit only 1.5 gamed out of first which is tied with the Baltimore Orioles. Heck Masahiro Tanaka even lost…for the second time against the Baltimore Orioles. Brett Gardner has been doing his best the last 10 games with a .316 average and his OPS of .767 for the season is .30 better than he has produced over the course of his career. The Yanks took down the Blue Jays rather easily in their home park as they swept them…can the Blue Jays return the favour back in the friendly confines of the Rogers Centre?

Probable Starting Pitchers

Game 1: Chase Whitley (3-0, 2.56 ERA) vs Marcus Stroman (3-2, 5.14 ERA)

Last time out Chase Whitley did a great job of not only sounding like an ’80s bad-guy-jock-in-high-school but of limiting the Blue Jays to just 2 runs in 5 innings and so far has been a pleasant surprise for a rotation that has lost a few arms to injury. In seven starts his K:BB is a ridiculous 26:4 and his WHIP is a very good 1.03. He has done well in the minors and seems to have flown under the radar so far this season. If he keeps it up he won’t be a surprise anymore. Perhaps a second go at him will ignite the Blue Jays offense.

Marcus Stroman has been pretty decent in his starts so far. He has yet to give up more than 3 runs but the big question is can he get through more than just the 3rd inning. The patient approach and veteran use of fouling off pitches had Stroman on a high pitch count. With the movement that Stroman has and the ability to be a strike thrower (K:BB of 23:6 so far) he should be able to pitch himself deeper into games . Should be a heck of a pitchers duel.

Game 2: David Phelps (3-4, 3.86 ERA) vs Mark Buehrle (10-4, 2.32 ERA)

Aside from a 7 run crapper against the Orioles, Phelps has been every bit as good as Whitley. The Yankees never seem to have a lot of pitching prospects but once they get to the Show it’s like the ghosts of Yankees past bring out the best in them. With that kind of pressure I would surely think they would wilt but obviously the Yankees know how to draft kids who aren’t afraid of being on the mega-team of the American League. His ERA though almost doubles on the road compared to his Yankee Stadium starts so it will be interesting to see if he can hold the Blue Jays down in their home.

Buehrle has been a model of consistency this year. In his last 10 games he has given up 4 or more runs only once and has completed at least 6 innings in all of them. With his pitching style he should be able to keep going since an 83mph fastball really isn’t too hard on the arm. He is surely going to make the All-Star team and may even have a chance to start…that is if Tanaka falls off the rails. His consistency is what has led the Blue Jays to the lead in the AL East. Without him they are under .500 for sure.

Game 3: Hiroki Kuroda (4-5, 4.23 ERA) vs Drew Hutchison (5-5, 3.86 ERA)

Kuroda has slowly been turning his season around after a not so great beginning. In his last ten starts his ERA is under 4 and he is generally keeping his team in the game. He is definitely getting up there in age and is hittable for the first time in a few years. Perhaps the Blue Jays will pounce and take him down. Don’t ever count out Kuroda though…wily veterans can be a real pain.

Hutch has been up and down the last little while. A few starts of 5+ runs and also a few starts with no runs. He hasn’t yet hit the wall but you have to wonder if he truly is stretched out enough to go a full season in the rotation. Are these little blips signs of fatigue? If they are then you may see a few more Liam Hendriks starts in the future or perhaps Todd Redmond. This rotation is definitely not built to be just a five man and Hutchison definitely could do with a longer break here and there. It will be interesting to see how he fares in the summer months..

Probable Starting Lineups

New York Yankees

1. LF: Brett Gardner
2. SS: Derek Jeter
3. CF: Jacoby Ellsbury
4. 1B: Mark Teixeira
5. C: Brian McCann
6. DH: Carlos Beltran
7. 3B: Kelly Johnson
8. 2B: Yangervis Solarte
9. RF: Ichiro Suzuki

Toronto Blue Jays

1. SS: Jose Reyes
2. LF: Melky Cabrera
3. DH: Dioner Navarro
4. 1B: Edwin Encarnacion
5. CF: Colby Rasmus
6. 3B: Juan Francisco
7. 2B: Munenori Kawasaki
8. RF: Steven Tolleson
9. C: Erik Kratz

Worth the Price of Admission: Colby Rasmus has been hitting up a storm since his arrival from the disabled list. 3 multi hit games out of five and at least a hit in all five. If Bautista is out for a length of time Rasmus becomes a very important piece of the puzzle to the Blue Jays keeping afloat.

Worth the Price of a Coffee Time Donut: Liam Hendriks. Yes he is sent back down but man did he get clobbered. That is more the Hendriks we have seen before. If our rotation truly needs a 6th man I hope there are better options on the farm or in the bullpen (see Redmond, Todd).

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