Jul 2, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays left fielder Edwin Encarnacion reacts after hitting a three-run home run in the bottom of the ninth inning to give the Jays a 7-4 win over Milwaukee Brewers at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Series Preview: Blue Jays look to again roll over the Athletics


This Blue Jays team just goes to show you that stats don’t mean anything. Following a (mini)Sweep of a very good Milwaukee Brewers team the Blue Jays are fending off the advances of Baltimore and New York. We sit 11th in team ERA and 6th in batting average in the American League. So with kind of average numbers like that, how is it the Blue Jays are still on top? They lost April and June (12-15) but buried their games in May (21-9). The pitching has been good enough and the one thing that keeps them going are a high OBP (3rd), high SLG (2nd) and overall OPS (2nd). We have mashed our way to our wins. We get guys on base and we bring them in when needed. The Blue Jays are like a team version of Jack Morris: do just enough to win the game.

The Blue Jays are like a team version of Jack Morris: do just enough to win the game.

The Athletics are again on top of the baseball world. Every time it seems their lineup is too cobbled together with a bunch of who are they types they go out and rock the baseball world with great hitting and elite level pitching. Some of their pitchers have the expectation and some do not. Billy Beane is made for this team. Imagine what he could do with some money and better stadium (c’mon Selig…your lasting legacy should be saving the A’s by giving them to a market that can support them!).

Probable Starting Pitchers

Game 1: R.A. Dickey (6-7, 4.24 ERA) vs Sonny Gray (7-3. 3.20 ERA)

Dickey seems to just be puttering along. You think he is going to go on a great streak then he tosses up a four homers to a generally sub-par White Sox team (in his last start) or you think he is going to tank and he goes out and goes deep giving up 2 or less. He is generally inconsistent so far but he is due for a great streak. His first half is better than the one he had last season and hopefully he can be even better than his second half last season which was generally pretty good. He is keeping the ball on the ground (G/O: A/O of 1.24) but also is on pace to give up a homer a start. With an offense like the A’s have this could be a difficult win to get.

Sonny Gray is one of those pitchers who just came out of nowhere to lead an impressive rotation out of Oakland. He gets his groundouts and some strikeouts but most of all he doesn’t give up an inordinate amount of hits. Considering he has given up only 6 homers all year in 16 starts should tell you about that groundball capability (G/O: A/O of 1.77). This does not bode well for the plethora of power hitters we have. He has hit a bit of a sore spot with 5 earned in 5 given up to the upstart Marlins so I worry about a big statement game from Gray. We need a bit more small ball and speed to get to Gray and this will not be an easy task for Blue Jays hitters.

Game 2: Marcus Stroman (4-2, 4.01 ERA) vs Tommy Milone (6-3, 3.79 ERA)

Stroman has come on and come on strong. He has had quality in 5 of his 6 games since joining the rotation and could be a dark horse candidate to garner a few votes in a very deep rookie class for rookie of the year (who isn’t named Tanaka). He is spotting his fastball well and the low plane of delivery is making his curve and slider just bite that much more. He has earned the right to stay in the rotation until he wavers. He may stumble a bit at some point but he has the tenacity and bulldog mentality to get through the inevitable rough patches.

Milone has become a reliable part of the rotation as well. He has established himself over the last couple years as a good lefty who stands a chance to win almost every time out. He has the occasional brutal start but ultimately can be counted on for quality innings and some pretty good movement on his breaking ball. Milone has the track record but Stroman seems to be getting into the zone. Everyone needs a crafty lefty a la Buehrle….well here he is, in youngish form, with the A’s. He’ll have a few bad games but at the end of the year 12-15 wins and a West crown sounds about right.

Game 3: Mark Buehrle (10-5, 2.50 ERA) vs Scott Kazmir (9-3, 2.61 ERA)

Buehrle is still the designated ace de facto of the Blue Jays rotation. He hasn’t been as good as the beginning of the season but then there aren’t many who could have been. He hasn’t won in his last five starts but he is not the reason he hasn’t garnered any wins. The ERA of 3.44 over that time is evidence enough he is still doing whatever it takes to win, including 8 innings of 2 run ball in his last outing, a loss, to the White Sox. Hopefully this resurgence at 35 will help people to notice just how good Buehrle has always been and still continues to be

You want to talk about resurgence? Scott Kazmir has gone from hot shot rookie to being out of MLB to once again reigning supreme. His veteran presence helps replace the loss of the immortal Bartolo Colon. What has led to this comeback? Simply put, with a WHIP of 1.03 he isn’t allowing anyone to get on base. High ground ball totals, low walks and minimal home runs allowed. He showed flashes in Cleveland last year that he was on his way back and now he is among the best in the league. Tough choice but I see the bullpen taking over and allowing the Blue Jays to win it late in the game.

Game 4: Drew Hutchison (6-6, 3.81 ERA) vs Brad Mills (1-1, 4.41 ERA)

After a couple of so-so outings against the Yankees Hutchison pulled off one of the best games of his career against the Brewers. 7 innings of 1 run, 10K ball. As has been the case with Hutch throughout the season, he is often very good with the occasional stinker thrown in every month or so. That kind of pace keeps you in a rotation long term. He may never be a complete ace but with Stroman and the upcoming Aaron Sanchez and Daniel Norris, the Blue Jays look like a team with pitching depth to push them past this current championship window of 2014-20116. If he can walk a few less and revert back to the ground ball pitcher he used to be then he could finish the year strong and be a key part of a division championship.

Brad Mills eh? Acquired from the Miwaukee Brewers for a dollar, he was thrust into the rotation to take the place of hand breaking Drew Pomeranz after he punched a wooden chair. The former Blue Jays lefty has done alright so far. In 3 starts he has given up 3 or less runs and struck out twice as many as he has walked. This is certainly no long term solution since Mills has a track record about an inch long but for now he is another lefty here to try and crash the hitting party that is the Blue Jays. I say give this one to the Blue Birds.

Probable Starting Lineups

Toronto Blue Jays

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

Oakland A’s

1. CF: Coco Crisp
2. 2B: Alberto Callaspo
3. LF: Yoenis Cespedes
4. 1B: Brandon Moss
5. 3B: Josh Donaldson
6. SS: Jed Lowrie
7. DH: Nate Frieman
8. C: Derek Norris
9. RF: Josh Reddick

Worth the Price of Admission: Josh Donaldson has turned himself from average baller to a possible perennial MVP candidate manning third for the A’s. Cespedes may have the flash but Donaldson has the grit that keeps teams winning.

Worth the Price of a Raider’s Kicker: Drew Pomeranz. Such potential wasted on such a hot head. Punch a wooden chair and what do you expect? See you on the sidelines buddy…

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