Aug 3, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Toronto Blue Jays manager John Gibbons (5) pulls starting pitcher Marcus Stroman (54) during the fourth inning against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Series Preview: Blue Jays Try to Gain Ground on the Orioles

Wow. Did NOT see that one coming. Granted I was away for a wee bit of vacation and family chicanery. From the video highlowlights it would appear we ran into an up and coming Astros squad who wants to serve notice that their rebuild is closer to completion than ever before. Either that or the lack of a few big bats in the Blue Jays lineup is finally starting to take it’s toll and that is not good news going in to a series against the somewhat better pitching of the Orioles.

the lack of a few big bats in the Blue Jays lineup is finally starting to take it’s toll

Not just that but the Orioles offense that has been pretty strong throughout the season. The one big factor would be the whole run better the Orioles bullpen has been compared to the Blue Jays rotation of many arms bullpen. Our best bet would be to pound the starters and hold off the offense once we get into the bullpen. Even with Brett Lawrie back and Colby Rasmus apparently feeling better at the plate but it still does not lend itself to an offensive pounding. This series is going to be very close to call.

Probable Starting Pitchers

Game 1: Bud Norris (8-7, 3.69 ERA) vs Mark Buehrle (11-7, 3.11 ERA)

Bud Norris already has beaten Toronto in Toronto this year. He has come back from a rather pedestrian 2013 to lay down a pretty decent 2014. He is never going to be a Cy Young winner or even an ace but he has enough going well for him…especially a world class defense like the Orioles have. He knows how to work the batter and keep him off balance. If he can’t spot his pitches though he is very very hittable (as would most pitchers).

Buehrle finally got the monkey off his back by winning his 11th game. The near two month wait makes a 20 win season almost not possible but no reason why an ERA under 3 and 18 wins is not out of the question and that is still a pretty good season by any pitching standard in this era. He still gives up the hits and his ERA the last month is about 6.10 but he hasn’t forgotten how to pitch. Look for him to go on another run to help keep the Blue Jays within striking distance of a wild card spot.

Game 2: Wei-Yin Chen (12-3, 3.76 ERA) vs Drew Hutchison (7-9, 4.62 ERA)

In his last ten games. Chen has given up 5 or more runs only once. His ER is 3.25 over that span and he has a very good K:BB ratio of 4.4:1. the Taiwanese 6 footer has been a welcome addition to a starting staff that was pretty mediocre. He has been giving up his share of hits but gets the outs when needed. The Blue Jays one saving grace may be the ERA over four on turf. If he keeps the ball down and allows his all world defensive infield to make their mark on the game he could definitely be looking at win 13.

It’s been a tough go of it the last month for Hutchison. He has given up 4 or more runs 6 times in the last 10 games with an ERA over 6. He still gets his share of strikeouts but the worrisome thing is he hasn’t progressed from that first season in 2012. The ERA is similar and so are the peripheral stats. Hutchison has the capabilities to be a decent mid-rotation starter but at this point seems a little lost. Pete Walker is on the hot seat with this one

Game 3: Miguel Gonzalez (5-6, 3.93 ERA) vs J.A. Happ (8-5, 4.25 ERA)

Another pitcher who benefits from the superior defense of the Orioles is Mexican Miguel Gonzalez. Like his fellow starters he isn’t an ace. isn’t overpowering and gives up his fair share of flyballs. In the Jays favour is an ERA over 5 on turf and a 4.12 ERA on the road. If the Blue Jays are to have any chance at taking this series this is the must win game of the lot.

Happ has been very good since the break 4 runs given up in 18 innings. He has been trusting the natural movement on his fastball more and getting the results expected of him when we grabbed him from the Astros. His BAA against is still a not so stellar .270 but he isn’t given up that big hit and each time out so far in the second half he has given the Blue Jays a chance at winning. From your fifth guy that’s all you can ask really.

Probable Starting Lineups

Baltimore Orioles

1. RF: Nick Markakis
2. 3B: Manny Machado
3. CF: Adam Jones
4. DH: Delmon Young
5. 1B: Chris Davis
6. SS: J.J. Hardy
7. LF: Nelson Cruz
8. 2B: Ryan Flaherty
9. C: Nick Hundley

Toronto Blue Jays

1. SS: Jose Reyes
2. LF: Melky Cabrera
3. DH: Jose Bautista
4. C: Dioner Navarro
5. 1B: Juan Francisco
6. CF: Colby Rasmus
7. 3B: Brett Lawrie
8. 2B: Ryan Goins
8. RF: Anthony Gose

Worth the Price of Admission: Brett Lawrie. WIth the offense stagnant and the pitching staff getting roughed up a bit, how about the still 24 year old third baseman who is coming back from injury. He is very much needed to balance out a sometimes lefty heavy lineup and his power could keep pitchers honest.

Worth the Price of Fallen Tree Kindling: Ryan Goins. The occasional massive game aside, his bat is a liability in general. I would much rather give Kawasaki the reigns until someone better comes along.

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