Aug 30, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays right fielder Jose Bautista hits a two-run home run in the first inning against New York Yankees at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Series Preview: Can the Blue Jays Keep Trending Upwards in Tampa Bay?

Shout out to Kyle for handling my last series preview. Always count on the big man to help his fellow blog boys out. Funny thing is I thought I would be opining about how the Blue Jays may have rescued their season by beating the Yankees twice…a team in front of them in the division and the Wild Card standings. Then ‘the list” started to trickle into the hot little hands of Shi Davidi…you know…the Sportsnet guy!

That’s right boys and girls. It would seem the boys who made the most noise in the minors are going to be rewarded with a taste of the majors and sort of in a pennant race to boot. Is this a youth movement or just a few auditions to bolster the bench and show their mettle? I know I am itching to get a glance of local kid Dalton Pompey, wunderkind Daniel Norris and another good ol’ Canadian boy in veteran George Kotteras.

Alex Anthopoulos is kind of in a win-win situation. He either gets a boost of talent towards the playoffs or he just ends up using the youth movement scenario to show that he has been a pretty decent draft man. If Pompey is the real deal it will show he can draft position players for success and not just pitchers…seriously this guy doesn’t have much to go on in that respect.

I look at how this season is going for the entire organization and the Blue Jays are starting to look good for the future as well as the present. The gap from the lower minors to the majors is getting smaller and if AA is given maybe two more years at the same success rate of drafting players then you may just see a perennial contender going into 2015 and beyond. Thing is, are you fans willing to overlook two lost first-rounders as being a success or do you want to run AA out of town? Discuss in the comments below. Oh and one more thing…sign Melky. Now. Please.

If Pompey is the real deal it will show he can draft position players for success and not just pitchers…seriously this guy doesn’t have much to go on in that respect.

The Rays are right on their tail after playing very strong for the month of August. I think they are a wee bit too little too late to climb over everyone ahead of them but they will always play hard and the pitching could give the Blue Jays fits…as usual.

For a team that has tossed 18 shutouts (a team record) and counting and given how the Rays have historically owned the Blue Jays this…wait for it…is a crucial series in the 2014 season. And every series after that if they win, blah blah blah. Time to silence the critics once and for all. If the Blue Jays can take down the Rays the kids may be along for a pretty wild September ride.

Probable Starting Pitchers

Game 1: R.A. Dickey(10-12, 4.00 ERA) vs Jeremy Hellickson (1-2, 2.98 ERA)

aaaand here we have R.A. Dickey. The one thing you can count on with him is taking his turn every fifth day and having an average start that keeps the team in it. It worked when the team was hitting but when they aren’t the chances of Dickey throwing a gem to win it is not very probable. A 4 ERA, 200 innings and about 13 wins…sounds like Mark Buehrle‘s numbers doesn’t it?

Dickey may be showcasing towards the end of the season. If the kids show they can handle the majors then Dickey maaaay be peddled away for a bat or a reliever (if we pay part of his salary as well I am sure). I can beat the point to death over and over but if you still haven’t read my mind Dickey is not a member of the 2015 rotation.

For the Rays, Hellickson is one of the reasons to always stay optimistic about the Rays chances every year. They have pitching and pitching and more pitching coming through the pipe. They may not be on the level of a David Price since there is no clear number 1 but there sure are plenty of two’s and three’s and that is Hellickson.

Many wondered if his ERA over 5 last season was an aberration and apparently it was. His numbers are in line with his strong 2012 campaign where he had a 3.10 ERA in 31 starts. He has great off speed stuff to complement a pretty decent moving fastball and should be the difference in this game with the Rays taking it to Dickey early.

Game 2: Marcus Stroman (8-5, 3.88 ERA) vs Chris Archer (8-7, 3.40 ERA)

So Stroman bounced back with a great start against a rather tepid Red Sox squad. He still has the power despite all the innings he has accrued this year and looks to finish strong and solidify his spot in this rotation. I love watching him when his curveball is on…it’s almost unhittable.

His ERA on turf is a great 2.33. He seems to thrive on the turf but that is mostly due to loving the home cooking at the Rogers Centre. Under the drab roof in Tampa Bay should be a decent test…but with an offense like theirs this could be easy pickings…

…if the opponent wasn’t Chris Archer that is. Toronto did give him his worst outing of his past 10 when he gave up 5 runs July 11th…his next eight starts he gave up 3 runs or less seven times…then he just got pounded by Boston in his last start to the tune of 7 runs. If history repeats itself this should be a very focused Archer.

His numbers suggest that he may be flirting with disaster as his K:BB is only 150:62 and his WHIP is an average 1.33. What he has going for him is he rarely gives up home runs (7 in 27 starts). Considering the Blue Jays do or die by the longball this could be a very close game. To the bullpens the decision will be!

Game 3: Mark Buehrle (11-9, 3.50 ERA) vs Jake Odorizzi (10-11, 4.03 ERA)

He was so good. Watching him craft his pitches wherever he wanted them was fun to watch…even if his fastball was as fast as a Dickey knuckler. Mark Buehrle set the baseball world on fire….then he ‘sploded…’sploded good. His last ten starts are a stunning fall from grace. July 5th ERA? 2.60 September 1st ERA? 3.50 and there seems to be no end in sight.

I know it would be nice for Buehrle to pick up 200 innings again for the 15th straight season but not at the expense of the team. If he is pitching well and finishing strong then an average of 6.2 innings isn’t out of the question. The way Buehrle is going though…not sure he makes it.

The other player in the Wil Myers trade is Odorizzi. He has held his own. he has his hiccups but 8 out of ten times he is giving up 3 or less runs. He has had issues on the road but at home his ERA is under 3. If he can turn into the pitcher that many thought he wouldbe, he will make a nice addition to the middle of the rotation for years to come.

He does give up a few home runs (17 so far) so as usual the Blue Jays have a shot. He has the power and the command to strikeout 3 for every walk he gives up so you know this will be a battle. I am staying the optimist and saying the Buehrle will have the game he has been missing the last couple months and will finish strong. Sorry Tampa…

Probable Starting Lineups

Toronto Blue Jays

1. Jose Reyes
2. Melky Cabrera
3. Jose Bautista
4. Adam Lind – DH
5. Edwin Encarnacion – 1B
6. Dioner Navarro – C
7. Colby Rasmus – CF
8. Danny Valencia – 3B
9. Munenori Kawasaki – 2B

Tampa Bay Rays

1. Desmond Jennings – CF
2. Brandon Guyer – LF
3. Matt Joyce – RF
4. Evan Longoria – 3B
5. James Loney – DH
6. Logan Forsythe – 2B
7. Yunel Escobar
8. Jose Molina – C
9. Sean Rodriguez – 1B
Worth the Price of Admission: Evan Longoria. Aside from starring in Desperate Housewives..oh wait….well anyway Longoria is a perennial All-Star for a team devoid of position players of all-star calibre.

Worth the Online Price of Lightning Shares: Jose Molina. He had his bat to help with his slowness behind the plate. Now he is hitting .184. Time for this Molina brother to pack it in.

Tags: Toronto Blue Jays

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