Series Preview: Boston Red Sox (18-7) @ Toronto Blue Jays (9-17)
Apr 25, 2013; Bronx, NY, USA; Toronto Blue Jays manager John Gibbons (5) argues a call with umpire Jeff Kellogg (8) against the New York Yankees during the seventh inning at Yankee Stadium. Yankees won 5-3. Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports
Between the calls for the heads of various members of the Blue Jays (including manager John Gibbons), the almost historically bad start for the franchise and general moaning and groaning it would seem a tad unfair that we would have to face the best team in the AL so far in the Red Sox. I say this could be a turning point series for the season. Pundits and players and fans alike all know that this is not the 3rd worst team in baseball as their record indicates. The Red Sox are also not the best team in baseball as their record indicates. There is an inevitable fall back awaiting the Red Sox and this would be the perfect time for it to happen.
Game 1: Jon Lester (4-0, 2.27 ERA) v/s Brandon Morrow (0-2, 5.27)
Game 2: Clay Buchholz (5-0, 1.19 ERA) v/s Mark Buehrle (1-1, 6.35)
Game 3: Ryan Dempster (1-2, 3.30 ERA) v/s TBA
Game 1 sees a resurgent and healthy Lester taking on forever-waiting-on-potential Morrow. I like the guy, I think he works hard and is a true team player but we are now into our fourth year of muddling and befuddling Morrow. His stuff is filthy but so is his pitch count. If he can bring himself down in pitch count and ease off on the walks (19:9 K/BB ratio), the potential for Cy Young stuff is there. But the bright side is John Lester, with the sparkling ERA and record seems to hit a bump in his last start, issuing 6 walks and 3 earned in just over 6 innings. If he is falling into the same Lester as last year then perhaps the Blue Jays could take this one.
Game 2 is a match up of perhaps the biggest surprise so far in Buchholz and perhaps the biggest pitching disappointment in Buehrle. Buchholz has not gone less than 7 innings all season. A 3:1 K/BB and a WHIP of 1.01 are the makings of an early Cy Young candidate. Buchholz has always had the potential. Is this the year he finally puts it all together? On the other end, is this the beginning of a sharp decline for Buehrle. A WHIP of 1.52 and a collective BAA of .306 is high, even for a guy who is prone to giving up lots of hits. He can’t seem to bear down and is prone to the big inning so far. Is this just a fluke? This would be a great way of proving the value of his contract. Beat their best when you are not performing at your best.
For Game 3, Ryan Dempster has done fairly well so far. Many thought he would have a sharp spike in ERA coming over to the AL from the NL but his .187 BAA has been amazing and he has struck out between 7 and 10 batters in every start so far. Strikeouts carry a lot of weight in this division and unless we curb our free swinging ways this could be a feast for Dempster. There is no starter listed as of yet for the good guys. Johnson is scheduled but they are still monitoring his progress from tricep tightness. With an off day yesterday it may mean bumping J.A. Happ up a notch to fill the spot. I have no problem with this as he has been the steadiest contributor in the rotation.
The following are the probable line-ups for both squads.
Toronto Blue Jays:
1. DH: Rajai Davis
2. SS: Munenori Kawasaki
3. RF: Jose Bautista
4. 1B: Edwin Encarnacion
5. LF: Melky Cabrera
6. C: J.P. Arencibia
7. CF: Colby Rasmus
8. 3B: Brett Lawrie
9. 2B: Maicer Izturis
Boston Red Sox:
1. CF: Jacoby Ellsbury
2. RF: Daniel Nava
3. 2B: Dustin Pedroia
4. DH: David Ortiz
5. 1B: Mike Napoli
6. LF: Mike Carp
7. C: Jarrod Saltalamacchia
8. 3B: Will Middlebrooks
9. SS: Stephen Drew
The lineup needs some semblance of stability. With Brett Lawrie working his way back in the majors and Jose Bautista seemingly over his back issues, this would be the perfect time to pull a Cito and set the lineup for a few weeks and let the players sink or swim. Fiddling with the roster has done nothing so try the other approach. With the MLB ranking of 27th in both pitching and fielding perhaps a different methodology would work…that and perhaps working the count (see Rasmus, Colby and Arencibia, J.P.).
Boston has been nothing short of amazing so far but this crew is a starter injury or Pedroia injurya away from a free fall. Can John Farrell do what Bobby Valentine couldn’t? So far the numbers speak for themselves (all numbers are MLB ranking): 3rd in Team BA, 2nd in slugging, 2nd in OPS, 6th in ERA and 1st in BAA. Them some fine numbers them is.
The Final Word:
It is great to see EE performing better as of late and thank goodness for Lawrie at third. I almost forgot how slick he was around the bag and his throwing arm is mint. Reyes and Lawrie will be a dynamite left side for the nest few years. We are getting hits here and there, home runs here and there but ultimately it is both the offence and the starting pitching that is performing below par. The starters seem to be straightening out a bit so there is hope there. Where is the hope for a team that ranks 27th in OBP, 28th in BA, 28th in WHIP, 3rd in hits allowed and 6th in walk allowed. At this pace we could challenge for worst statistical team in franchise history…but we all know there is nowhere to go but up right?