Series Preview: Toronto Blue Jays (23-31) @ San Diego Padres (24-29)


May 15, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays left fielder Melky Cabrera (53) heads for first base against the San Francisco Giants at the Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
A barnburner of a series this isn’t. The Blue Jays are stuck in neutral thanks to our horrid starting pitching. Our 5.20 ERA in May is the worst in MLB (including the Astros and Marlins!). That doesn’t sit too well with me. We seem to have a tendency to give up the long ball….often. Only the Astros, with 76, have given up more home runs this year than the 74 Blue Jays pitching has contributed. People were all worried about our offence to a degree but even without Jose Reyes they have begun to come together.

Our best hitter this month? Jose Bautista (.360 AVG, 5 HR, 22 RBI, 22 BB, 1.060 OPS) Our best starting pitcher (that has been in the rotation all season)? Mark Buehrle (6 G, 1-2, 4.89 ERA, 27 K, 14 BB, 27 K, 1.29 WHIP). See how one seems to counteract the other? We are hitting the stitches off the baseball in May and yet are no closer to moving up in the standings. 1 win, 1 loss, 1 win, 1 loss. Hopefully we can take advantage of a still somewhat struggling Padres team.

Probable Pitchers:

Game 1: Chad Jenkins (1-0, 3.60 ERA) vs. Jason Marquis (6-2, 3.70 ERA)
Game 2: Mark Buehrle (2-3, 5.51 ERA) vs. Clayton Richard (0-5, 8.35 ERA)
Game 3: Brandon Morrow (2-3, 5.63 ERA) vs. Edinson Volquez (4-5, 5.20 ERA)

Jenkins has done so far what he did last year. Spot filled some starts with a workmanlike manner and an ability to keep us in the game. Both starts this year were 5 innings pitched and 2 earned allowed. His WHIP is an ungodly 1.90 but it’s only two games and due to the 15 hits he has given up so far. Once he can get deeper into games the more his numbers will level out to a normal average rate of about 1.20 and become sort of a younger version of a younger version of Mark Buehrle…if we are lucky.

Jason Marquis has had a fairly good year so far. Aside from a 7 spot he gave to the Brewers on April 22, he had allowed three or fewer runs in every start…except his last one where he gave up 4. Is he hitting a downtrend? Well his 34:32 K:BB is a bit alarming and his WHIP of 1.44 is mediocre at best? Attribute his decent ERA to getting that out when needed and having a pretty good defense behind him (4th best in the NL so far). This could be a pretty tight game but if the Blue Jays stay patient, Marquis has shown he can give us some extra runners and perhaps our team speed will ultimately win out

Game 2 sees a slightly resurgent Buehrle going up against potential laden Clayton Richard who is making his second start since coming off the disabled list. Hopefully he pitches like he did in his first game back (5 ER, 3 HR). Kind of strange for a guy known to be a groundball pitcher. He makes his mistakes and is primed to be beaten into the ground with Blue Jays bats.

If Buehrle can continue his upward trend then this game should be ours for the taking. He has had 3 quality starts of late so he is showing the form and the reason we traded for him in the first place (17:6 K:BB in the last three quality starts). A veteran like him can only go down that bad road for so long….eventually they seem to get it back. If this is the Buehrle we traded for then our chances to moev up in the standings increase significantly. He is a glue guy and glue guys need to be just that.

For game 3 we have to hope that Brandon Morrow’s arm issues are finally laid to rest. This may be the most maddening talent we have had that has gone unfulfilled since A.J. Burnett was in the rotation. If the arm issues were the reason for not being able to locate his fastball and that injury is healed we may start to see the pitcher we know he can be. How long do we wait on potential? If Morrow doesn’t turn a corner soon he may be a trading chip come July 1st and Padres hitters could have a field day.

Of all the starters in the San Diego rotation who have been in rotation since season opener, Volquez has the worst ERA of them all. Another one of those talented guys who shows flashes of brilliance but is prone to the walk. With a GO/AO of 1.38 and a great defense, it is hard to fathom why he is pitching as poor as he is. Well giving up a ton of line drive hits may be the reason. He can be good but he can definitely be had. This one could be a slobberknocker of a slugfest.

Probable Starting Lineups:

Toronto Blue Jays

1. LF: Melky Cabrera
2. RF: Jose Bautista
3. 1B: Edwin Encarnacion
4. C: J.P. Arencibia
5. 3B: Mark DeRosa
6. CF: Colby Rasmus
7. 2B: Emilio Bonifacio
8. SS: Munenori Kawasaki
9. (insert pitcher here)

San Diego Padres

1. CF: Chris Denorfia
2. SS: Everth Cabrera
3. 3B: Chase Headley
4. LF: Carlos Quentin
5. 2B: Jedd Gyorko
6. 1B: Yonder Alonso
7. RF: Will Venable
8. C: Todd Hundley
9. (insert pitcher here)

San Diego’s offence is supposed to run through two people: Chase Headley and Carlos Quentin. Quentin has been awful this year (.216 BA, 5 HR, .761 OPS). He was almost an MVP candidate for the White Sox a few years ago and he has taken a header off the proverbial cliff. Headley is starting to slowly come around but even he is not pulling his own weight (.259 BA, 5 HR, .700 OPS). He has always had the defensive ability and last year proved he was in the top echelon of third basemen in baseball. In order for the Padres to be relevant in the NL West they need these two boys to start destroying the baseball.

Speaking of destroying the baseball, I already showed you how amazing Bautista has been in May but with 16 multi-hit games so far, Melky Cabrera has been on a tear as well. His .241 BA in April is a thing of the past. The .333 BA, .863 OPS and 14 RBI is more what we hoped to expect. He was a crap shoot due to his steroid thingy last year and he has proven that he is a good hitter. Not just a good hitter when juiced. The power numbers will be down but the man can hit. Get him back in the number 2 spot when Reyes gets back and our top 4 could rival anyone in the game.

Final Word

With both teams seemingly having pitching staffs in various degrees of disarray, this is a tough one to call. San Diego has a team built for spacious Petco Park. For the Jays they need to continue to utilize small ball and speed to get things done. Home runs are not common in San Diego so unless we are able to do that it could be a long long series. I expect this to be a hit fest of a series and thanks to the warm effect of the California air, I would expect the Jays to do no worse than 2 out of 3.