Series Preview: Toronto Blue Jays (28-36, 5th AL East) @ Texas Rangers (38-27, 2nd AL West)
Jun 11, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays first baseman Adam Lind (26) hits a ground rule double against the Chicago White Sox during the second inning at U.S. Cellular Field. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY SportsMan, mother nature can sure lay it on thick. Here’s hoping the weather doesn’t cause too much chaos and everyone stays safe. Luckily we were able to escape the furiously Windy City and get to Texas. Instead of crazy rain we get the wretched heat of Arlington…yay! There really are no surprises hitting us when we go down there. It was great to get 2 out of 3 when they were in Toronto but the getting is going to be much more difficult in the home of the Rangers. The Rangers sit 3rd in ERA (3.60) and 4th in BA (.264) in the American League.
Aside from the always involved Oakland A’s the Rangers are sitting pretty in second place in the AL West just a game back of them A’s. When Alexi Ogando and Colby Lewis make their anticipated returns to the rotation, the reliance on the Josh Linblom’s and Jason Grimm’s of the world will no longer be needed and thus fortifying the rotation for the second half of the season. The kids have done a good job in keeping the Rangers relevant and the team can only get better with the return of the veterans.
As for the Blue Jays they are no longer just better than the Astros in team ERA. The surprising Baltimore Orioles are now also not as good as the Blue Jays. Small victories my friends. It just shows that slowly but surely the balance is starting to turn. With the capabilities and talent of our pitching staff we knew they couldn’t be so bad for so long…though R.A. Dickey is still giving me fits. If you were worried about our offence, be worried no more. We currently are sliding up the standings and sit 9th in BA (.252).
To give some perspective, in April we were 14th. In the month of May we were 5th and so far in June we are the 4th best. This is all according to the classic Batting Average stat. I know it is old school but I have grey. I am (getting) old. Deal. All it tells me is we are going to kick it into high gear offensively with the imminent return of Jose Reyes (J.P. Arencibia‘s abyss of an at bat be damned). If the pitching can keep the slow and steady climb up the rankings we could be seeing a potential juggernaut on our hands. Potential.
Probable Starting Pitchers:
Game 1: Esmil Rogers (1-2, 3.60 ERA) vs Yu Darvish (7-2, 2.75 ERA)
Game 2: Mark Buehrle (2-4, 5.06 ERA) vs Justin Grimm (5-4, 5.25 ERA)
Game 3: Josh Johnson (0-2, 5.40 ERA) vs Josh Lindblom (0-1, 5.91 ERA)
Game 4: R.A. Dickey (5-8, 5.11 ERA) vs Derek Holland (5-3, 3.11 ERA)
Look at those ERA’s kids. Hard to believe that hitting is down overall these days. Why we can’t take advantage of this with our starting pitchers is kind of irksome. All Hail the Blue Jays bullpen! Put Esmil Rogers in that all hail. Rogers has done a great job filling the gap in the rotation. He may have been going short but the innings have been quality. Hopefully he is stretched out enough to go at least 5 and perhaps get himself a win to reflect his numbers. Unfortunately I don’t see it happening with the whirling Darvish taking the mound against him. We did a decent job of getting a win off of him the last time. Don’t count on this happening again. He may not have won since May 16 but his ERA since then is 2.28. He is overdue for a win, moreso than Rogers.
I like how Mark Buehrle has been more Mark Buehrle lately but that is at home. His ERA on the road is an unsightly 6.75. If he is to continue his ascension back to workmanlike innings eater he will need to pull those tricks off on the road as well. With a strong start he could get his ERA under that 5 mark. That would be a great moral victory. Taking the game from Justin Grimm. Grimm has been trending worse and worse since he started the season 2-0 with a 1.59 ERA in April. His 4 runs given up against us was better than the 8 he gave up the game before against the Red Sox. You could try to give this game to the Rangers but I think Buehrle has turned the corner. One for the good guys
Game 3 could go either way. Johnson threw 109 pitches in only 5 innings with 4 walks and 3 earned against the Rangers in Toronto. He seems to still be finding his rhythm and hopefully the heat of Texas will remind him of his glorious days with the Marlins and he starts to become the ace that many still think he can be. The walks are uncharacteristic to the pitcher he has been so chalk it up to an aberration. If he can contain Beltre and Berkman then the rest should fall back as well. Not much to say about Lindblom other than the fact he has been kind lousy his first two starts. If he is hoping to get on track here I think it isn’t to be. It won’t be as easy to win as the Jays may hope but the bullpen will pull it out and get us a needed victory.
That brings us to game 4. My gimme game of the series. Dickey has done nothing this season to show that he is the Cy Young winning pitcher he was last year. Perhaps the AL is too tough. Perhaps his injuries are worse than thought. Perhaps hitters have figure him out. Aside from the gem he pitched against the Giants in San Francisco I see lots of 6’s and 7’s beside the earned run column in many of his starts. Not a few….many (4 of his last 8). Derek Holland hiccuped in his last start with 4 earned in 4 1/3 he was not the pitcher he has been most of the season. His K to walk ratio is almost 4:1 and he has given up more than 4 runs in back to back starts only one other time this season. I see some befuddled bats and a big win for the Rangers.
Probable Starting Lineups:
Toronto Blue Jays
1. LF: Melky Cabrera
2. RF: Jose Bautista
3. 1B: Edwin Encarnacion
4. DH: Adam Lind
5. C: J.P. Arencibia
6. CF: Colby Rasmus
7. 3B: Maicer Izturis
8. 2B: Emilio Bonifacio
9. SS: Munenori Kawasaki
1. SS: Elvis Andrus
2. 2B: Jurickson Profar
3. C: A.J. Pierzynski
4. 3B: Adrian Beltre
5. DH: Lance Berkman
6. LF: David Murphy
7. CF: Craig Gentry
8. 1B: Chris McGuiness
9. RF: Leonys Martin
The key to the resurgence has not been Jose Bautista but the first base boys, Lind and Encarnacion. Adam Lind is hitting .447 in his last 10 games and overall the man who couldn’t hit lefties is hitting .500 off of them this year. That is huge to keeping his bat in the line-up. There is no platooning him in and out anymore. He is as locked in as any hitter in baseball right now. Heck his OBP is .418! That is production kids. Encarnacion has his OPS approaching 900 and he should get there sometime this month. He has been getting the big hit when needed, especially with the long ball. These two are driving the bus and with some other timely hits from the rest of the team we are clicking pretty well.
For the Rangers you only need look at the split line for Adrian Beltre (.300/.349/.526) to realize just how valuable he is. He wins Gold Gloves almost every year and last year earned the Platinum Glove for best defender in all of baseball. That is an MVP right there. With a good set of power numbers (14 HR) and low strike out rate (29 in 253 ABs) he is the one who could single handedly take the series overall for the Rangers. Bet the Dodgers are cringing everytime they see him rake. He would look good at third for them right about now.
It is all about the pitching this series. We know both teams can hit so it is a matter of our rotation being the bulldogs they were supposed to be. The winning has to start now or else we will keep fading and fading. Right the ship against the rest of the AL and then when it’s time to take on the East again we will be running on all cylinders. The big question remains if the rotation can’t do its job again is the bullpen ready to shut down all over again? They have been remarkable lately and it’s not right to expect them to hold things down all season the way they have been. Cross your fingers and enjoy the show!