Series Preview: Toronto Blue Jays (39-38, 5th AL East) vs Boston Red Sox (47-33, 1st AL East)


Jun 14, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Toronto Blue Jays center fielder Colby Rasmus (28) is congratulated by first baseman Adam Lind (26) and designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion (10) after his three run homer against the Texas Rangers during the fourth inning of a baseball game at the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports
You would think after such a disaster of a season last year that the Red Sox would still be struggling to make things happen. They signed some aging sluggers who appeared to be on their way down and a very suspect starting rotation health wise (sound familiar). Well of course the John Farrell led bad guys are 1st in the AL East and are being led by said aging sluggers and suspect starting rotation. They currently rank 2nd in the AL in batting average (.274) and first in OPS (.793). They rank 7th in team ERA (3.87) which is also the last in the list to sport a team ERA under 4. The Blue Jays currently rank 8th at 4.06. Luckily, we seem to fare better at Boston than we do (and did) at Tampa Bay.

Seriously. How the Rays are able to just own us is astounding. Whatever pitcher they get up there they just hold us by the…well you know (right Colby Rasmus?). Still, we knew the run would end at some point. Too bad we couldn’t have set the team record but overall we are 16-6 in June. Already guaranteed a winning month. The 2.46 ERA in June is the best in all of baseball. Hitting wise we sit 6th in June at .248 and 7th over all at .250. I like the power of our offense but as a friend of mine reminded me, we are a team of power and strikeouts. Colby and J.P. ae destined to be that for their careers and unless Brett Lawrie learns to calm himself at the plate we are still going to have K issues. Fair point. It is definitely worth keeping an eye on.

Probable Starting Pitchers

Game 1: Chien-Ming Wang (1-0, 2.18 ERA) vs Jon Lester (7-4, 4.57 ERA)
Game 2: Josh Johnson (1-2, 4.60 ERA) vs Felix Doubront (4-3, 4.33 ERA)
Game 3: Esmil Rogers (3-3, 3.46 ERA) vs Allen Webster (0-2, 11.25 ERA)
Game 4: Mark Buehrle (4-5, 4.73 ERA) vs Ryan Dempster (5-8, 4.15 ERA)

What more is there to say about the resurgent Wang? His 16.2 innings pitched without giving up an earned run is the best run from one of the starters all season. His deceptive delivery and wicked sinker will need the infielders on their toes as he gives up 2.5 ground balls for every fly ball. Movement has it’s advantages (ask R.A. Dickey) and Wang seems fully healthy for the first time in a long time. I am just glad he and Dickey are separated by two different series. These two back to back may prove perilous due to the similarities in velocity. If he can keep the hits to a minimum he will keep us in the game.

It would seem Jon Lester couldn’t wait for the Blue Jays to come back to him. His last 7 outings has him sporting a 7.30 ERA BUT his ERA against the Blue Jays this year is 2.05 and he is 2-0. My gut tells me we can keep him reeling but the way the bats went pretty much silent in Tampa Bay could be the start of a bit of a cool streak. Lester is giving up a hit an inning so if we can get to him early it may bode well as he tends to get better as a game wears on.

Josh Johnson is still finding himself. He hasn’t pitched horribly since his return from the DL. He just has to try and stay out of the big inning. His last start was pretty good until he hit the sixth. The outing before that was the best from a Jays starter all year except for the gem Dickey threw yesterday. His WHIP is 1.49 and opponents are hitting him at a .277 clip. Don’t expect that to last as his career opp BAA is .244. If he is fully recovered I expect the hard hitting Sox to have a heck of a time. It’s all about the fastball to them and with the movement Johnson can put on his fastball we could see a lot of dribble balls and complete misses.

Since a 6 run earned outing on May 8 vs Minnesota, Doubront hasn’t given up more than 3 runs in his last 8 starts. He has been a model of consistency for the Sox. It’s needed too with Buchholz out and Lester struggling. His 1.49 WHIP is pretty pedestrian so it would seem his defense has been helping him out immensely. This should be a well pitched gem of a game so expect the score to be decided by 1 or 2 runs.

We all learned that Esmil Rogers is human…so human he gave up three home runs in a row in his last start. He didn’t seem to have the crisp late movement on his fastball and it was just hanging there. He did manage to get through six innings giving up 4 runs. Mediocre yes but it kept the team in the game. Here’s hoping he found out what ails him and reverts back to the pretty dominant starter we need him to be while he is still in the rotation. Even with that last game is ERA is 1.98 through his last 10 appearances. It is his age 27 season so we may yet be seeing the best of Rogers.

Poor Allen Webster. Imagine trying to replace the injured Buchholz in the rotation. When Clay went down he may have been the best pitcher in the AL at the team. Not easily replaceable. Webster holds a career 3.38 ERA in the minors and is known as a decent ground ball pitcher. He has given up 15 earned in 12 innings so far and the numbers scream of a young ‘un who isn’t quite ready for the big leagues just yet. His WHIP is 2.08! I am sure he is better than that but until he proves it this should be a gimme game for the Jays.

The finale of the series sees Mark Buehrle continuing his rise from the early season ashes. His horrid start is a thing of the past and what you are seeing is the man we were hoping to get when the trade was made with the Marlins. He took time adapting back to the AL. Consider him fully adapted. He did give up 4 in 5 innings against the Rays in his last start Boston has been pretty average against lefties so far (.247 BAA) so we definitely have a great shot at taking this game.

Ryan Dempster has not been the ace he was in the NL with the Cubs but he has been very…ummm..Buerhle like this year. In his last 10 starts he has given up 5 or more just twice. His issue has been a wee bit of walks given up along with 17 home runs in 16 starts. Dempster has definitely found life in the AL much more taxing than the NL…though at least he is on a winner now. His numbers seem to translate well for the Jays to take this one.

Probable Lineups

Toronto Blue Jays

1. SS: Jose Reyes
2. RF: Jose Bautista
3. 3B: Edwin Encarnacion
4. 1B: Adam Lind
5. DH: Melky Cabrera
6. CF: Colby Rasmus
7. LF: Rajai Davis
8. C: J.P. Arencibia
9. 2B: Maicer Izturis

Boston Red Sox

1. CF: Jacoby Ellsbury
2. RF: Shane Victorino
3. 2B: Dustin Pedroia
4. DH: David Ortiz
5. 1B: Mike Napoli
6. LF: Daniel Nava
7. C: Jarrod Saltalamacchia
8. SS: Stephen Drew
9. 3B: Jose Iglesias

I am still not sold on Colby Rasmus…still. The sweet swing, great defense and ah shucks attitude is very endearing. The .188 BAA against in the last ten games and 94 strikeouts in less than half a season is a wee bit alarming. He is one of our one and done type guys. Each game he may get a hit or make a play to help out his team but overall he is not what anyone expected of such a hyped prospect. Is this all Colby is? If so we may see him sent out by the trade deadline to make way for a younger version of himself in Anthony Gose. Both have potential but essentially are the same player at this point, though I suspect Gose will strikeout a bit less but may not hit as much to begin with. For now Colby gets the occasional big hits that drive everyone mad. Right when he seems to get it he streaks frigidly cold. Will the short porch in Boston help? It better if he wants to remain with this team.

With the demotion of Will Middlebrooks the Red Sox are using perhaps the lightest hitting third baseman in the majors. Iglesias can get the hits as evidenced by his .419 BA. Thing is he is a spray hitting singles hitter more suite for shortstop that is currently occupied by Stephen Drew. That shows just how bad Middlebrooks was. Iglesias has a great glove and strong arm that will play well at third but it is the same as us throwing Munenori Kawasaki to solve the third base issue until Brett Lawrie returns…puzzling. Well at least he is hitting the ball…even if it is just past the outfield.

Final Word

Toronto usually gets way up for these types of series. The proved to themselves there is a lot of potential on our team. If the rotation plugs (Rogers and Wang) can keep it up then we have a great chance to win every night. Thing is, can you count on these two to be part of a championship rotation? The jury is still out and the snapshot of games so far isn’t enough to say for sure. The Blue Jays are headed down the right path and could possibly take 3 in Fenway. That is a big if however. I see a split before returning home to take on the power bats of the Tigers. Enjoy your long weekend everybody!