Series Preview: Houston Astros (34-66) at Toronto Blue Jays (45-55)


Jul 13, 2013; Baltimore, MD, USA; Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Jose Reyes (7) doubles in the first inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

Rested, rejuvenated, and with a sense of urgency. This was how we expected the Toronto Blue Jays to come out of the gate following the 4-day All-Star Break.

Instead, the Blue Jays have done exactly as they have done all season; defied logic and underachieved to an exponential degree. The team has lost all six of its games since the break and has done so in a manner that has been heart-wrenching to behold. We’ve witnessed blow-outs, blown saves, sloppy defense, failed comebacks, the whole gamut. A players’ only meeting was not enough to jump start this team. They need something to grasp at and they need it fast.

Enter the Houston Astros.

If there was a team that has struggled more than the Blue Jays, its been the Houston Astros, who currently wear the crown of the worst record in baseball. But there’s an excuse for Houston’s failures. They are in full rebuild mode and knowingly entered the season with that plan in place. The Blue Jays, on the other hand, had completely different designs on their season.

Probable Starting Pitchers
Game 1: Erik Bedard (3-7, 4.41 ERA) vs Mark Buehrle (5-7, 4.83 ERA)
Game 2: Jordan Lyles (4-4, 4.78 ERA) vs R.A. Dickey (8-11, 4.75 ERA)
Game 3: Dallas Keuchel (4-5, 4.42 ERA) vs Josh Johnson (1-6, 5.66 ERA)
Game 4: Jarred Cosart (1-0, 0.60 ERA) vs Todd Redmon (1-1, 4.43 ERA)

Game 1 Bedard is coming off arguably his best start in the last several seasons, throwing 6.1 innings of no-hit ball against the Seattle Mariners. He struck out 10 in the contest, but a pitch count of 109 on an arm that has seen better days caused the pitcher to call it a day.

He’ll be opposed by Mark Buehrle, who threw a decent game in his last outing, going 7 innings and allowing 4 runs (3 earned) against Tampa Bay. Unfortunately, it was enough to lose a game that the Jays offense was unable to get much going in.

Game 2 will see one of Houston’s young starters in Jordan Lyles, taking on R.A. Dickey. The 22-year-old Lyles followed-up Bedard’s big start by getting shelled by Seattle, allowing 10 runs (9 earned) over 4 unproductive innings.

The Blue Jays would-be ace has been inconsistent throughout the season, but that may bode well for Toronto on Friday night, as Dickey was knocked around in his last start against Tampa, surrendering 4 runs on 3 home runs against Tampa Bay. That would seem to indicate that he’s due for the proverbial “he’s turning his season around” start.

Game 3 will see a match-up of unknown Dallas Keuchel and Josh Johnson. Keuchel is on his second turn through the Major Leagues and the 25-year-old has shown some solid improvements. He’s coming off of a solid outing against Oakland on Monday where he threw 6 innings and surrendered just a single run.

Josh Johnson, well, he’s been frustrating. However, this could be Toronto’s last chance to showcase him should they change course and opt to trade him prior to the deadline.

The final game of the set will see the most intriguing pitcher from Houston’s rotation take the ball, Jarred Cosart. Houston top prospect has looked excellent in his first two big league starts, as the 23-year-old has thrown 15 innings, surrendering just 2 runs (1 earned) while striking out 6. He’s also walked 6 batters, so Blue Jays hitters will want to be patient with him.

At this stage, he’ll be opposed by Todd Redmond, who will be making his fourth start for the Blue Jays. The 28-year-old has been, well, okay, but he’s topped 100 pitches in just one start, doing so in the 6th inning of his last outing.

Probable Lineups

Houston Astros
1. SS: Jonathan Villar
2. 2B: Jose Altuve
3. DH: Jason Castro
4. LF: Chris Carter
5. C: Carlos Corporan
6. 1B: Brett Wallace
7. CF: Justin Maxwell
8. 3B: Matt Dominguez
9. RF: Marc Krauss

Toronto Blue Jays
1. SS: Jose Reyes
2. LF: Melky Cabrera
3. RF: Jose Bautista
4. 1B: Edwin Encarnacion
5. DH: Adam Lind
6. CF: Colby Rasmus
7. 3B: Maicer Izturis
8. C: J.P. Arencibia / Josh Thole
9. 2B: Brett Lawrie

The Astros are the ranked 29th in the league with a .236 team batting average and a .670 team OPS, leading them to score the 4th fewest runs in baseball. The team has made some recent changes, releasing Carlos Pena and fully embracing the youth movement, allowing the offense to flow through Jose Altuve, Jason Castro, and the hit or miss swing of Chris Carter.

The Blue Jays offense can be a killer one night and a cricket the next. With Houston’s pitching staff ranked as the worst staff according to team ERA by nearly half a run and also holding the worst WHIP in the game, Toronto’s offense should find some ground to score some runs and take some weight off of their own, equally pitiful pitching staff.

Final Word

Anything less than a sweep would be unacceptable in the eyes of the fans and it should be so in the eyes of the players as well. There is little time to make up any ground, and the hole is tremendously deep. The Blue Jays need this series, plain and simple.