Series Preview: Toronto Blue Jays (56-65) At Tampa Bay Rays (68-51)


Aug 15, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays pitcher R.A. Dickey (43) in the dug out during a game against the Boston Red Sox at the Rogers Centre. Toronto defeated Boston 2-1. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

As much of a naysayers as I was during my last series preview, I am back for more punishment. Low and behold, after saying that the Toronto Blue Jays would have little chance of winning a pitching battle against the visiting Boston Red Sox, they did just that and took two out of the three games.

So if we’re playing the opposite mojo game, then I’ll try another one while I am ahead.

The Blue Jays will not win at Tropicana Field.

Alright, so I say that with some jest, but the fact remains that the Blue Jays struggle immensely when playing under the dome in Tampa. How bad has it been? The Blue Jays have not won a series in baseball’s worst stadium since 2007. But I digress.

Go Blue Jays!

Probable Starting Pitchers:
Game 1: R.A Dickey (9-11, 4.46 ERA) vs Jeremy Hellickson (10-6, 4.93 ERA)
Game 2: J.A. Happ (2-2, 5.11 ERA) vs Roberto Hernandez (6-12, 4.95 ERA)
Game 3: Todd Redmond (1-1, 3.62 ERA) vs Chris Archer (6-5, 3.10 ERA)

Looking at the peripheral stats for each pitcher in this series, and the general reader doesn’t get the warm and fuzzy feeling that this will be a well pitched series at all. However, looks can be deceiving.

Game 1 starters have had the best and worst of both worlds against their respective series opponents. Jeremy Hellickson owns a 4.93 ERA on the season and got knocked around in his first start against Toronto, but has allowed just 4 earned runs in 20 innings over his last three starts against the Blue Jays. Dickey on the other hand, has made three starts, one of which was a 2-hit shut-out of the Rays, where his last start was a 3-home run outing that was a bit more forgettable.

Game 2 starter J.A. Happ could likely say that his last start in Tampa was forgettable. Of course, that could be because he doesn’t remember much of it after taking a line drive off the face and missing 3 months. He’ll be opposed by Roberto Hernandez, who at some point forgot his own name and went by Fausto Carmona for a while.

The final game of the series looks to be the most promising from a pitching standpoint. Rays starter Chris Archer has been outstanding during his rookie campaign and has perhaps been Tampa’s most consistent starter since Matt Moore went down to an injury. He’ll match-up against Todd Redmond, who has been relatively decent considering the Blue Jays are using him in small doses.

Probable Lineups:

Toronto Blue Jays
1. SS: Jose Reyes
2. CF: Rajai Davis/Anthony Gose (Gose would likely bat 9th)
3. RF: Jose Bautista
4. 1B: Edwin Encarnacion
5. DH: Adam Lind
6. 3B: Brett Lawrie
7. C: J.P. Arencibia
8. LF: Kevin Pillar
9. 2B: Maicer Izturis

Tampa Bay Rays
1. 2B: Ben Zobrist
2. RF: Matt Joyce
3. 3B: Evan Longoria
4. CF: Wil Myers
5. 1B: James Loney
6. SS: Yunel Escobar
7. DH: Luke Scott
8. C: Jose Molina/Jose Lobaton
9. LF: Kelly Johnson

The Blue Jays are officially in try-outs mode, having promoted outfield prospects Anthony Gose (still a prospect?) and Kevin Pillar. Pillar is hit-less in his first seven at bats and has struck out four times.

Brett Lawrie continues to swing a hot bat, hitting .400 over the last two weeks and finally looks to be putting things together.

How much of an impact has Wil Myers had on the Rays line-up? He leads all American League rookies with 37 RBI, despite having played in just 47 games played.

That production has helped to hide some of the struggles of third baseman Evan Longoria, who has been struggling over the course of the last month, hitting just .231 with 11 RBI over his last 22 games.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, J.A. Happ killer Desmond Jennings is on the 15-day disabled list, so we have that going for us.

Final Word:

With the Rays struggling to a 4-7 record in August, this is the time for the Blue Jays to meet up with them. That doesn’t guarantee a series win, as there is no such thing as a guarantee with this team, however it does give one hope.

As with any series, pitching is going to win games and the Blue Jays have turned in four straight quality games out of their starting pitchers. If they can keep that up, they have a chance against the offensively anemic Rays line-up.

It all starts with R.A. Dickey.