Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
Toronto Blue Jays (10-9) vs Baltimore Orioles (9-9)
The Blue Jays were off yesterday. Perhaps it allowed them to lament on what could have been. The Jays wrapped up a road trip that saw them go through Baltimore, Minnesota and Cleveland. The Jays finished 5-4 on the trip, which isn’t terrible. But it could have easily been so much better. Without the bullpen collapse against the Twins on Thursday and Aaron Loup blowing the lead for Brandon Morrow on Sunday, the Blue Jays could have had a record of 7-2! Now, the above statement involves a lot of coulda, shoulda, woulda. Since, the season marches on, there is no need to dwell over the past; to cry over spilled milk. In a 162 game season, there is always another chance.
Today, the Blue Jays kick off a home stand that will see them face divisional rivals Baltimore and Boston for 3 games each. Jays Journal’s Jeff Morten (@tallboywrites) has already given us a great preview of this upcoming series.
Yes, it is only April, but these games are still important. I’ve heard this somewhere before: ‘Games lost in April are difficult to make up in September’. Today is the first matchup of this (somewhat) important homestand.
The Blue Jays will send their ‘ACE’ to the mound. R.A. Dickey looks to bounce back from his last start in Minnesota where he gave up 5 walks and 5 runs in 4 1/3 innings in the 7-0 loss. The weather surely played a factor in Dickey’s (in)ability to throw the knuckleball for strikes. That should not be an issue in his own ballpark. Rogers Centre offers the right climate for gripping the knuckleball, but still offers a danger in the form of being a hitter friendly, homerun happy stadium. And, the Orioles have a lot of thump in their lineup. In fact, Dickey has a losing record against the O’s. He’s 2-4 with a 4.67 ERA. Nelson Cruz and J.J. Hardy are hitting .333 against Dickey. They’ll look to continue their success tonight.
In this piece by Gregor Chisholm at MLB.com, Dickey says that he sees improvement and it is just a matter of time before things turn around. The question is: How long? Blue Jays fans should be watching to see the early impact of his knuckler. If it’s working early, Dickey will enjoy a successful evening. If not, John Gibbons will have a tough call to make. We should keep in mind that Gibby seems to have Dickey on a very long leash. I examined this idea over at Blue Jays From Away just the other day. Head over and check it out while you’re waiting for the game to start.
The Orioles will counter with Miguel Gonzalez. Coming off a start against the Tampa Bay Rays, Gonzalez will look to improve his ability to last for more than 5 innings. In his last start, he walked 3 and struck out 6; the Rays made him work. The Blue Jays should do the same. Wait him out. Run up his pitch count. Gonzalez is 4-2 for his career against the Blue Jays with an ERA of 3.00 and 33 K’s. Of Blue Jay hitters, Jose Bautista has the highest average against Gonzalez at .222 in 9 at bats. However, Edwin Encarnacion has been the most productive. He has 2 homeruns and 4RBI in 17 at bats against Gonzalez. Maybe tonight is the night we see the chicken wing round the bases!
What Fans Should Watch For:
-How is Dickey’s knuckler moving in the early inning(s)? Dickey’s success can often be gauged by the second inning. If it’s good early, it should be a fun night. If he struggles with it…ugh.
-Can the bullpen be trusted? The answer is obviously “Yes”. But, with two recent meltdowns, fans are not so sure. Gibbons used them sparingly over this road trip and they had an off day yesterday. They should be ready to come in and put up zeroes!
-When will Encarnacion break out the chicken wing? It feels like we’ve been waiting for this forever. Well, it’s been 19 games. That’s too long! I’d like to order a chicken wing to go. With extra sauce.
*Lineup Info from BaseballPress.com*
Baltimore Orioles lineup:
1. Nick Markakis (L) RF
2. Nelson Cruz (R) LF
3. Chris Davis (L) 1B
4. Adam Jones (R) CF
5. Steve Clevenger (L) C
6. Delmon Young (R) DH
7. Ryan Flaherty (L) SS
8. Jonathan Schoop (R) 3B
9. Steve Lombardozzi (S) 2B
Toronto Blue Jays lineup:
1. Jose Reyes (S) SS
2. Melky Cabrera (S) LF
3. Jose Bautista (R) RF
4. Edwin Encarnacion (R) 1B
5. Juan Francisco (L) DH
6. Colby Rasmus (L) CF
7. Brett Lawrie (R) 3B
8. Josh Thole (L) C
9. Ryan Goins (L) 2B