Series Preview: Toronto Blue Jays (12-13) @ Kansas City Royals (12-12)


Apr 27, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays third baseman

Brett Lawrie

(13) celebrates with left fielder

Melky Cabrera

(53) in the dugout after hitting a solo home run in the second inning against the Boston Red Sox at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Wow. Did we ever get our proverbial butts handed to us last week. With the proponent for giving up the big inning the Blue Jays seemed destined to fall into a deep crater of pitching hell. Couple that with the dire circumstances starting to evolve in the lower third of the batting order and it seems the 12-13 record is a great illusion. Enter R.A. Dickey to save the day…something I would never have said a week ago. It was his first start as a Blue Jay that he didn’t give up a walk (that includes last year). Considering he led the majors in that category going into Sunday’s tilt against the always pesky poled Red Sox it was nothing short of a miracle on turf.

The Royals seem to be following the rest of the American League on the parity tip. No team is more than 5 games above .500 and no team (aside from Houston) is more than 4 games under. It’s still early but that shows the competitive balance. Every team seems to have a weakness holding them back from running roughshod over the competition. KC seems to have troubl fielding the ball which has them sitting in 26th in baseball in the fielding percentage department. Of note the BLUE JAYS lead the majors in fielding percentage…yeah! I know!! Can’t blame it on the defense this time.

Probable Starting Pitchers

Game 1: Dustin McGowan (1-1, 6.88 ERA) vs Jason Vargas (2-0, 1.54 ERA)

When your starter explicitly states he can’t pitch more than 60 pitches in any given start he should be shown the door to long relief. That should be the fate of Dustin McGowan. Todd Redmond is the only guy in the pen that has an ERA under 3 so perhaps it’s time to throw him in the mix. There is talk that Marcus Stroman‘s pitch schedule has been altered to follow that of McGowan so perhaps sometime in May we will start to see the wave of kids coming up through the system. We’ll have to wait and see on that one.

In other pitching news, Jason Vargas has become awesome. He hasn’t given up more than 2 runs a game in any of his starts and has never pitched less than 6 innings in any start this season. Never less than 6. Are you noticing that Mr. Gibbons and your merry band of 5 inning charlatans? Vargas has always been a mediocre to average pitcher but with his improved fastball command this season he has started out as one of the best pitchers in the AL right now. Will this last? Given his track record I don’t see it. For now though, chalk this game up to the Royals.

Game 2: Drew Hutchison (1-1, 3.46 ERA) vs Bruce Chen (1-2, 7.45 ERA)

Hutchison has been slowly bringing his ERA down with some great pitching. He isn’t overpowering but he has been able to place his 92 mph fastball wherever he wants it. With the late life movement on it he has been baffling hitters most of the season, culminating in the 9 strikeout performance against the Orioles. Too bad he can’t seem to pitch past the 6th inning. If he can be more conservative and throw a few less pitches per inning he will be able to go deeper into games. Let’s see if the Royals will be the first to push him at least into the 7th inning.

How Bruce Chen has been able to stay in a big league rotation this long is curious. He isn’t a power pitcher and on at least half of those days he starts he has no command of a the wimpy fastball he tosses. I know lefties are a highly sought after commodity but if he doesn’t turn it around soon we may be seeing more of an influx of solid minor league pitchers given the opportunity to take Chen’s spot and lay him out to to pasture. Mean? Yes. Wrong? No. This one goes to the good guys in Blue.

Game 3: Mark Buehrle (4-1, 2.16 ERA) vs Yordano Ventura (2-1, 1.80 ERA)

Well we didn’t all expect it to last all season did we? Mark Buehrle will have his games like the one against Boston. He has always been a guy who gives up a fair number of hits so eventually he was bound to explode. His lack of strikeouts alarms me a bit but I think he never got far enough in any counts to get a strikeout. They just hit it or walked. Expect Buehrle to straighten up and fly right against the Royals. They hit decently but Buehrle usually doesn’t have back to back stinkers. He’ll learn and keep the bats of KC on a few shoulders.

I dunno who Yordano Ventura is but I may start to pay more attention if he keeps it up. His minor league resume reads of a guy who steamrolled his way to the majors. His numbers weren’t killer but they were good enough. It seems like the same voyage taken by Drew Hutchison minus the major surgery: a decent arm that just seemed to fit at the right time. What to expect? Hard to say. For now I will have to go with the trusty veteran but given Ventura’s season so far don’t get too wrapped up in that choice.

Probable Starting Lineups

Toronto Blue Jays

1. SS: Jose Reyes
2. LF: Melky Cabrera
3. RF: Jose Bautista
4. 1B: Edwin Encarnacion
5. C: Dioner Navarro
6. DH: Juan Francisco
7. 3B: Brett Lawrie
8. CF: Colby Rasmus
9. 2B: Ryan Goins
Jonathan Diaz

Kansas City Royals

1. RF: Nori Aoki
2. 2B: Omar Infante
3. 1B: Eric Hosmer
4. DH: Billy Butler
5. LF: Alex Gordon
6. C: Salvador Perez
7. 3B: Mike Moustakas
8. SS: Alcides Escobar
9. CF: Jarrod Dyson

Worth the Price of Admission Melky Cabrera. Back in the confines of KC where he had some of his biggest offensive seasons. One more hit and sets the record for most hits in March/April by a Blue Jay. He has 39 so far which has him tied with Shea “Ship Sinker” Hillebrand and Shannon “Legs” Stewart.

Worth the Price of a 10 year old Piece of Turkey Jerky: Mike Moustakas. He seems to have been run over by the can’t miss prospect truck. Every year there is hope that he will come out of it and be the power hitter scouts expected him to be. These days he is just another below average player on the over-hyped machine.