Series Preview: Blue Jays Looking to Hack the Rays

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When your team outscores your opponent 28-3 in a three game series there are two schools of thought that run rampant. Either your team is going to continue mashing the ball all over the park or they used up all their hits in that series and are prone to a bit of a let down against the next opponent.

Considering how all members of the Blue Jays seemed to have their hitting shoes on against a pretty brutal Cubs bullpen there certainly may be a bit of a letdown when it comes to the pitching rich Tampa Bay Rays.

The Blue Jays starters should be given ample credit for this sudden surge of wins. Over the last two turns through the rotation the starters are average about 7 innings per start. The way the bullpen is stacked it means lots of fresh arms in the pen ready to go.

John Gibbons is no fool. He is sticking to those that have worked the best over the full year, with Aaron Loup and Brett Cecil still being used in high leverage situations. Aaron Sanchez has been all he was expected to be, Daniel Norris is showing up great and Casey Janssen? Well he has his bad moments but has been pretty much as consistent as possible.

The Rays boast the best pitching in the AL East and always give the Blue Jays fits. Even without David Price, Chris Archer, Jeremy Hellickson and Alex Cobb have carried the rotation nicely with all 3 having an ERA under 4.

Even Jake Odorizzi has held his own with an ERA slightly over 4 (4.08). Jake McGee has been lights out as their closer (1.34 ERA, 17/19 in save opp), a much surer closer than Fernando Rodney ever was.

The reason for the decline of the Rays is their less than stellar offense. They can barely hit home runs, their slugging percentage is tied for last in the AL (.369….same as the Red Sox…tee hee), no player has an OPS of .800 or better and not one guy is hitting .300. If the Blue Jays bats can just pull through with 5-6 runs per game they should have little trouble dismantling the Rays…easier said than done…

Probable Starting Pitchers

Game 1: Nate Karns (9-9, 5.08 ERA, AAA Durham Bulls) vs J.A. Happ (9-9, 4.44 ERA)

Nate Karns? Hmmm…Well he is taking Drew Smyly‘s turn through the rotation as the Rays have shut him down due to an innings limit placed on him. Karns looks to be AAA fodder, a body to put on the mound to get through the rest of the season. There is nothing to suggest he is the next big arm to come through the Rays organization. His numbers show he can strike guys out but how will that carry over to the majors? Last time he was on a MLB mound was with the Nationals last year where he had a 7.50 ERA in 3 starts.

Happ has been a prototypical fifth starter. Gives up some runs every game. Gives up more hits than innings pitched and also has the ability to strike guys out. It is for that reason he has been able to maintain his spot in the rotation. He will keep the Blue Jays in the game and drawing an almost bare knuckled rookie should allow him to cruise through the Rays lineup and notch a W for the Blue Jays.

Game 2: Jeremy Hellickson (1-3, 3.71 ERA) vs R.A. Dickey (12-12, 3.84 ERA)

Hellickson has been strong since his return from injury. His biggest blip on the radar came against these very same Blue Jays in Tampa Bay where he gave up 5 runs in 3.1 innings. Against the Blue Jays on August 23 in Toronto he gave up only 2 earned with 8 strikeouts so it’s a tough call as to which side of Hellickson we will see. With a GO?AO of .5 it would seem to favour the homer happy Jays. Hellickson is a quality starter so don’ think for a minute he will just wilt. He has the repertoire to put this game out of reach. That is unless…

Unless R.A. Dickey keep strending towards the awesome level. He isn’t unbeatable but he has been sharper this season. WHen he is off he is waaaay off (out of his last ten starts, 3 he has given up 5 runs) but he looks to be on track. Since the weather in Toronto is in full rain and cold mode, expect the Dome to be closed, which is to R.A.’s liking. Expect 7 strong from Dickey and this game to be decided by the bullpens…which is fine with this guy!

Game 3: Chris Archer (9-8, 3.63 ERA) vs Marcus Stroman (10-5, 3.61 ERA)

Chris Archer was rolling along greatly until his last three starts where he has a 9.00 ERA and a couple of brutal games, including giving up 6 earned to the Blue Jays during their great series in Tampa Bay. Archer has the tools to come back but he still lacks full on consistency to be a top flight starter.

At 27 going on 28 you would hope that everything would just click in and for the most part he has been rock solid. Perhaps the long season is getting to him. His innings pitched is almost 50 innings more than his best MLB season which was last year. Could this be a dead arm period? The Blue Jays xertainly hope so.

For now we have Marcus Stroman in for the final game though there is talk that Mark Buehrle will be put in Sunday on regular rest to give Stroman an extra day off and start the Baltimore series on Monday. Until we hear otherwise let’s just revel in the glow of a 3 hit CG shutout of the Cubbies.

Stroman has pretty much been the best pitcher overall for the Blue Jays since his call up in May. 13 of 18 starts have been quality and many of them high high quality. Since the Rays bats are very tame this one should be another close pitching duel. Let’s keep the optimism rolling and call a Jays win.
Probable Starting Lineups

Tampa Bay Rays

1. Ben Zobrist – LF
2. Brandon Guyer – CF
3. Evan Longoria – 3B
4. Wil Myers – RF
5. James Loney – 1B
6. Yunel Escobar – SS
7. Logan Forsythe – 2B
8. Ryan Hanigan – C
9. Sean Rodriguez – DH

Toronto Blue Jays

1. Jose Reyes – SS
2. Jose Bautista – RF
3. Edwin Encarnacion – DH
4. Adam Lind – 1B
5. Dioner Navarro – C
6. Dannny Valencia – 3B
7. Kevin Pillar – LF
8. Ryan Goins – 2B
9. Anthony Gose – CF

Worth the Price of Admission: The Pitching Kids. Drew Hutchison, Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, Daniel Norris…the pitching kids are doing alright and give a level of optimism for the team going forward.

Worth Tickets to Mike Tyson‘s One-man Show: Juan Francisco. Yes he is still on the team….check the end of the bench…

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