The Toronto Blue Jays welcome the 9-7 Oakland Athletics to the Rogers Centre for a three-game series beginning Friday night, but the timing isn’t ideal.
Oakland enters the series red-hot after winning their last five games, including a three-game sweep of the New York Yankees by a combined score of 15-7. Their 7-3 win in the finale represented just the second time the A’s have eclipsed five runs scored in a game scored, however, as they’ve been riding one of the league’s strongest pitching staff through the first three weeks.
Toronto is coming off a 3-4 road trip that included a series split in Boston and a pair of deflating losses to wrap up their series in Baltimore. Both of those losses can effectively be put on passed balls, and the inability of Toronto’s offence to string together offensive bursts is holding back a surprisingly steady rotation.
Aaron Sanchez will get the ball in game one and face A’s ace Sonny Gray, who has opened the season 2-1 with a 2.33 ERA. Left-hander J.A. Happ and Toronto ace Marcus Stroman will follow in the two weekend matinees.
Across the Diamond: Oakland A’s
This is shaping up to be a battle of strengths versus (apparent) weaknesses. Oakland’s staff versus Toronto’s scuffling offence. The Jays’ pitchers against the A’s bats.
Among Oakland batters with 20 at-bats or more, Stephen Vogt leads the pack in terms of OPS with a mark of .787 (.280 AVG). Former Jay Danny Valencia leads the team in batting average at .296, but has just been placed on the 15-day Disabled List with a left hamstring strain. That’s good news for Happ, as Valencia is notoriously strong against southpaws.
Marcus Semien (4 HR) and Josh Reddick (3) have provided most of Oakland’s power up to this point, and Reddick is tied with Jed Lowrie for the team lead in RBIs with 10. As a team, the A’s rank 26th in the league with 52 runs scored and 28th with a team OBP of .283.
As a rotation, Oakland pitchers have a cumulative ERA of 2.69 that puts them fourth in baseball. They’ve also allowed an opponent’s batting average of just .231, ranking them 7th.
Next: Game 1: Sanchez looks to remain hot in opener