Game 1: Thursday, May 19th – 8:10 ET
Marco Estrada (1-2, 2.89 ERA) vs.
Ervin Santana (1-2, 3.38 ERA)
The Blue Jays will open this series against the man [allegedly] worth passing around a hat for: Ervin Santana.
Minnesota’s right-hander has produced an awful lot of buzz for a pitcher with a career ERA north of four and a peak single-season fWAR of 2.9 since 2008. Regardless, he’s opened up the 2016 campaign relatively strong.
Santana was roughed up two outings ago in Chicago against the White Sox, allowing three earned runs on seven hits over just three and a third innings. He quickly corrected himself last week against the Cleveland Indians, however, delivering a quality start with six innings pitched, one earned run, and five strikeouts.
He’s succeeded this season by avoiding hard-hit balls. His soft-contact rate currently sits at 27.5%, nearly double his career rate of 16.1%. His velocities have not wavered, either, with his fastball still sitting around 92 to 94 miles per hour. Santana will also feature a slider and changeup. That slider was once his signature “out” pitch, but he’s still searching for it early in 2016.
Marco Estrada will counter for the Blue Jays and will be tasked with saving a beleaguered bullpen after the difficult Tampa series.
Estrada is coming off an unsteady performance of his own, where he allowed four runs on five hits over six innings against the Texas Rangers. He also walked four batters that night, expressing his displeasure with the strike zone.
He was very strong in his two outings prior, however, especially against the Dodgers where he allowed just one earned run in seven innings while striking out eight.
Despite it only being mid-May, Estrada has already produced an fWAR of 0.8 and is well on his way to surpassing last season’s total of 1.8. He has been forcing ground balls at a 42.9% rate, well above his 32.2% from last season. The right-hander has also begun to feature his cutter more frequently, with usage currently sitting at 14.6%.
Next: Blue Jays grab a Duffey for Friday night's game