Toronto Blue Jays News

Blue Jays and Phillies do the split: Full series preview

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Jun 12, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays relief pitcher Jason Grilli (37) celebrates with second baseman Darwin Barney (18) after defeating the Baltimore Orioles 10-9 at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 12, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays relief pitcher Jason Grilli (37) celebrates with second baseman Darwin Barney (18) after defeating the Baltimore Orioles 10-9 at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Toronto Blue Jays enter play on Monday with a 35-30 record, 2.5 games back of the Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles

Toronto welcomes the Philadelphia Phillies to town later tonight for game one of a four-game split series. Following an early-afternoon start on Tuesday afternoon, the Blue Jays and Phillies will travel to Philadelphia for the latter half of the series.

Philadelphia was a pleasant surprise through the first month or two, playing baseball that was largely competent after opening the season with bottom-five expectations. The club does seem to be regressing back in that direction, however, and have lost seven of their last 10 games to bring their record to 29-34.

The Phillies present one of the league’s softest challenges for the Blue Jays pitching staff, sitting 29th in baseball with just 202 runs scored. With the fifth-fewest home runs, not to mention the lowest team average and on-base percentage in the major leagues, Toronto shouldn’t be facing too great of a challenge.

After a closer-by-committee and competition that stretched into the season, Jeanmar Gomez has taken over the ninth-inning roll in the bullpen. The Blue Jays can also expect to see strikeout artist Hector Neris (41 K, 32.2 IP) in higher-leverage situations.

Centre-fielder Odubel Herrera leads the way with a .312 average and is running away with the team lead in walks with 39. The 24-year-old Tommy Joseph, who has taken over Ryan Howard‘s job full-time at first base, is hitting .301 with seven home runs in just 73 at-bats. Maikel Franco remains the primary source of run production with 11 homers and 33 RBIs.

Game 1:  Monday, June 13th  –  7:07 ET
R.A. Dickey (4-6, 4.15 ERA) vs.
Jerad Eickhoff (3-8, 3.68 ERA)

Dickey is coming off back-to-back wins, but did struggle to miss bats his last time out as he allowed nine hits over five and two-thirds innings. Despite keeping his runs down, Dickey has walked 10 batters but struck out just six over his past three starts.

Eickhoff has been a relatively steady option for Philadelphia and is coming off a strong seven-inning start against the Chicago Cubs. The right-hander allowed just two hits for one run and struck out eight.

Game 2:  Tuesday, June 14th  –  12:37 ET
Marcus Stroman (5-2, 4.94 ERA) vs.
Zach Eflin AAA (5-2, 2.90 ERA)

Stroman continued to struggle his last time out and has completed six innings just once in his last five starts. With batted balls finding holes and not enough strikeouts to balance them out, Stroman may be the happiest member of this pitching staff to see the Phils lineup.

Eflin, a 2012 first-round pick of the San Diego Padres, will be making his MLB debut after pitching well at the triple-A level this season. After being traded to the Dodgers, the 6-foot-6 right-hander joined the Phillies in the 2014 Jimmy Rollins trade.

Game 3:  Wednesday, June 15th  –  7:05 ET (In PHI)
Marco Estrada (4-2, 2.57 ERA) vs.
Jeremy Hellickson (4-4, 4.34 ERA)

Toronto sends the ace-for-now to the mound for the first game of the Philadelphia half. Estrada is coming off a quality start, allowing three earned runs over six innings on four hits and four walks against the Orioles. The right-hander pitched eight strong innings in both of his two starts prior.

The 29-year-old Hellickson has seen all kinds of highs and lows this season. More recently, he’s coming off a six-inning outing against the Washington Nationals in which he allowed seven earned runs on seven hits, including three home runs.

Next: Coming up Jays: The weekly A.L. East recap

Game 4:  Thursday, June 16th  –  7:05 ET
J.A. Happ (7-3, 3.70 ERA) vs.
Aaron Nola (5-5, 2.98 ERA)

After a rough outing against Detroit earlier in the month, Happ took a small step forward last time out against the Orioles. The lefty allowed four runs on eight hits over seven innings, striking out five and not issuing a walk. That start, much like Happ’s season, was quite strong outside of a few ugly blips (three home runs).

Nola, one of the Phillies’ future cornerstones, has been very good this season at 23. He lasted just three and two-thirds innings his last time out against the Nationals, but held opponents to two earned runs or less in five consecutive starts prior to that. Nola has also struck out at least six batters in nine of his last ten outings.

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