Blue Jays can make a big statement against the Red Sox this week

TORONTO, ON - MARCH 30: Aaron Sanchez
TORONTO, ON - MARCH 30: Aaron Sanchez /

The Blue Jays have started the season an impressive 13-8, but will face a serious test against baseball’s hottest team, the 17-4 Boston Red Sox.

Despite the fact that the Blue Jays dropped their last two games against the New York Yankees and lost their first series of the year, I hope the fan base is still feeling pretty good about their team. They’re five games above .500 and it’s been done with their star hitter in Josh Donaldson recently on the disabled list, and without the hottest of starts from a few players like Marcus Stroman, Randal Grichuk, and Russell Martin to name a few.

It’s been mostly encouraging, and even though they dropped three of the last four to the Yankees, most of the games were played well and the Blue Jays are showing a lot of signs of fight against one premium team from the AL East. Next up comes a three game set against the other, and the Red Sox happen to be the hottest team in baseball at the moment.

I realize they were no-hit by Sean Manaea the other day, but that doesn’t take anything away from what they’ve accomplished so far this year. They’ve had a solid contributions from a deep rotation, and ridiculous start from Mookie Betts, and a supporting cast that looks like it’s the stuff of a real contender.

More from Jays Journal

In the opener the Blue Jays will send J.A. Happ to the hill against Rick Porcello in a matchup that is always hard to predict. Porcello has been excellent so far this year with a 4-0 record and a 1.40 ERA across 25 innings pitched. It’s early, but he seems to be following his pattern of having a great year after a rough one. He was the 2016 AL Cy Young award winner, and then followed it up with a 11-17 record and a 4.65 ERA last year. Happ will look to put together a complete start, as he’s mostly looked really good in the early going in 2018, a few bad innings have contributed to his 4.50. Personally, I think he’s pitched better than that, and his 1.273 WHIP would suggest.

In game two on Wednesday it’ll be Eduardo Rodriguez for the Red Sox against Aaron Sanchez, in the matchup I like the most of the three games for the Blue Jays. Rodriguez has looked fairly solid for the Red Sox in his first three starts, but the Blue Jays should theoretically fare better against a left-hander, and Rodriguez is a southpaw. Even switch-hitters like Justin Smoak and Kendrys Morales have fared better against lefties, which is the second biggest reason I like this one for Toronto. The biggest reason would be Aaron Sanchez, who has looked strong and healthy in April, and has been using a very solid change-up with success in his first four starts. Adding that pitch at an above-average level to his already strong fastball and curveball combination makes him that much more dangerous.

While game three brings another southpaw to the Blue Jays, it’s not the kind that I’m excited about seeing their lineup against. Chris Sale was outstanding in 2017, and looks to be off to another Cy Young calibre campaign with the way he’s performed in his first five starts. He’s already struck out 41 batters in 29 innings of work, and has posted a 1.86 ERA with a 0.966 WHIP. He’s simply filthy, and the Blue Jays will be in the tough in the series finale, much like they were against the Yankees and Luis Severino on Sunday. Marco Estrada will be tasked with trying to take the Blue Jays in to their next series with the Rangers on a winning note, and will hope to lower his 5.32 ERA through his first four starts.

On the offensive side the Red Sox come into the series riding the aforementioned hot bat of Mookie Betts, who is slashing .366/.459/.732 with six home runs and 14 RBI, already earning 1.4 bWAR this year. He’s not the only one either obviously, as rookie manager Alex Cora has been blessed with plus contributions from Mitch Moreland (.349), Hanley Ramirez (.314). and J.D. Martinez (.307) among others. The roster is arguably as balanced as any team’s in baseball at the moment, so the Blue Jays’ pitching staff will have a difficult, but somewhat significant task ahead of them.

It’s ridiculously early to start looking at the standings too much, however, we all remember how far the Jays had buried themselves by this time last year. As things currently stand the Blue Jays sit four games behind the Red Sox, and a game ahead of the Yankees who are in third place. Through 21 games last year they were 6-15 and already five games back of first place in the division.

While that means that regardless of what happens over the next three games they’re better off than last year, hopefully that’s not good enough for this year’s team. I know I’m not alone in saying that I like the fight that they’ve showed early on, especially without their best hitter, and I’m looking forward to seeing what they can do to stop the Red Sox momentum this week. It could be a real chance to make an early statement that this team will be a playoff contender.

Next: Depth "problems" in the a perfect world for the Jays