It’s rarely a pretty sight when American League starting pitchers have to hit during Interleague play, but thankfully the Blue Jays have a trio of experience ready to go this week.
After an off day on Monday, they’ll open a three game set in Atlanta at 7:20pm EST on Tuesday and hope they can cool off a Braves team that has won five of their last six. The two teams finished up a three game series in Dunedin at the beginning of May with the Blue Jays picking up a sweep, so Atlanta will be looking to get some revenge.
One of the advantages in the Braves’ favour is that they’ll be back in Atlanta this time around, and they’ll play the National League game that excludes the designated hitter. That’s generally seen as an advantage for NL teams during Interleague games, but the Blue Jays bring a rare bit of experience this time around with their projected starters. Not only have they done it before, they’re actually not bad hitters all things considered.
Starting with Ross Stripling, the 31-year-old spent the first six seasons of his MLB career with the L.A. Dodgers, so this won’t be his first rodeo with a bat in his hands at the highest level. Stripling spent time as both a starter and a reliever with the Dodgers, and really hasn’t had that many at-bats in the big leagues. For his career he’s slashed .093/.133/.093 (8-86), and he’s yet to pick up an extra-base hit. He does have seven career sacrifice bunts though, and that skill set may actually prove to be useful. Regardless, Stripling is the weakest hitter of the three, and he’s currently slated to square off against Charlie Morton on Thursday.
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As for Tuesday, that will be the return to the batter’s box for Robbie Ray, who played with the Diamondbacks for six years and collected 233 at-bats during that time. The southpaw slashed .146/.160/.185, but he does have a bit of pop to add to his resume with six career doubles and a home run. Again, not exactly a premium hitter or anything, but at least he’s comfortable in the batter’s box, and his career average is better than the .101 mark Danny Jansen will enter the game with. He’s also picked up 25 career sac bunts, so perhaps he has a thing or two to teach the rest of the lineup on the subject.
Last but not least will be Wednesday’s projected starter, which is none other than the staff ace in Hyun Jin Ryu. The 34-year-old spent six seasons with the Dodgers before he signed with the Blue Jays ahead of last season, and there are reports that he’s looking forward to getting a chance to hit again. Ryu was pretty decent at it too, at least by pitcher’s standards, as his career slash line is .178/.226/.239 eight doubles and a home run across 213 career at-bats. He’s also a pretty good bunter, picking up 32 sacrifice bunts in his career, with a single season high of 12 from 2019.
Not that I expect any of the Blue Jays pitchers to come out swinging like Shoehei Ohtani or anything, but it is a better situation than they’re usually in during games in National League parks. At least this time around they’ll have more experienced hitters in Ryu, Ray, and Stripling, which could help get an extra run across, and more importantly, should help keep the injuries from continuing to pile up.