Blue Jays: Vlad Jr. vs. Shohei Ohtani for the first time this week
Blue Jays fans can look forward to a long-awaited matchup this week come true between Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Shohei Ohtani.
After finishing off their recent home stand with a dramatic come from behind victory over the Red Sox, the Jays went 9-2 at home. They have an off day on Monday before they start a road trip that begins in Los Angeles on Tuesday against the Angels.
Once a team that looked like they could be fighting for a playoff spot at this stage of the season, the Angels are sitting at just 56-56, which puts them 10.0 games off of the AL West lead and 8.0 behind for the second Wild Card spot. Mike Trout’s extended absence certainly hasn’t helped their cause, but fortunately Angels fans have been treated to the two-way heroics of Ohtani, who is the frontrunner for the AL MVP award.
The Blue Jays did get to see Ohtani earlier this season, and the 27 year old left an impression with a bomb of a home run back in April when they played in Dunedin. However, that series didn’t line up a chance for the Jays to see Ohtani pitch as well, and fortunately/unfortunately they won’t miss him this week.
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According to the “Probable Pitchers” on mlb.com as of Sunday night, the Blue Jays will stack up Steven Matz, Ross Stripling, Alek Manoah, and Jose Berrios over the four-game series with the Angels. To counter, L.A. will go with right-hander Chris Rodriguez and southpaw Jose Suarez for the double-header on Tuesday, followed by Dylan Bundy on Wednesday, and closing things out with Ohtani for the last game on Thursday. If the last couple of seasons have taught us anything it’s that things can quickly change, but that’s the way it looks as of right now.
Ohtani has made headlines as both a hitter and a pitcher in 2021. As a hitter he leads all of baseball in home runs with 37, collected 82 RBI, swiped 15 bases, and he’s slashing .269/.362/.653. As if that’s not impressive enough, he’s also 6-1 with a 2.93 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP across 16 starts, striking out 106 over 86 innings. If he only did one of the two he’d be considered an elite big leaguer, and somehow he’s producing at that level on both sides of the ball. I guess that’s what it takes to keep Guerrero Jr. from being considered the leading contender for the MVP award.
Because Ohtani is pitching on Thursday, there’s a chance that he might sit out for at least one of the three games before his start. He’s mostly served as the DH when he’s not pitching, and chances are that won’t chance with four games in three days. With the 7-inning double-header rule this year, my guess is he’ll be the DH for both games in the double-header and then get Wednesday off in advance of his start.
It’s always worth stopping to watch a generational talent like these two, but when the rare opportunity to watch them go head to head comes up then you had better write it on your calendar in ink. The fact that we’ll get to see Ohtani pitch to Vlad Jr. on Thursday makes this one of the Blue Jays must-see games of the year.