Oakland Athletics (4-3) at Toronto Blue Jays (4-3)
Friday, April 15th, 7:07 EST: Jefferies vs Stripling (Sportsnet)
Saturday, April 16th, 3:07 EST: Blackburn vs Ryu (Sportsnet)
Sunday, April 17th, 1:37 EST: Oller vs Manoah (Sportsnet)
The Oakland Athletics come into Toronto as a team on the downswing. In typical A’s fashion, their window of competition has come and gone. Franchise players like Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, and Sean Manea, amongst others, have all been dispatched to other organizations. Nevertheless, the A’s are still showing up to the field and competing. After dropping their first series to Philadelphia, they’ve since gone into the Trop and put up a fight against the Rays, even putting up 13 runs as recently as Monday. A glance at their roster doesn’t offer much encouragement, but the A’s have still been known to surprise.
The Blue Jays have had their fair share of surprises this far as well. While the expected power has come from the likes of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and George Springer, players like Santiago Espinal and Adam Cimber have played big roles early on. Besides the game on Tuesday and last night, the offence has been firing on all cylinders. The trouble, surprisingly, has been the starting pitching. This upcoming series will offer a second look at the likes of Hyun Jin Ryu and Alek Manoah. One guy looking for a bounce-back, the other hoping to keep the good times rolling. The A’s are one of the weaker teams the Jays will be seeing in April, so picking up some wins this weekend could go a long way towards having a good first month.
Blue Jays to Watch
Hyun Jin Ryu: Ryu was puzzling last weekend. His first few innings were arguably peak performance from the veteran lefty. Then the wheels fell off the wagon and he was pulled, taking the loss in his first start of the season. The hope is an extra day of rest and a start against a weaker hitting lineup could help towards a better outing from Ryu.
Ross Stripling: As noted above, Ryu is getting an extra day of rest. This is thanks to Luke Wilson lookalike, Ross Stripling. He’s stretched out as a starter and ready to give the Jays some length when he starts on Friday night. A lengthy outing would be of great benefit to a team that hasn’t gotten a whole lot from their starters early on.
Bradley Zimmer/Raimel Tapia: With Teoscar Hernandez hitting the shelf for a bit of time, these two outfielders should be keen to step up and produce in any way they can. Zimmer can absolutely go get it in the outfield, and Tapia has a bit to offer at the plate. If Teoscar is to miss significant time, contributions will be needed from these two.
The Blue Jays begin their second homestand of the year against the Oakland Athletics. The club would benefit from some length from their starters.
Athletics to Watch
Sheldon Neuse: Not a player with a ton of big-league experience, but a guy with talent who’s finally getting a shot. Neuse is coming off of a season in AAA in which he posted a .830 OPS over 78 games, while also getting into some action with the Dodgers. The 27-year-old infielder is finally getting a shot at being a regular with Major League playing time, and he’s looking to continue his hot start.
Kevin Smith: The highest-profile position player sent to Oakland in the Chapman trade, Smith has been given a handful of starts for the A’s in the early part of the season, and hasn’t exactly gotten going. As of this being written, Smith is 0-16 with 8 strikeouts. Smith will be someone to watch this weekend as he returns to Toronto, and plays against the guy he was traded for.
What to Expect
The Blue Jays have been hitting the ball very hard thus far. They’re facing some unspectacular pitching this weekend, so I’m expecting quite a bit of firepower as they return to a home crowd this long weekend. The focus should be on the starting pitching. Having starters get out of the fifth inning this weekend would be a huge victory, and facing a weaker lineup than what we’ve seen thus far should help.
Blue Jays wake the bats up and sweep the series 3-0