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Series Preview #15: Athletics at Blue Jays - A Journey North

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MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at New York Mets Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Blue Jays’ Current Record:

22-21, third place in the AL East and 7.5 games out of first place. They are 4-6 over their last ten games, recently dropping series to the Mariners and the Red Sox prior to splitting a short two game set with the Mets.

Projected Lineup:

LF - Curtis Granderson

3B - Josh Donaldson

2B - Yangervis Solarte

RF - Teoscar Hernandez

1B - Justin Smoak

CF - Kevin Pillar

C - Russell Martin

DH - Kendrys Morales

SS - Lourdes Gurriel Jr.

Probable Starting Pitchers:

Aaron Sanchez

Marco Estrada

Joe Biagini

Jaime Garcia

Recent Bullpen Usage:

After a day off and a short series versus the Mets, the Blue Jays bullpen is well rested and ready for the long series versus the A’s. Only three of eight relievers on the team have been used in the last three days.

Hottest Hitter(s):

Kevin Pillar has played every game this season and has batting over .300, slugging over .500, and has eight stolen bases on the year so far, acting as one of the most complete offensive threats in the game of baseball in 2018. Curtis Granderson is having a resurgent year at the plate and is OPSing .915 on the year and has been getting on base at an elite rate, even if his home run power isn’t quite there.

Coldest Hitter(s):

Josh Donaldson is showing signs of becoming fragile and declining, as the legendary Oakland third baseman is batting just .242/.321/.465 on the year while not being able to play every day thanks to injuries. Longtime veteran Kendrys Morales, once again, looks like he’s just about done at the plate, and as a DH that means his career is in jeopardy, and rookie Lourdes Gurriel Jr is off to a slow start at the plate to kick off his career.

Hottest Pitcher(s):

The Blue Jays’ starting staff is among the worst in the American League, to go along with the Orioles and the Mariners, but Aaron Sanchez and JA Happ have each been fairly strong of late on the starters’ side of the staff. Former A’s Tyler Clippard and Jonathan Axford each have ERAs at 1.31 or lower, and Seunghwan Oh has been nearly unhittable out of the bullpen as well.

Coldest Pitcher(s):

If not for the bullpen, Toronto would be in a much worse position now than they currently are. Jaime Garcia has failed to make it passed the third inning in two of his last three starts, and starter Joe Biagini is in danger of losing his rotation spot all together thanks to his ERA of nearly 8.00. Marco Estrada continues to be plagued by the long ball as well, limiting his effectiveness.

Key Injuries:

Several key players have struggled to stay healthy for the Blue Jays, making it rare for Toronto to ever be at full force, or close to it. Currently, Randal Grichuk, Steve Pearce, and Troy Tulowitzki are all out of the starting lineup, and several key players had to cope with injuries throughout April as well. On the pitching side, the ineffective-on-the-year Marcus Stroman has gone down with a shoulder issue.

* * *

The A’s have played .500 ball on their harrowing road trip, and could very easily be 4-2 if an extra call or two goes their way. After what was supposed to be a period of the season where the team was most likely to fall harmlessly out of contention, the A’s still find themselves in the chase and in a position to surprise lots of people The team finishes up the trip with four games in Toronto, which, in the recent past, has typically meant for lots of high-scoring thrillers. With the potent lineups and mediocre starting staffs for each team, all signs are pointing towards more football-esque scores in both of these team’s futures.

The Blue Jays are doing what they can to contend in a very tough division featuring two of the best teams in baseball. The intradivisional play has hurt the Blue Jays, seeing as the team is 8-12 against the AL East on the year and has them barely holding onto a .500 record overall.

Game #44: Thursday, May 17th at 4:07 - SNET, MLBN, MLB.tv

Andrew Triggs vs Aaron Sanchez

This matchup features two pitchers who ebb and flow between hot and cold stretches, and both of these pitchers are currently mired in a cold spell. Sanchez has nearly given up a run per inning during his previous two starts, and Triggs has an ERA near seven over his last five starts. In a hitters’ park like Toronto, it will be quite the task for either pitcher to rediscover their groove.

Game #45: Friday, May 18th at 4:07 - NBCSCA, SNET, MLB.tv

Brett Anderson vs Marco Estrada

Anderson was impressive in his re-debut with the A’s, but has looked no better than any other minor league starter signing the A’s have had during the lean years. After finishing last season with the Blue Jays, Anderson will have to impress back in Toronto in order to keep his rotation spot secure.

Game #46: Saturday, May 19th at 10:07 - SNET, FS1, MLB.tv

Sean Manaea vs Joe Biagini

While Biagini’s future in the rotation may very well hinge on his start this Saturday, Sean Manaea holds the unique honor of being the one Athletic whose rotation spot is entirely secured. Manaea hasn’t been his sharpest self since the no-hitter, giving up four runs in three straight starts.

Game #47: Sunday, May 20th at 10:07 - NBCSCA, SNET, MLB.tv

Daniel Mengden vs Jaime Garcia

Mengden is a viable young starter on the rise whereas Garcia is looking more and more like a starter on the rapid decline. With the defense no longer kicking the ball around behind him, Mengden’s results are finally starting to match what the naked eye can see. Garcia has failed to make it out of the fourth twice in his last three efforts.