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Series #35: Athletics vs Blue Jays - A’s seek to Score, Soar Up Standings

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Chicago White Sox David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Blue Jays’ Current Record:

The Jays are 48-56 on the year, currently last place in the AL East with the Orioles being demoted to AAA. They are 5-5 over their last ten games.

Possible Lineup:

Randal Grichuk - CF

Lourdes Gurriel Jr. - 2B

Justin Smoak - 1B

Teoscar Hernandez - LF

Kendrys Morales - DH

Aledmys Diaz - SS

Brandon Drury - 3B

Dwight Smith Jr - RF

Luke Maile - C

Probable Starting Pitchers:

Marco Estrada - RHP

Sam Gaviglio - RHP

Marcus Stroman - RHP

Recent Bullpen Usage:

The White Sox taxed the Blue Jays bullpen rather nicely on Saturday, but Toronto only needed to use two relievers on Sunday. Also, reinforcements are on their way to the bullpen as the Astros’ traded Ken Giles and more to Toronto in exchange for closer Roberto Osuna, who is about to wrap up a seventy-five game suspension for violating MLB’s domestic violence policy.

Hottest Hitter(s):

The sensational Lourdes Gurriel Jr is in the midst of an MLB record-challenging streak, wherein he has gotten multiple hits in eleven straight games, with Roger Hornsby holding the all-time record of thirteen, set all the way back in 1923 when talent in baseball was still rather lacking. This streak has let Gurriel to hit for a 1.359 OPS so far in the second half of the season. The rookie has been one of the most exciting players in the game since being called up, though Blue Jay fans will need to hold their breath, as it is possible he will go onto the disabled list with a knee injury.

Coldest Hitter(s):

The Blue Jays’ lineup has been rather hot and cold over the last month, but really dragging the offense down lately has been from veterans Yangervis Solarte and Curtis Granderson. In his last twenty three starts, Solarte has a .169/.211/.270 batting line and Granderson’s isn’t much better at .182/.257/.288. With Toronto falling further out of the race, the team will have to decide whether or not to try and sell low on the veterans in the next day or so.

Hottest Pitcher(s):

After trading away their best starter on the staff, the Blue Jays’ rotation shouldn’t really strike fear into the hearts of their opponents, but there have been some notable strong performers of late. Marcus Stroman, the face and heart of the team, has come out strong in the second half, pitching to a 1.98 ERA in two starts since the break, striking out ten in fourteen innings. It has been a tough season for Stroman overall, but he is pitching to his potential as of right now.

Coldest Pitcher(s):

After trading away their best reliever in the bullpen, the Blue Jays’ relief corps shouldn’t really strike fear into the hearts of their opponents, and late innings can be a dicey endeavor for them on any night. Tyler Clippard leads the team in total appearances, though over the last month, his ERA is 6.11, and it’s only gotten worse recently.

Key Injuries:

This team has not been healthy. As mentioned, there is a good chance that the saving grace of their offense in Gurriel Jr will go on the DL, where he will join the likes of Josh Donaldson, whose been out since June, and Troy Tulowitzki, whose been out since last year. Just a few weeks ago, Kevin Pillar went down as well. Marco Estrada will be making his first start in more than a month Monday night, but the rotation is still desperate to have Aaron Sanchez return as well.

* * *

The weekend wasn’t a spectacular one, and most assuredly the A’s are glad to return home after a week of playing in the sweltering heat right before playing a mile above sea level. To go 4-3 over that stretch, regardless of how the team got there, is respectable, and the disappointment at the end result is more of a testament to how good the team has been as opposed to how flawed it is. Returning home will allow the team to better recuperate from the harsh road trip while continuing their surge to take the division, and the team better get comfortable here, since the team will be in Oakland almost every day for the next three weeks. With the Mariners and Astros playing each other this week as well, all they need to do is beat each other up, and if the A’s take care of things on their end, they’ll gain ground on both.

With trade season in full swing and injuries plaguing the ballclub, the Blue Jays aren’t coming into Oakland with as strong of a roster as they did the last time the two teams went head to head, when the A’s swept them into Toronto. Having said that, the Jays are still a competitive team that has hasn’t been as well equipped to withstand lots of injuries to key players, and have plenty of athletes who could single handedly ruin games for the A’s.

Game #108: Monday, July 30th, 7:05 - NBCSCA, SNET, MLB.tv

Edwin Jackson vs Marco Estrada

Jackson’s effectiveness has been slipping of late for the A’s, but going back to Rickey Henderson Field and existing in “normal” climate conditions may help his stuff play back up. Estrada has been on the DL for the last month with glute issues, and in his most recent rehab appearance he developed the dreaded blister that has sidelined many-a great pitcher. If he isn’t sharp in this game, his outing could be a short one.

Game #109: Tuesday, July 31st, 7:05 - NBCSCA, SNET, MLB.tv

Trevor Cahill vs Sam Gaviglio

Cahill hasn’t looked like his pre-injury self in his first three starts since returning from the DL, but his pitches still have their typical sharp movement. His biggest problem has been his inability to last deep into games, though fortunately the A’s have a well rested bullpen that can bail him out if need be. Gaviglio has had similar problems getting deep into games, meaning this game may very well be something of a bullpen game if plans to awry too quickly.

Game #110: Wednesday, August 1st, 12:35 - SNET, MLB Network, MLB.tv

Sean Manaea vs Marcus Stroman

Arguably the two most recognizable faces for either organization are going head to head in the season series finale. Rocky effort last time out aside, he has been the A’s most consistent starter this year, both in performance and health. Stroman had a poor start to the year but has been as good as anyone since the All Star Break. While the first two games of this series have the potential for either team to put a lot of runs on the board, Wednesday’s game looks to be shaping up to be a pitchers’ duel.