Toronto Blue Jays @ Minnesota Twins
April 19 – May 22
Written by Steve McEwen and Dave Church
After being swept at home by Tampa Bay, and losing two of those games by more than ten runs, there’s probably no team more in need of an easy victory than the Toronto Blue Jays. After facing tough division opponents constantly over the first six weeks of the season, they now will travel to Minnesota to face the Twins, the worst team in the American League. The Twins weren’t expected to be good this season, but even they probably didn’t expect to be this awful. They have managed to be bad both offensively and on the pitching side of things, ranking 28th in the majors in both ERA and runs scored. Though their offense continues to be disappointing, the Jays still have a good rotation to hang their hats on, even if it showed some cracks over the past week or so.
May 19th – 8:10 PM ET
Marco Estrada vs. Ervin Santana
With the Blue Jays having just been swept by the Rays and currently on a five game losing streak, they turn to last season’s saviour Marco Estrada. Estrada hasn’t posted a pitcher’s win since his opening start of the year, but has posted superb numbers this season working to a 2.89 ERA in 43.2 IP. He struggled in his last start, and so far this year is giving up more hard contact than he did last season. Despite that, he is striking out more batters and keeping runners off the bases.
The Minnesota Twins might be struggling but Ervin Santana currently is not. Thus far in 2016, Santana is posting numbers comparable to his 2013 season with the Royals which saw him land a qualifying offer prior to his signing/not-signing with the Blue Jays. Through six starts, Santana has a 3.38 ERA and dominated his last time out against the Cleveland Indians going six innings giving up just one run and five hits.
April 20th – 8:10 PM ET
Aaron Sanchez vs. Tyler Duffey
Even with a hiccup in his most recent start, Aaron Sanchez has exceeded expectations so far for the Jays this year, cementing his place in the rotation quicker than anyone expected. He has consistently gone deep into games, notching six innings or more in seven of his eight starts this season, and shown some of the devastating stuff that the team always thought he had. If there’s a worry, it could be in his escalating walk totals: He’s walked four batters and five batters in his last two starts, respectively. Facing a weak Twins lineup can’t hurt to get him back on track.
Tyler Duffey made his first start this season for the Twins on April 24th, and has been effective in his four outings so far, notching a 1.85 ERA. He made his major league debut against the Jays last year, and it was a rough one: he only lasted two innings, giving up six runs on five hits and two walks. Duffey is primarily a fastball/curveball pitcher who tops out around 91 mph according to Brooks Baseball, and mixes in a sinker and changeup. He’s the kind of pitcher the 2015 Jays beat around, but we’ll have to see if this year’s team can remind him of his bad introduction to the big leagues.
May 21st – 2:10 PM ET
J.A. Happ vs. Pat Dean
Happ has arguably had the worst pitching performance in a Blue Jays uniform since a Brandon Morrow start coincidently followed arguably the best performance by a Jay since Morrow’s 17 K game. Happ has been outstanding all year, but last start gave up eight runs over two innings against the Rays. Early on this year Happ had been locating his fastball in an absolutely outstanding manner but that abandonded him last start.
Pat Dean will make his first ever start in the Big Leagues against the Blue Jays. As a Minnesota Twin of course, Pat Dean must mandatorily throw in the high 80’s and not strike people out. His fastball sits at 89 mph and has struck out 478 batters in over 800 innings in the minors, so he checks both boxes. The one thing Dean definitely does well though is not walk people as he routinely walks fewer than two batters per nine innings.
May 22nd– 2:10 PM ET
Marcus Stroman vs. TBD
For some reason the Rays had a way with the Blue Jays pitching and that included staff ace Marcus Stroman. In what most definitely was the second worst start of his career he surrendered seven runs in five plus innings and only struck out two batters. Over half the balls put in play were classified as hard hit by fangraphs. Despite the struggles there is little reason to be concerned for Stroman.
Additions and Subtractions
The Blue Jays have had several changes over the past while. INF Jimmy Paredes was claimed off waivers from Baltimore during the Tampa series, and RHP Dustin Antolin came and went in the blink of an eye, with only one forgettable mop-up outing to his name. INF Andy Burns was optioned to Buffalo to make room for Paredes, and SHP Pat Venditte rejoined the team for Antolin. Several Jays started rehab assignments this week: RHP Bo Schultz, LHP Aaron Loup, and 2B Devon Travis. Jose Bautista and Jesse Chavez are appealing their suspensions as a result of Sunday’s brawl with Texas, and may well end up serving games in this series.
The Twins have been quieter, having only swapped pitchers recently, with Jose Berrios going to AAA Rochester, and LHP Taylor Rogers joining the big club. SS Eduardo Escobar is reportedly close to going on a rehab assignment, and RHPs Kyle Gibson and Glen Perkins are expected to start throwing soon.
Keep an Eye On
It will be interesting to see if the Blue Jays continue to strike out at a high rate against the Twins who notoriously have many contact pitchers. It could be the remedy for the Jays who after posting a K rate of 18.5% last season have seen it balloon to 23.3% in 2016 despite little change in personnel.
Rotation back on Track?
After two incredibly strong turns through the rotation, the Blue Jays struggled the last time through suffering through three poor starts against the Rays. The Twins have the third worst offense in the league.
The Twins may have an anemic offense but have two impressive power hitters in Byung-Ho Park and Miguel Sano. The rest of the offense isn’t the most impressive but those two hitters alone can do some serious damage to the baseballs and the scoreboard.
Toronto Blue Jays
|1 MICHAEL SAUNDERS-LF||1 JOE MAUER-1B|
|2 JOSH DONALDSON-3B||2 EDUARDO NUNEZ-SS|
|3 JOSE BAUTISTA-RF||3 MIGUEL SANO-RF|
|4 EDWIN ENCARNACION-DH||4 BYUNG-HO PARK-DH|
|5 JUSTIN SMOAK-1B||5 TREVOR PLOUFFE-3B|
|6 TROY TULOWITZKI-SS||6 BRIAN DOZIER-2B|
|7 KEVIN PILLAR-CF||7 EDDIE ROSARIO-LF|
|8 RUSSELL MARTIN-C||8 KURT SUZUKI-C|
|9 RYAN GOINS-2B||9 DANNY SANTANA-CF|
via Roster Resource
This will be the classic case of the resistable force meeting the moveable object, as the Twins have had their own three game losing streak. Somebody will have to win all these games. If there was ever a team that could bust the skid that the Jays are in, these Twins are them. Either a rebound from their rotation or signs of life from their lineup might be enough to win this series. For the Jays right now, any way they win will be just fine.
Lead Photo: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports