TORONTO BLUE JAYS @ BALTIMORE ORIOLES
AUGUST 29TH – AUGUST 31ST
Written by Sean Addis and Joshua Howsam
The Toronto Blue Jays will begin a 15 game stretch against American League East opponents beginning with a nine game road trip Monday night in Baltimore. This will be Toronto’s last time at the Camden Yards this regular season, a place where they have lost four of six games. The Blue Jays are coming off a sweep of the last place Minnesota Twins, while the Orioles are coming off a series loss to the New York Yankees. This series has major implications for both teams as the Orioles enter three games back of the Blue Jays in the AL East. The Blue Jays have aligned their three best starters for the series, but in hitter friendly Camden Yards they will need to minimize mistakes to be effective. The postseason race is about to enter its final month and this is an opportunity for both teams to make a statement.
Monday, August 29 – First Pitch 7:05 PM ET
Marco Estrada vs. Wade Miley
Estrada has had a bit of a rough go of things lately. After going at least six innings in 17 of his first 19 starts, the Mexican righty has failed to go past five in any of his last three outings. Over that span, he has tossed 14 innings and allowed 14 runs (13 earned), which has seen his ERA rise over half a run from 2.92 to 3.47. Estrada has been dealing with both control and long ball issues, as he has allowed six home runs and seven walks in those three starts. With the powerful Orioles lineup, he will have to avoid both or he could find himself looking at another early exit. He has faced them three times this season with decent results (3.70 ERA in 17 innings), but Baltimore has been patient and forced him to throw strikes in each outing. It’s tough to bet against Estrada given all we’ve seen thus far, but he’s been dealing with some back issues which may be slowing him down. Pitching on his proper four days rest should give us a sign of what to expect from the early-season ace going forward.
Wade Miley is not a very good pitcher. He enters this game with a 5.51 ERA in 24 starts, and an 8.18 ERA in five starts with the Orioles. However, his peripheral stats suggest he is slightly better. In 2016, he has a DRA of 3.93, as he generates a some groundballs and does have the ability to miss bats when he needs to. As such, he is more than capable of busting out a good start once in a while. In fact, he did just that against the Blue Jays back on July 24 (with Seattle). He held Toronto to just two runs on four hits (two walks) in six innings. He threw well his last time out as well, holding the Nationals to two runs through five, striking out six. All that being said, the Blue Jays should mash the lefty.
Tuesay, August 30 – First Pitch 7:05 PM ET
J.A. Happ vs. Ubaldo Jimenez
What is there to say about Happ that hasn’t been said already? The man just keeps getting it done. A sixth inning blip last time out against the Angels notwithstanding, Happ has been excellent from game one. He takes a 17-4 record and a 3.19 ERA into this game, and to take that a bit deeper, he has two or fewer runs in 15 of his 25 start this year. He has also started striking people out more lately, with a K/9 of 11.45 over his last nine starts (when he switched to more fourseamers). Basically, Happ is showing that what he did at the end of last year and the start of this season is no fluke. He really is a very, very good pitcher now. As far as matchups go, one would think the Orioles would be tough for the tall left-hander. After all, they boast a lot of right-handed power with the likes of Manny Machado, Mark Trumbo, and Adam Jones. Happ has kept them in check, however. Across two starts, both wins, the southpaw has tossed 14 innings and allowed just five runs (3.21 ERA) with 16 strikeouts against only three walks. It will be interesting to see how things go in Camden Yards, but expect another good outing from Mr. Happ.
For the longest time, the Blue Jays just could not solve Ubaldo Jimenez. It didn’t seem to matter whether he was having a good year or bad, or how wild he had been lately, he just owned Toronto. The first time they faced him this year, it looked like more of the same; Jimenez held the Blue Jays to just two runs in five innings, striking out six times. The universe finally corrected itself the next two times out. Jimenez was absolutely rocked to the tune of 10 runs over a combined 2 1/3 innings. In fact, the first outing was so bad that it cost Jimenez his rotation spot (that second appearance came in relief). He has bounced in and out of the rotation since then, and is back now due to an injury to staff ace, Chris Tillman. He did look good the last time out though, shutting down the Nationals over six innings (he allowed just one run and no walks). That being said, this should be another good matchup for the Jays.
Wednesday, August 31 – First Pitch 7:05 PM ET
Aaron Sanchez vs. Yovani Gallardo
He’s back! Making his first start since a brief demotion (for roster reasons), Sanchez takes on the Orioles on a full ten days’ rest. Like Happ, he has been absolutely excellent this year. His 2.99 ERA sits fourth in the American League and he held opponents to two or fewer runs in 16 of his 24 starts. Baltimore does happen to be one of the only teams that has really gotten to the young ace, as he lasted just five innings and gave up six runs on ten hits the first time they met. He turned things around the next couple of times though, holding the Orioles to just three runs in thirteen innings. It will be very interesting to see how he responds in this one, as the layoff is extremely long for a starting pitcher (he did not pitch in the minors), and he did struggle a little bit the last time out against the Indians. Sanchez is a huge part of the push for the playoffs and beyond, so there is a very real chance that he will be on a short leash once again. If the bullpen is rested, don’t be surprised to see Sanchez leave the game after only five innings.
The report on Gallardo could basically be a carbon copy of the start of the Jimenez breakdown. For whatever reason, the Jays just could not hit Gallardo for the last couple of years. They could get baserunners, but they could just never break through. He beat the Jays in the regular season last year, again in the postseason, and held them to two runs across five innings in his first start this year. Things looked bad again in his most recent outing, as he held Toronto off the scoreboard for the first four innings, but the offense exploded for seven runs in the fifth (five off Gallardo) to finally get to their nemesis. He actually bounced back nicely from that start and threw four good games in a row against a mixed bag of opponents, dropping his ERA from an abysmal 5.70 to a simply really bad 5.08. He got rocked last time out though, giving up seven run in 1 1/3 innings, ballooning his ERA right back to 5.69. He’s going to throw a lot of junk, and nothing straight, but for the third time this series, the matchup definitely favours Toronto.
ADDITIONS AND SUBTRACTIONS
The Blue Jays will formally welcome back former catcher Dioner Navarro, who was acquired on Friday for double-A left-hander Colton Turner. As a result, Toronto waived C Josh Thole, however, it is expected that if he clears waivers they will resign him prior to R.A. Dickey’s next start in Tampa. In an attempt to improve the depth of the bullpen the Blue Jays DFA’d Aaron Loup and promoted relief pitcher Bo Schultz from Triple-A Buffalo during the last series. The Blue Jays will activate starter Aaron Sanchez for Wednesday’s start, so a subsequent move is expected to follow.
As a result of two blowouts over the weekend the Orioles have made a flurry of transactions over the last few days. They signed (former Oriole) reliever Tommy Hunter, recalled right-handed pitcher Oliver Drake, optioned right-hander Mike Wright to the Norfolk Tides and designated left-handed reliever Tyler McFarland for assignment. Orioles centre fielder Adam Jones, exited Friday’s game in New York with a strained left hamstring but could return to the lineup on Monday night.
Pitchers, Chris Tillman (shoulder injury) and Darren O’Day (shoulder strain), remain on the disabled list for the Orioles and are not expected to be activated for this series.
KEEP AN EYE ON
The Killer B’s
The Baltimore Orioles have one of the best one-two punch in the bullpen in baseball. Their set up man, Brad Brach, has been dominant with a 1.68 ERA, 0.95 WHIP and 10.35 K/9. As good as he has been Zach Britton has been even better. Britton is perfect in save opportunities with 38, has a microscopic ERA 0.68 and WHIP 0.81, and an impressive 10.56 K/9. It has been the performance of Brach and Britton that have been a key to the Orioles ability to remain in contention. For the Blue Jays to be successful in the series, they need to have the lead before the “Killer B’s” can become a factor.
Jays Offence is on Fire
The Minnesota Twins pitchers were just what the Blue Jays offence needed to get out of their August slumber. Toronto scored 32 runs, hit nine home runs and came back from two deficits to sweep the lowly Twins. The Jays will face three starters who have struggled most of the season and will try to continue to their hot streak at the plate. It will be imperative to dominate these starters to avoid the deadly backend of the bullpen and give their pitchers more room for error against the high powering Orioles offence.
“Waiver Trade Deadline”
August 31st waiver deadline is the last chance for teams to add players for them to be eligible for the playoffs. The Blue Jays and Orioles have both been active already with the additions of Navarro and Hunter respectively. Both teams could still benefit from adding further pieces to bolster their roster so keep your eyes on the transaction wire over the next few days.
|Jose Bautista-DH||Adam Jones-CF|
|Josh Donaldson-3B||Hyun soo Kim-LF|
|Edwin Encarnacion-1B||Manny Machado-3B|
|Russell Martin-C||Chris Davis-1B|
|Troy Tulowitzki-SS||Mark Trumbo-RF|
|Michael Saunders-RF||Jonathan Schoop-2B|
|Kevin Pillar-CF||Pedro Alvarez-DH|
|Melvin Upton Jr-LF||Matt Wieters-C|
|Devon Travis-2B||JJ Hardy-SS|
via Roster Resource
Toronto has an opportunity to put further distance between themselves and Baltimore and the pitching match ups are in their favour, especially avoiding Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy in this series. However, Camden Yards has been a challenge for the Blue Jays and winning two of three would be considered a huge success.
Lead Photo: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports