Series Preview: Oakland Athletics @ Toronto Blue Jays (April 22-24)

The Toronto Blue Jays prepare for a weekend series against the Oakland Athletics. We break down the series, who to look out for, and what to expect in every game. 

The Blue Jays are fresh off a seven game road trip against the Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles, finishing the trip going 3-4. Now the Jays look to face their first out of division opponent at home this season against the Oakland Athletics.

Oakland is off to a fair start this season, exceeding what some may have thought of this team entering the season. Recently Oakland has hit a hot streak, entering Toronto on a five game win streak, and most recently sweeping the Yankees in New York in their last series.

Offense will play a huge part in this match up, with the Blue Jays bats still trying to make the trip north from Spring Training, and Oakland who ranks 26th in runs scored this year, with only fifty-two. Last season the Blue Jays dominated the season series 5-1, winning all three games at home. The Blue Jays look to get off to a strong start with their out of division opponents, hopefully closing the gap to first place in the American League East.

GAME 1

First Pitch – 7:07 EST

A. Sanchez RHP (2016: 1-0, 1.35 ERA) vs. S. Gray RHP (2016: 2-1, 2.33 ERA)

Aaron Sanchez has been absolutely dominant for the Blue Jays so far this season. In his last start against the Boston Red Sox, Sanchez had his best performance of the year, only allowing two hits, and one run, over seven innings pitched, all while striking out seven. Sanchez has never started against the Oakland Athletics, and this will be his first time facing a majority of the Athletics lineup.

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The Athletics will counter with their number one starter, the 2015 All-Star Sonny Gray. Gray, like Sanchez, has started this season on a great note and in his last game against the formidable offense of the Kansas City Royals, went six innings, allowing one earned run, and striking out six.

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Players to Watch:

Blue Jays: Jose Bautista in ten at bats against Gray, has five hits. Jose is going through a very mini cool streak right now, and rebounding with a huge game against Gray would be a great time to start a hot streak.

Athletics: With potentially a very low scoring game ahead of us, defense will play a huge part in this game. The Athletics shortstop Marcus Semien, lead the league in errors last season with thirty-five. This season Semien only has one error, but in this battle for who can get the quickest twenty-seven outs, being sharp on defense will be very important.

Outlook: With both pitchers playing at an extremely high level, don’t expect too much fire power from the offenses. Pitching duals this good don’t come around the Rogers Centre every series!

GAME 2

First Pitch – 1:07 EST

J. Happ (2016: 2-0, 1.89 ERA) vs. Bassitt (2016: 0-0, 2.79 ERA)

In the rubber match of the series, the Blue Jays send J.A. Happ to the mound, who is coming off yet another stellar outing. The starting pitching has kept the Blue Jays afloat all season, and Happ has been exceptional so far, but against the opposition in the past, the Athletics have hit Happ hard.

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The Athletics will respond with Chris Bassitt, who will make his 20th career start. In his three starts this season, Bassitt has been consistently good, but still is looking for his first win of the season, and only the third of his career.

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Players to Watch:

Blue Jays: Without much history of either teams having at bats against these pitchers, it will be up to players like Michael Saunders to continue their hot streaks against new pitching competition.

Athletics: Marcus Semien’s defense was what to look out for in game one, it’s his offense in game two which fans should keep their eye on. The speedy Semien in ten at bats against Happ, has seven hits. Although the sample size is small, containing Semien behind the plate should be a major focus for the Blue Jays in game two.

Outlook: This is yet another good pitching match-up, in these first two games it might be the first team to put together runs wins the game, bullpens will also be huge in these kinds of games, expect another low scoring affair.

GAME 3

First Pitch – 1:07 EST

D. Hutchison (2016: 0-0, 0.00 ERA) vs E. Surkamp (2016: 0-1, 3.68 ERA)

In the final game of the series, the Blue Jays will send Drew Hutchison to the mound to round out the series. Hutchison, will be making a spot start for the regularly scheduled Stroman. Hutchison in three Triple-A start this season, has pitched 15.1IP, with a 4.11ERA, and 2.91FIP.

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Oakland will counter with Eric Surkamp, who in ten career starts has never gotten to the seventh inning of a ball game. Surkamp is still fighting for a fifth starting job, every start for Surkamp matters at this point. He’s off to a good start this season, but going deeper into games will ultimately prove whether he remains that fifth starter.

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Players to Watch:

Blue Jays: Surkamp will have to look out for Josh Donaldson, who on Sunday will be celebrating with fans his MVP bobblehead day. The Blue Jays since 2010, when position players playing in their bobblehead stadium giveaway are batting .500 (14H/28AB) with 4RBI. With the good history of players stepping up to the plate on bobblehead days, and how well Donaldson has been playing as of late, he should be the player to watch on Sunday.

Athletics: As mentioned above Surkamp hasn’t gone deep into a ball game yet in his career, meaning the Athletics bullpen might be a huge factor in this game. Players like John Axford, Ryan Madson, and Sean Doolittle, might be the deciding factor in this game.

Outlook: Since 2010 the Blue Jays are 8-8 on Bobblehead giveaway days, but currently hold a three game bobblehead day win streak. Getting to Surkamp early in the game, might be the best way to attack the Athletics on Sunday.

 

*All stats from ESPN.com (Click on image to view original)

 

 

**Feature Image Credit: Keith Allison under CC BY-SA 2.0

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Spencer Redmond

Spencer Redmond is a Graduate of the University of Wisconsin. His loves in life are the NBA, MLB, Stats, and his dog Parker.