The Toronto Blue Jays head south the Tropicana Field to take on the Rays. Check out the series match-ups here throughout the weekend with Jays From the Couch.
So, how does one go about making Blue Jays fans anxious? What about your favorite team dropping four of six during a home stand, and then heading to a stadium where the franchise has an all-time record of 65-95? Will that work? Every time.
Toronto managed an ugly series split in Tampa to kick off the 2016 campaign, and this team Tampa team is not the team you really want to see the Blue Jays play now. Not with that pitching staff, anyway. But, here we are. It’s far too early to call this a make it or break it series for the Jays, however, another sweep and a 10-16 record could spell disaster.
First Pitch – 7:10 EST
A. Sanchez RHP (2016: 1-1, 3.33 ERA) vs. D. Smyly LHP (2016: 1-2, 2.51 ERA)
Toronto’s starter Aaron Sanchez is coming off his first bad start of the 2016 season, and will be looking to the success from his last start in Tampa (7IP, 5H, 1ER, 8K) to get himself back on track.
On the season Sanchez is (1-1, 3.33 ERA, 1.151 WHIP, 8.5 K/9) which is excellent, however, one alarming aspect has been his BB/9 over his last couple starts. It has been a number that is steadily rising, and will need to be capped before it becomes a problem.
Over his career he is (0-1, 1.69 ERA, 0.703 WHIP, 8.4 K/9) against Tampa, with an impressive (0-0, 0.84 ERA, 0.563 WHIP, 11 K/9) at Tropicana Field.
Tampa will counter with lefty Drew Smyly who has been extremely impressive so far this (1-2, 2.51 ERA, 0.733 WHIP, 10.4 K/9) season.
During his career he is (1-1, 2.74 ERA, 0.652 WHIP, 6.3 K/9) against Toronto over six appearance, and three starts. Including a (6 IP, 6 H, 5 ER) appearance this season.
At Tropicana Field the Arkansas native is (3-2, 3.58 ERA, 0.980 WHIP, 10.7 K/9) over thirteen appearances and eleven starts.
Player(s) to Watch:
Blue Jays: While it will be important to keep an eye on Sanchez this game. The real excitement will come from Josh Donaldson. The reigning MVP is sporting a healthy 545/583/1.856 slash line against Smyly over eleven at-bats, and will be looking to back up his “wake-up call” comments from Wednesday.
Rays: Tampa’s Corey Dickerson has hit all of his five home runs this season against RHP, and has one against Sanchez already. He could play a big part in this game.
Outlook: We should look for both pitchers to match each other pitch for pitch this game. Meaning the game could come down to who blinks first.
First Pitch – 6:10 EST
J. Happ LHP (2016: 3-0, 2.42 ERA) vs. C. Archer RHP (2016: 1-4, 5.47 ERA)
Toronto’s most consistent pitcher this season J.A. Happ will take the ball for the second game of the series. So far he has managed a (3-0, 2.42 ERA, 1.192 WHIP, 4.5 K/9) record while recording 6.5 IP/start.
Over his career he has managed a (2-2, 4.32 ERA, 1.340 WHIP, 7.7 K/9) against Tampa, with a (1-1, 6.46 ERA, 1.648 WHIP, 6.8 K/9) at Tropicana Field.
During his earlier start in Tampa this season Happ had a strong (6 IP, 2 ER, 1 BB, 4 K) appearance, and could very well repeat that performance against a light hitting lineup.
Tampa Bay Rays rotation ace Chris Archer will counter Happ in this start. Archer has seen his struggles this season so far sporting (1-4, 5.47 ERA, 1.747 WHIP, 13.3 K/9) record. The majority of trouble has come from his walk total which is 3.8 BB/9 at this time, as well his inability to keep the ball in the yard. His current 2.1 HR/9 total is alarming since his career numbers of 0.8 HR/9 over ninety-three game starts were fantastic.
Over his career against Toronto (5-4, 3.28 ERA, 1.167 WHIP, 9.1 K/9) Archer has been really solid, which includes a start earlier this season of (5 IP, 3 ER, 12 K).
Player(s) to Watch:
Blue Jays: Edwin Encarnacion ,despite hitting for a poor average (.154) has done some damage when facing Archer, including three home runs and eight runs batted in. With him looking better and better at the plate of late, this would be a good time for him to break out.
Rays: Rays third base stalwart Evan Longoria has hit Happ well over his career to the tune of a 381/440/446 slash line. With him being an essential part of their offensive attack, keep an eye for him this game.
Outlook: This game is hard to put a finger on. It will depend on which Archer shows up, as well as which Blue Jays offense shows up. I would lean more to Archer being his regular self, so Toronto’s offense will need to look to drive his pitch counts up early.
First Pitch – 1:10 EST
M. Stroman RHP (2016: 3-0, 4.37 ERA) vs. J. Odorizzi RHP (2016: 0-1, 3.58 ERA)
In the final game of the series Toronto will lean on Marcus Stroman to take them deep into this game. Stroman has been solid this season, but has found himself getting caught up in some self-inflicted tough innings.
So far this season his has amassed a record (3-0, 4.37 ERA, 1.029 WHIP, 4.9 K/9) while averaging 7 IP per start.
He is a career (2-1, 4.67 ERA, 1.474 WHIP, 7.1 K/9) record when facing Tampa, which includes a strong (8 IP, 6H, 3ER, 5K) performance this season in Tampa.
Tampa’s Jake Odorizzi will take the mound to oppose Stroman on Sunday. Odorizzi is having himself a decent start to the season (0-1, 3.58 ERA, 1.337 WHIP, 7.8 K/9), but has found himself struggling to go deep. Through five starts he has managed just under 5.5 IP per start through five starts in 2016.
Over his young career the Illinois native has a (2-2, 3.64 ERA, 1.167 WHIP, 8.9 K/9) against the Blue Jays. This includes a (5.2 IP, 5H, 1 ER, 10 K) performance in 2016.
Player(s) to Watch:
Blue Jays: If Toronto’s offense is still struggling to find runs in this series, Stroman will be leaned upon to put up a strong start. It will be key for him to limit the one bad inning he has found himself in recent games.
Rays: Once again Longoria is a bat to keep an eye on. He has hit Stroman to a 556/600/1000 slash line over nine at-bats, with home run and three runs batted in.
Outlook: With Tampa’s offense not being overly threatening this game should come down to whether Toronto can score early. If they can get off to a good start, Stroman should be able to keep the Rays in check.
*All Pitcher vs Batter Stats are provided by ESPN (click on image to see original)
**Featured Image Credit: sjg08 (flickr)- UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0
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Wade is a long time baseball fan who has been involved with the game for over 30 years. Including as a former college player, amateur pitching coach, and blogger.