The Blue Jays kick off Interleague play this weekend with three games against the winner of the past three National League West titles, Los Angeles Dodgers.
After perhaps the most exciting series of the season, Toronto will welcome their first National League opponent to the Rogers Centre. The Los Angeles Dodgers are a team that is currently sitting 14-14, but have won the National League West division each of the last three seasons. They also bring with them a plethora of young exciting – some polarizing – talent in the forms of Joc Pederson, Trayce Thompson, Yasiel Puig, and Japanese star Kenta Maeda.
L.A. Dodgers – (Starters) 3.55 ERA, 1.138 WHIP, 0.90 HR/9, 8.6 K/9 – (Relievers) 4.03 ERA, 1.158 WHIP, .89 HR/9, 7.8 K/9.
Toronto Blue Jays – (Starters) 3.70 ERA, 1.203 WHIP, 0.90 HR/9, 6.9 K/9 – (Relievers) 3.70 ERA, 1.341 WHIP, 1.07 HR/9, 9.22 K/9.
L.A. Dodgers – R/G 4.32, 241/319/690, 8.1 SO/G, 78 XBH
Toronto – R/G 4.17, 237/321/721, 8.96SO/G, 87 XBH
The Toronto Blue Jays and Los Angeles Dodgers have only played each other fifteen times overall. The Dodgers own the head-to-dead record with nine wins, including six of those coming in Toronto.
The last time the two teams met was in 2013 with the Dodgers sweeping the Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre. It was an ugly series that saw Toronto get outscored 31-17 while committing seven errors, with five one game.
First Pitch – 7:07 EST
M. Stroman RHP (2016: 4-0, 3.77 ERA) vs. K. Maeda RHP (2016: 3-1, 1.41 ERA)
Toronto’s de facto staff ace is coming off his strongest start of the 2016 season where he dominated the Tampa Rays over eight innings, surrendering one run with nine strikeouts. This start has helped to get his season ERA down below four at 3.77 since his first start, also in Tampa.
During his career Marcus Stroman has been very successful (3-0, 0.98 ERA, 0.764 WHIP, 8.3 K/9) in interleague play. With his 2015 being shortened due to injury all of his interleague appearances – five in total, including two starts – came during his rookie season in 2014.
Dodger’s starter Kenta Maeda – A NBL free agent signing – has obviously never face any of the Blue Jays lineup. So, in place of looking at head-to-head statistics we will show some of this split stats for his inaugural season.
At home in Chavez Ravine Maeda is (1-1, 2.29 ERA, 1.068 WHIP, 7.3 K/9), while on the road (2-0, 0.00 ERA, 0.730 WHIP, 8.8 K/9) he has been even better.
During his first five starts Maeda has posted impressive numbers when facing batters on both sides of the plate. When facing LHB 182/250/273, RHB 226/250/290. All this has led to an astounding 6.8 H/9 and 0.6 HR/9 in 2016.
Player(s) to Watch:
Blue Jays: With Edwin Encarnacion heating up with the turn of the calendar to May, it will be fun to see if he can keep his hot streak going. His last two games add up to 5 for 8, 2 R, 2 HR, 2 2B, 8 RBI. His parrot loves the warm weather, and this weekend is supposed to really nice.
Dodgers: Kenta Maeda has been fantastic for the Dodgers in his first month in Major League Baseball. Before his last start he had allowed one earned run in his first four starts, covering 25.1 innings.
Outlook: This is a tough game to get a handle on. The Blue Jays haven’t seen Maeda before, yet their offense has heated up of late. The lack of knowledge could be a problem, or it could mean they go out and take his ability to pitch backwards away from him. It’s an interesting aspect of this game that will fun to watch unfold.
First Pitch – 1:07 EST
R. Dickey RHP (2016: 1-3, 5.73 ERA) vs. C. Kershaw LHP (2016: 3-1, 1.96 ERA)
R.A. Dickey is coming off his best start of the season in his last start. His (6.1 IP, 6H, 1ER) against the Texas Rangers looked more like what fans were used to seeing in the second half of 2015.
Dickey, has compiled a career record of (1-1, 2.08 ERA, 0.923 WHIP, 7.9 K/9) over four games – including three starts – against the Dodgers. With this last appearance coming from 2012.
Interleague play has been very kind to Dickey. During his career he is (15-6, 3.82 ERA, 1.283 WHIP, 7.8 K/9) over forty appearance, including twenty-seven starts. Since being dealt to Toronto his record is (6-3, 3.57 ERA, 1.370 WHIP, 7.4 K/9) against the National League.
The Dodgers starter for Saturday’s game doesn’t need an introduction. I mean, he’s Clayton Kershaw, just the best pitcher on the planet for the last several years. He’s off to his typical season (3-1, 1.96 ERA, 0.717 WHIP, 10.6 K/9) so far in 2016, with an astonishing 18.00 SO/W ratio.
Kershaw has never pitched in Toronto, let alone in the Rogers Centre, but he has amassed a (10-4, 2.32 ERA, 0.951 WHIP, 9.6 K/9) record during interleague play over his career.
Player(s) to Watch:
Blue Jays: Troy Tulowitzki is the only Blue Jay on the roster with some extended history with Kershaw; however, with his recent struggles I wouldn’t be looking to him to continue what success he has had against the lefty. Instead, the player to watch could be Josh Donaldson. He seems to step up his game during moments like this, and I believe he may do so again.
Dodgers: Outfielder Joc Pederson could be the one to watch in this game. With his swing he tends to hit a lot of fly balls – 45.2% this season – and with Rogers Centre being hitter friendly he could do some damage to a Dickey knuckle ball.
Outlook: The easy pick would be to say that Kershaw will dominate the Blue Jays lineup and carry the Dodgers to a win, but I just don’t know about that. Most of the Dodgers are unfamiliar with Dickey and he could present some trouble to them as well. While the game could easily go in favour of L.A., it could also be a low scoring game which is decided late with both teams’ bullpens playing a factor.
First Pitch – 1:07 EST
M. Estrada (2016: 1-2, 2.64 ERA) vs. R. Stripling RHP (2016: 0-2, 4.33 ERA)
Toronto will send Marco Estrada to the mound on Sunday afternoon. The deceptive right-hanger is off to an excellent start (1-2, 2.64 ERA, 1.174 WHIP, 8.2 K/9) this season.
Over his career he has faced the Dodgers six times – one start – while amassing a (0-1, 3.46 ERA, 1.385 WHIP, 9.7 K/9) record. Though he hasn’t faced them since 2014.
During interleague play last season with the Blue Jays Estrada was excellent with a (3-0, 2.01 ERA, 0.940 WHIP, 6.9 K/9) in four appearance, including three starts.
The Dodgers will counter will rookie pitcher Ross Stripling. The former Texas A&M Aggie has pitched decent for the L.A. to start the season (0-2, 4.33 ERA, 1.407 WHIP, 7.3 K/9) but is coming off his worse start of the season where he was touched up for seven hits, and five earned runs in 4 2/3 innings against the light hitting Padres.
Like, Maeda, Stripling has never faced the Blue Jays in his career, or even pitched in an American League park. How he will handle the hitter friendly Rogers Centre with only a 45 % ground ball rate will have to be determined.
With him giving up an average of nearly a hit an inning at 8.7 H/9, with a 4.0 BB/9 ratio this Blue Jays lineup could pose some serious problems for the young righty.
Player(s) to Watch:
Blue Jays: With no experience against today’s starting pitcher it is, once again, hard to say who may have a big day. Though for some reason I will be keeping an eye on Troy Tulowitzki. Call it a hunch.
Dodgers: Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez has limited at-bats (2) against Estrada, but has hit him hard. Including a home run and a double.
Outlook: I would look for the Blue Jays lineup to wear out the young rookie pitcher in this game. His penchant for walks and high pitch counts could spell doom for him on this day. Toronto should get into the bullpen early.
*All Pitcher vs Batter Stats are provided by ESPN (click on image to see original)
**Featured Image Credit: genevieve.ducret (Flikr)- 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.