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Blue Jays Week in Preview: Stiff Competition

 A Look Ahead At The Toronto Blue Jays Week On The Field and Off. This week, the Red Sox and Astros


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TORONTO BLUE JAYS AT BOSTON RED SOX (3 GAME SERIES)

Tuesday 7:10 ET-  SportsNet*         Yusei Kikuchi (0-1) vs. Nate Eovaldi (1-0)

Wednesday 7:10 ET- SportsNet*   Jose Berrios (0-0) vs. Nick Pivetta (0-2)

* Thursday 1:35 ET- SportsNet        Kevin Gausman (0-1) vs. Tanner Houck (1-0)

Monday and Tuesday games are also available out-of-market on MLB Network

 

Another divisional rivalry series starts off the Blue Jays week. After splitting last week’s 4 game set in New York, the Jays will play road and home series versus probable playoff contenders Boston and Houston before welcoming the Yankees (well, some of them) to Rogers Centre. All the cliches will be batted around: “just win the game today”, “it’s still early”. But the Blue Jays can make an early statement by winning the series despite key injuries (Danny Jansen, Teoscar Hernandez, Hyun-Jin Ryu) and inconsistent starting pitching the first two times through the rotation.

 

Red Sox designated hitter JD Martinez should be looking forward to facing the three scheduled Toronto starters. Martinez is 2 for 6 with 2 homer runs against Kikuchi. He is hitting .278 with 4 RBI lifetime against Berrios and .417 with a dinger and 4 RBI against Gausman. Former Jay Travis Shaw may be in the lineup on Wednesday night, given he has clobbered 2 solo homers against Berrios. Xander Bogaertswho like Martinez, has more than 40 at bats against Gausman during his time in Baltimore, hits the righty at a .300 clip with a homer and 5 RBI.

 

Key matchups to watch from a Blue Jays perspective will focus on the bullpen arms Alex Cora will utilize during the series. Given the fact that finale starter Tanner Houck has already admitted he is not fully vaccinated, Cora will need to find a replacement for him when the Red Sox play at Rogers Centre next week. It is entirely possible at least one game during the 4 game set will be a bullpen game. Current relievers Kutter Crawford and Garrett Whitlock have pitched multiple innings in the early going and may also find themselves making a start- especially if there are more pitchers that will need to go on the Restricted List.

 

The Blue Jays went 9-10 last season versus Boston, splitting the 10 games they played at Fenway Park.

 

Friday 8:10 ET- SportsNet              TBD vs. Justin Verlander (1-1)

*Saturday 8:10 ET- SportsNet          Alek Manoah (2-0) vs. Jose Urquidy (1-1)

Sunday 2:10 ET- SportsNet            Ross Stripling (probable) vs. Luis Garcia 

 

How incredible would it be to have Alek Manoah moved up a day to face-off against Houston ace Justin Verlander to open the series? Don’t waste too much time fantasizing about it-the Blue Jays front office will be protective of their young stopper throughout the season. The use of an “opener” like Trent Thornton or Anthony Kay would appear to be the plan, though how the bullpen fares during the Red Sox series could facilitate a recall from Buffalo to handle the start. Verlander appears fully recovered from Tommy John surgery, splitting his two decisions while posting identical ERA and WHIP numbers (0.69)

 

Which Urquidy will take the mound Saturday to outduel Manoah? The Urquidy who was effective in his first start versus the Angels or the version that got bombed in his last outing against the Mariners? Just as Toronto hopes to find a way to meet the Verlander challenge, the Astros will need to demonstrate better plate discipline if they hope to solve Manoah’s mix of fastballs, sliders and a vastly improved changeup.

 

The Astros do have a vaunted lineup, especially in the first 5 slots. Jose AltuveMichael Brantley, Alex Bregman, Kyle Tucker and Lourdes’ big brother (and defending AL batting champ) Yuli Gurriel can all do damage. Should unproven youngsters Chaz McCormick and Jeremy Pena find consistency, Houston will be able to score runs with the best of them and perhaps find themselves in the AL West race all season long.

 

The Blue Jays went 2-4 last season against the Astros in 2021, but honestly didn’t seem that competitive in either series. Toronto bullpen ills reached their apex when they last met and the early 2022 tendencies (aside from Jordan Roman0) may cause some fretful moments this weekend.

 

 

*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.

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Fek

Jersey born, Pittsburgh resident, baseball lifer. Staff Writer jaysfromthecouch.com. Host THE ON FEK CIRCLE on JFtC YouTube Channel. Regular guest on Jays From the couch Radio Podcast. Established WPPJ Rock-a-thon benefit, which has been broadcast annually since 1981 and has raised for than $500,000 for the Early Learning Institute of Pittsburgh. IBWAA member.