A Look Ahead At The Blue Jays Week On The Field And Off. This Week, The Red Sox And Astros Pt2: Home & Vaxxed
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BOSTON RED SOX AT BLUE JAYS (4 GAME SERIES-Monday-Thursday)
Monday April 25 7:07 p.m.ET- Nate Eovaldi (1-0 3.68) vs. Jose Berrios (1-0 6.35)
Tuesday April 26 7:07 p.m.ET- Nick Pivetta (0-3 10.63) vs. Kevin Gausman (1-1 2.89)
Wednesday April 27 7:07 p.m.ET Michael Wacha (1-0 1.89) vs. Ross Stripling (0-0 4.50)
Thursday April 28 3:07 p.m.ET TBD vs. Alek Manoah (3-0 2.00)
*All games broadcast on SNET-1 and NESN. MLBN will feature Monday and Wednesday gams out-of-market.
Fans of the classic Abbott and Costello comedy routine may be tempted to ask “Who’s on the Roster?” before the Red Sox travel to Rogers Centre. COVID protocols will prevent unvaccinated Boston players to be placed on the Restricted List prior to the Monday evening contest and the precise number of players affected is still up for debate. Starter Tanner Houck, whose normal rotation turn would have been Monday, pitched an abbreviated piggy back game over the weekend. Red Sox manager Alex Cora, who missed the series against the Rays due to a positive COVID test, has only said he is planning for “multiple players” to miss the series in Toronto. Two other Red Sox players (Kevin Plawecki and Jonathan Arauz) are currently on the COVID IL list, though Plawecki has completed the protocols and is expected to be activated before Monday’s game.
Monday appears to be the premier pitching matchup, with Nate Eovaldi dueling Jose Berrios. Berrios has made up for an atrocious Opening Day performance with 2 consecutive solid starts-including a quality start win in Boston on Wednesday. Eovaldi will seek to get ahead in the count against an aggressive Blue Jays lineup, as he is holding opponents to a .200 average and posting a 0.75 WHIP when he does so. Same strategy will be taken by Game 2 starter Nick Pivetta, who has struck out 7 and is limiting hitters to an .088 average. Good news for Blue Jays hitters is Pivetta’s double digit ERA so far and their tagging the righthander for 5 runs on 7 hits and 4 walks last week. It will be interesting to see if Michael Wacha can continue his early success when he faces Ross Stripling on Wednesday. Stripling will want to be careful with left fielder Alex Verdugo (.400 1 HR 2 RBI), though has had some success against the Red Sox over limited appearances.
Cora will have to make a significant decision regarding how multi-role pitcher Garrett Whitlock will be used in the series. Whitlock was impressive in a 4 inning start on Saturday night in Tampa, his first starting assignment at any level since 2019. Whitlock is the best bullpen arm on the Boston roster, so if he is held back to start the Thursday series finale Toronto will actually benefit from the vaccination status of Houck. Given uber sophomore Alek Manoah is slated to start Thursday afternoon for the Jays, a bullpen game might be on tap for the Sawx.
Designated hitter J.D. Martinez is nursing a left adductor strain and was limited to pinch hitting duties in Tampa Bay over the weekend. Given his career successes against Berrios, Gausman and Manoah, his return to the lineup would be a huge boost for the Red Sox.
The Red Sox entered Sunday’s game 3rd in the majors in outfield assists (2nd in the AL). This may cause baserunners and base coaches to be a tad less aggressive over the 4 game series.
HOUSTON ASTROS AT BLUE JAYS (3 GAME SERIES Friday-Sunday)
Friday April 29 7:07 p.m.ET- Jose Urquidy* vs. Yusei Kikuchi
Saturday April 30 3:07 p.m.ET- Luis Garcia* vs. Jose Berrios
Sunday May 1 1:37 p.m.ET- Framber Valdez* vs, Kevin Gausman
Friday & Saturday games televised on SportsNet; Sunday game will be on SportsNet-1
Two key players should return to the Astros roster for the return weekend series at Rogers Centre. Closer Ryan Pressly is expected to be activated at some point during the interleague, interstate rivalry series against the Texas Rangers before the trip to Toronto. Jose Altuve, sidelined with a hamstring injury, is working out with the team and has indicated he could be ready when eligible on Friday. Dusty Baker has said the return could be delayed to avoid the field turf at Rogers.
The Astros have gone to a 6-man rotation for the upcoming, so Probable Starters could change. This does mean the Jays will not face Justin Verlander in the series. Friday night starter Jose Urquidy hung with a tough luck loss this past Saturday. Yusei Kikuchi had not pitched well against Houston before being knocked out of yesterday’s game in the 4th inning. Alex Bregman has hit 3 homeruns and driven in 13 against Kikuchi, with Jordan Alvarez ( 3 HR 5 RBI) and Michael Brantley (3 HR 9 RBI) also knocking the Japanese lefty around. Speaking of Bregman, he seemed to be on base throughout the series at Minute Maid Park and seems to have rebounded from his subpar 2021 season.
The Top 2 starters in the Blue Jays rotation (Berrios and Gausman) are lined up to take the mound at home against two young Houston hurlers (Luis Garcia and Framber Valdez) who have been inconsistent in the early going.
All 3 games in Houston were closely contested, with timely hitting by the Jays proving to make the difference. Matt Chapman lined the game-winning hit Friday night. Former Astro hero George Springer led off the game with a dinger Saturday while Santiago Espinal hit his first 2 homers of the year in first 2 games and stroked a go-ahead RBI in the 7th inning of the Sunday contest. Sunday cleanup hitter Zack Collins continued his hot start by crushing a 3-run homerun to tie that game.
Santiago turned in multiple highlight plays in the field during the series, prompting Astros analyst and former major league infielder Geoff Blum to refer to him as “Roberto Alomar, Jr.”. Given his emergence at the plate and in the field, it will not be the last comparison of Espinal to the former Blue Jays Hall of Famer.
If you watch the Blue Jays from an out of market location and provider, make it a point to tune into the Astros’ ATT SportsNet broadcast this weekend. Blum and play-by-play man Todd Kalas do an exceptional job integrating Statcast and scouting report information into the broadcasts and are refreshingly open to praising opponents and being critical of Houston players and coaches.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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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.