Like the pioneers of old, Toronto will head west this week to stake their claims against two opponents with dreams of playoff riches in 2022. First stop St. Louis for two games before invading Anaheim for a weekend showdown against the Angels
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TORONTO BLUE JAYS AT ST.LOUIS CARDINALS (2 game series)
Monday May 23rd- 7:45p ET-SNET: Jose Berrios (3-2 4.83) vs. Miles Mikolas (3-2 1.68)
Tuesday May 24th- 7:45p ET-SNET: Kevin Gausman (3-3 2.52) vs. TBD
It isn’t very often that Blue Jays fans get see the Redbirds-on-the-Bat, and they will be both thrilled and chilled by what they might witness. Entering the brief two-game tilt, the Cardinals boast an offense that has scored the 2nd most runs in MLB and carries the 2nd highest team average and 6th best on base percentage. To lend some perspective, St.Louis scored as many runs in the first two innings (11) of Sunday’s game against the Pirates than the Jays and Reds combined scored over a 3 game series.
At a time when the Toronto lineup is still struggling to score runs on a consistent basis, Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt are anchoring a versatile lineup that have added rookies Juan Yepez and Nolan Gorman over the past few weeks. Equally impressive has been the Cardinals glove work, with Harrison Bader, Yadier Molina and the versatile Tommy Edman making solid arguments for Gold Glove consideration.
A (potential) bright spot for the Jays are the scheduled starters for the series. Being able to hand the ball to Jose Berrios and Kevin Gausman in this series gives toronto to stay in each game should the offense continue to struggle. Miles Mikolas will not not make scoring runs any easier in the opener, his 1.68 ERA and opponents batting average of .215 reflective of his patient approach to attacking hitters early in counts. Gausman’s mound opponent Tuesday night is listed as TBD and could well be a minor league recall. The Cardinals bullpen has been taxed by doubleheaders and a 4-pitch start by ex-Blue Jay Stephen Matz on Sunday. It will not be uber-prospect Matthew Liberatore, who was called up to start in Pittsburgh Saturday and immediately sent back to AAA.
It is natural to focus on offensive exploits from both clubs, given the reputations and expectations. But keep an eye on the defensive performances as well throughout the infield and behind the plate. Molina vs. Danny Jansen calling games and keeping running games in check. Goldschmidt vs. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Bo Bichette and Edman at short. The hot corner will indeed be a Hot Corner with Matt Chapman and Arenado taking turns dazzling fans. Santiago Espinal is staking his claim to the label “best defensive second baseman” while Bader just may be the best defensive outfielder in the game.
Keep a watchful eye out for an Albert Pujols appearance. The future Hall of Famer will be retiring after this season.
TORONTO BLUE JAYS at LOS ANGELES ANGELS
Thursday May 26th 9:38p ET- SNET-1*- TBD/Ryu vs. Noah Syndegaard (3-2 3.60)
Friday May 27th 9:38p ET- Apple TV+ Alek Manoah (5-1 1.62) vs. Reid Detmers (2-1 4.15)
Saturday May 28th 10:07p ET- SNET-1*- Yusei Kikuchi (2-1 3.470 vs. Michael Lorenzen (5-2 3.05)
Sunday May 29th 4:07p ET- SNET-1- Jose Berrios vs. TBD/Chase Silseth (1-1 2.61)
+ Apple TV Exclusive telecast * MLB Network out-of-market broadcast
We are about to type a sentence we never thought would be relevant in 2022… for the L.A. Angels, a series win will all come down to pitching.
So many preview articles will start and end with Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani. The fact remains that NO MLB team has a 1-2 star dynamic like the Angels feature in Trout/Ohtani. Sprinkle in some Anthony Rendon, spice it up with rising stars Taylor Ward and Jared Walsh and Angels manager Joe Maddon has a winning lineup recipe. But it is stability in the rotation and an underrated bullpen that have positioned the Halos to battle it out with the Houston Astros for the AL West crown. Adopting then adapting to s six-man rotation to ease the workload for Ohtani has also allowed Maddon to mix and match young starters like Reid Detmers, Patrick Sandoval and 2021 draft pick Chase Silseth deliver the 5th best rotation ERA in the majors. The Blue Jays will see their one-time top prospect Noah Syndegaard in the Thursday series opener and will need to have at least part of the lineup begin to find their form to score runs against any of the scheduled starters.
If you do not have an AppleID, you may want to consider getting one so that you can enjoy another Alek Manoah start on the big stage of a network featured game. Manoah embraces the big moments as heartily as he does teammates and no doubt will be looking forward to showing an international audience what he is capable of. Another Toronto starter who will excited to get a start in the series will be Yusei Kikuchi. The Ohtani Factor already ensures a large Japanese press contingent for all Angels games; the game will no doubt be televised in Japan Saturday night/Sunday morning with two major national stars facing off against each other. It will be interesting to see if the Angels allow the inexperience Silseth make his scheduled start against an explosive (if struggling) Blue Jays lineup.
The Angels fared well against Toronto in 2021, taking the season series 4-3. They also served as the “visiting” team August 10th to make-up a game rained out at Dunedin in April. The Angels won the game 6-3 against Stephen Matz.
Based on early results of the Perry Minasian era, Blue Jays fans may want to pay close attention to the entire Angels roster during the series. It appears the Angels and Blue Jays might be mirror images of pennant contenders over the next few seasons.
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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.