8/10-8/12 Series Preview: Toronto Blue Jays

Mailbag: Pena, Heathcott, Bleich, September
RAB Live Chat
(AP Photo/Brian Blanco)

Things have gone exceedingly bad for the Blue Jays on the injury front this year, to the point where the sheer volume of pitching injuries is threatening records. The Yankees head north of the border for a three-game weekend series after taking three straight from the Jays in Yankee Stadium last month. Toronto swept a two-game series at Rogers Centre back in May.

What Have They Done Lately?

Losing. Lots and lots of Losing. The Blue Jays were just swept by the Rays in St. Pete and have lost nine of their last eleven games overall. At 53-58 with a -1 run differential, they sit in the AL East cellar with the fifth worst record in the league.

Offense

(REUTERS/Fred Thornhill)

The Yankees are catching a bit of a break this series, because Jose Bautista (140 wRC+) is still on the DL with the same left wrist injury he suffered swinging a bat the last two times these clubs met. Brett Lawrie (100 wRC+) was just placed on the DL with an oblique problem, Adam Lind (87 wRC+) is also out with a back strain, and J.P Arencibia (97 wRC+) is on the shelf with a broken finger. That’s four pretty important pieces for the Jays. Toronto have averaged 4.7 runs per game this year, but that number is down to 3.8 since Bautista got hurt.

Among the guys who are healthy, clearly the most dangerous is Edwin Encarnacion (157 wRC+). He ranks fourth in the league with 29 homers. Colby Rasmus (105 wRC+) and Yunel Escobar (72 wRC+) have both avoided the injury bug, ditto Kelly Johnson (90 wRC+), Rajai Davis (100 wRC+), and Jeff Mathis (79 wRC+). The rest of the lineup is filled with call-ups, including David Cooper (109 wRC+), Yan Gomes (49 wRC+), Moises Sierra (113 wRC+), Anthony Gose (43 wRC+), and defensive whiz Adeiny Hechavarria (-22 wRC+). All of those numbers come in limited samples, most in fewer than 100 plate appearances. Omar Vizquel (43 wRC+) is still kicking around as well. Sometimes all these call-up types can surprise you, but the obvious key to the series is keeping Encarnacion in check.

Pitching Matchups

Friday: RHP Freddy Garcia vs. LHP Ricky Romero
In a year of injuries, Romero’s drastic drop-off in performance might be the worst development for the Jays this season. The 27-year-old southpaw has pitched to a 5.47 ERA (5.06 FIP) with a mediocre strikeout rate (6.39 K/9 and 16.0 K%), a bad walk rate (4.87 BB/9 and 12.2 BB%), and a strong ground ball rate (53.6%). Romero’s two and four-seamer both still sit in the low-90s, and he still uses an upper-70s curve against lefties and a low-80s changeup against righties. His location and command have just been awful — he’s not throwing enough strikes, and when he does hit the zone he’s catching too much of the plate. The Yankees hung six runs in six innings against Romero a few weeks ago.

(Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Saturday: RHP Ivan Nova vs. LHP Aaron Laffey
A brief and former Yankee, Laffey has stepped into Toronto’s rotation due to injuries. He owns a 4.39 ERA (4.98 FIP) in eight starts and four relief appearances, though he isn’t striking anyone out — 4.88 K/9 and 13.0 K%. He is doing well in the walk (2.28 BB/9 and 6.1 BB%) and ground ball (49.7%) departments, however. Laffey’s sinking fastball sits in the mid-to-upper-80s, and he backs it up with a low-80s slider, a low-80s changeup, and an upper-70s curveball. These soft-tossing lefties can be tough as the Red Sox have found out (twice) this year.

Sunday: RHP Phil Hughes vs. LHP J.A. Happ
The Jays acquired Happ from the Astros and initially used him out of the bullpen, but injuries forced him into the rotation like Laffey. The 29-year-old has pitched to a 4.98 ERA (4.28 FIP) overall, with an excellent strikeout rate (8.56 K/9 and 21.7 K%) and decent walk (3.50 BB/9 and 8.9 BB%) and ground ball (45.0%) percentages. Happ throws his fastball right around 90, and his array of offspeed weapons includes a low-80s slider, a low-80s changeup, and an upper-70s changeup. The Yankees and their fans right remember him from his two relief appearances in the 2009 World Series.

(Al Messerschmidt/Getty)

Bullpen Status
Toronto’s bullpen looks very different than the one we saw earlier in the year due to trades and injury. Closer Casey Janssen (2.85 FIP) threw 30 pitches in garbage time yesterday, which could help the Yankees tonight. Left-handed setup man Darren Oliver (2.57 FIP) threw 11 pitches yesterday, so he’s good to go. The only other reliever manager John Farrell had to use against the Rays yesterday was funky lefty Aaron Loup (2.03 FIP in limited time), who needed just 19 pitches to record four outs.

The rest of the Blue Jays’ bullpen is in good shape and is entirely right-handed. There’s setup man Brandon Lyon (2.54 FIP), hard-throwing middle man Steve Delabar (4.61 FIP), former fourth overall pick Brad Lincoln (3.50 FIP), and the recently recalled Chad Jenkins (1.75 FIP in three innings). The Yankees are in pretty rough shape bullpen-wise, with Rafael Soriano coming off back-to-back appearances (and a four-out save yesterday) and David Robertson just a day removed from a 35-pitch outing. Other than those two, they should be fine. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for exact details, and check out Drunk Jays Fans and Tao of Stieb for the latest and greatest on the Jays.

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Mailbag: Pena, Heathcott, Bleich, September
RAB Live Chat
  • Cris Pengiucci

    Just take 3.

  • DERP

    Huge break for the Yankees that Toronto sent Brett Cecil to the minors.

    • Steve (different one)

      Theyve handled Cecil fine since 2010.

      • jjyank

        DERP just has a man-crush on Cecil. I think it’s actually made me dislike Cecil more.

  • Richard Leo

    Sweep!!!

  • Mike Myers

    Wow, they make the red sox look healthy.

    • Tom

      Impossible, only the Red Sox have been hit by the injury bug… NESPN tells me this every day so it must be true.

  • Bavarian Yankee

    wow, that are 3 crappy pitching matchups, that could end up in 3 slugfests. Anything can happen, I hope we win this series.

  • Kramerica Industries

    Yankees haven’t won a series in Toronto since August 2009.

    Hope that ends this weekend. Two of three? I’d take it.

  • mt

    For those blithely predicting sweep, just remember that Garcia is dreadful in Toronto – ERA against Jays over 6.00 and has lost five straight up there. He aims for a record sixth straight consective road loss by a visiting starter tonight. In addition, Yanks have scored one run per game in their last three (one last season, two this season) in Toronto – we have played some real bad baseball, particularly pitching wise and homer prone-wise, in Toronto.

    (Detroit has also been a bad place recently and we eked out a split so I will optimistically predict 2 out of 3 for this series – if we can’t beat Blue Jays in Toronto this time with all their injuries, not sure when we do. Laffey should be interesting – do we hit him hard or do we get befuddled? I am worried Romero will finally turn around his dreadful season and win a game – 0-7 with an ERA over 8 in his last eight starts (although he had a great start against Oakland the last time he pitched).

    (Note to RAB: one thing missing from the series previews that could be easily added is a general comment on how projected Yankee starter in each game has recently done against that team; Garcia’s recent struggles against Jays would have been interesting to note)

  • genteme

    I’ll be happy if we can take 2 of 3.
    I like Nova and expect he become better, but I just don’t think he ‘ll figure it out right now. Dude had been knocked around for several times in recent starts. Besides, Encarnacion would crush Nova and Hughes ,just likes what Miggy did, inevitable.

  • Eddard

    This is a series that must be won. Tampa destroyed these guys. They don’t have their best player. The Os aren’t going away. Tampa is just starting to roll with Longoria back. We have to win these games against weaker clubs before we play Texas.

    • Sweet Dick Willie

      The Os aren’t going away. Tampa is just starting to roll with Longoria back.

      Wait, What?

      Haven’t you been saying for the past month that the division race is OVER?

      • gc

        Don’t waste your breath. He has the attention span of a corn chip.

        • Chip Off The Ol’Knoblauch

          Squirrel!

  • JonS

    If Nova once again sucks, it’s time to do something about him.

  • Nice Scheister

    So, reverse lock? This has trap written all over it. Hopefully I’m proven wrong and they win three straight one run games and go on to enjoy a glorious end of the season onto a playoff berth and another WS championship and the RAB crowd rejoices in harmony, meanwhile Stuart A continues to complain about something regarding A-Rod.

  • Tampa Yankee

    3 games vs. LHP hopefully means Chavez can take a breather after his monstrous series in DET to keep him healthy and swinging the bat like the rest of the year.

    Will be interesting to see how Joe plays with the lineup vs. 3 LHP. On Wed. vs. a LHP he went with Chavez at DH, McGehee at 3B and Ichiro in LF but I’d like to see Nix and Jones in there some how.

    • Eddard

      Chavez needs to DH at least one of the games to keep him sharp. He’s almost too hot to sit right now but they have to keep him healthy.

      • Cris Pengiucci

        Chavez needs to DH at least one of the to rest these games

        FTFY

        In a very limited and small sample size this season, Chavez has hit terrribly against lefties (batting just .105 with 2 singles and a walk in 19 PAs). A great time to allow him to recover, perhaps coming in as a pinch hitter against a righty reliever if necessary, but otherwise resting and staying healthy for the rest of the season so he can continue to be productive

        • jjyank

          Agreed. If Chavez doesn’t sit against lefties, when will he? Part of Chavez’s success is probably being hot, but part of it is also just being healthy. The Yankees need to keep him that way.

  • Big Member

    USA USA USA!

  • Jf32

    3 opposing lefty starters – what’s the over under on number of hits jeter gets this series? 6?