6/23-6/25 Series Preview: Toronto Blue Jays

(Photo Credit: Flickr user James D. Schwartz via Creative Commons license)

(Photo Credit: Flickr user James D. Schwartz via Creative Commons license)

For the second time in a week, the Yankees and first place Blue Jays will meet for three games, only the scene shifts from the Bronx to Toronto. Much like last week, this series is pretty important by late-June standards. The Yankees could leave Canada in first place if things go well. They swept the Jays at home last week but lost two of three at Rogers Centre back in April.

What Have They Done Lately?
The Blue Jays lost two of three to the Reds in Cincinnati over the weekend, and they had to rally back from eight runs down for the one win. Toronto has lost eleven of their last 15 games overall and they come into the series 42-35 with a +25 run differential. They lead the Yankees (and Orioles) by 1.5 games in the AL East.

Manager John Gibbons watches over one of the best offenses in baseball, which averages 4.67 runs per game with a team 111 wRC+. They did lose both 3B Brett Lawrie (98 wRC+) and OF Jose Bautista (168 wRC+) to injury on Sunday, however. Lawrie had a finger broken by a Johnny Cueto pitch while Bautista left the game with a hamstring problem. He is having an MRI today to determine the extent of the damage. SS Jose Reyes (94 wRC+) is day-to-day with sore knee and IF Maicer Izturis (78 wRC+) is done for an extended period of time with a torn knee ligament. They’re pretty banged up.

The Melkman. (Mike Stobe/Getty)

The Melkman. (Mike Stobe/Getty)

Even with all those injuries, Gibbons can still build his lineup around the trio of OF Melky Cabrera (128 wRC+), 1B Edwin Encarnacion (159 wRC+) and DH Adam Lind (157 wRC+). Melky has a 19-game hitting streak against the Yankees and is hitting .346/.378/.679 with six homers during that stretch. 3B Juan Francisco (135 wRC+) has been good in a platoon role and OF Colby Rasmus (118 OPS+) just came off the DL last week. Francisco figures to see more playing time with Lawrie hurt.

The Jays are currently carrying three catchers in former Yankee C Dioner Navarro (79 wRC+), C Erik Kratz (73 wRC+), and C Josh Thole (91 wRC+ in limited time). Thole is basically R.A. Dickey’s personal catcher. That’s all. IF Munenori Kawasaki (53 wRC+) and UTIL Steve Tolleson (99 wRC+ in limited time) round out the bench. Toronto’s going to have to make at least one roster move today to replace Lawrie and may need to make another depending on Bautista’s test results.

Pitching Matchups
The Blue Jays are scheduled to start the same three pitchers this week that they started in New York last week thanks to a spot start over the weekend. Dickey had a minor groin injury, so they simply called up a sixth starter on Friday and pushed everyone back a day.

Monday: RHP Chase Whitley (vs. TOR) vs. RHP Marcus Stroman (vs. NYY)
Stroman, 23, has a 5.14 ERA (3.69 FIP) in 28 innings covering four starts and five relief appearances this season to start his MLB career, though his walk (1.93 BB/9 and 4.7 BB%) and ground ball (51.5%) rates are excellent. His strikeout (7.39 K/9 and 17.8 K%) and homer (0.96 HR/9 and 10.0 HR/FB%) numbers are closer to league average. Lefties (.419 wOBA) have hit him much harder than righties (.307 wOBA) so far. The Long Island raised Stroman uses a mid-90s four-seamer and a low-90s cutter to set up his mid-80s slider, mid-80s changeup, and low-80s curve. He held the Yankees to two runs last week, but they worked him hard and forced him to throw 98 pitches in only 3.2 innings.

Tuesday: RHP David Phelps (vs. TOR) vs. LHP Mark Buehrle (vs. NYY)
The 35-year-old Buehrle is off to a fantastic start (2.32 ERA and 3.45 FIP) that is due almost entirely to his miniscule homerun rate (0.45 HR/9 and 4.6 HR/FB%). His strikeout (5.27 K/9 and 14.3 K%), walk (2.50 BB/9 and 6.8 BB%), and ground ball (42.0%) rates are right in line with his career averages through 15 starts and 100.2 innings. Buehrle has no left/right split but he has been better on the road (.270 wOBA) than at home (.338 wOBA) this year. As always, he works in the mid-80s with his four-seamer, two-seamer, and cutter, mixing in some upper-70s changeups and low-80s curves to keep hitters (even more) off balance. Buehrle allowed three runs (two earned) in six innings against the Bombers last week.

Hutchison. (Mike Stobe/Getty)

Hutchison. (Mike Stobe/Getty)

Wednesday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda (vs. TOR) vs. RHP Drew Hutchison (vs. NYY)
Hutchison, 23, has been rock solid following his return from Tommy John surgery, posting a 3.86 ERA (3.90 FIP) in 15 starts and 86.1 innings. His strikeout (7.61 K/9 and 20.2 K%), walk (2.81 BB/9 and 7.5 BB%), homer (1.04 HR/9 and 9.3 HR/FB%), and ground ball (36.7%) numbers are all good. Not great but not awful either. Lefties (.328 wOBA) have been a bit more successful against the Hutchison than righties (.302 wOBA), though he’s been far better on the road (.266 wOBA) than at Rogers Centre (.439 wOBA). A low-90s fastball is his main pitch and he throws it a lot, more than 60% of the time. Sliders and changeups in the mid-80s round out the repertoire. The Yankees scored six runs in 3.1 innings off Hutchison back in April, then managed four runs in 4.1 innings against him last week.

Bullpen Status
Despite Dickey’s groin issue, he was able to give the team 7.2 innings in the losing effort yesterday. RHP Sergio Santos (5.04 FIP) was the only reliever used and he threw all of two pitches. Gibbons’ bullpen is pretty fresh. RHP Casey Janssen (1.68 FIP) is the closer, and with LHP Brett Cecil (2.28 FIP) on the disabled list, LHP Aaron Loup (3.31 FIP) is the primary late-inning lefty.

The rest of the bullpen includes RHP Chad Jenkins (4.77 FIP), RHP Dustin McGowan (4.65 FIP), RHP Todd Redmond (3.16 FIP), and LHP Rob Rasmussen (5.08 FIP in limited time). There really aren’t any clearly defined roles at this point outside of Janssen in the ninth. Gibbons just sorta rides the hot hand in the late innings. You can check up on the Yankees’ bullpen at our Bullpen Workload page, and for everything you need to know about the Blue Jays, head over to Drunk Jays Fans.

Update (2:15pm): The Blue Jays officially placed Lawrie on the 15-day DL and sent Kratz to Triple-A. OF Anthony Gose and OF Kevin Pillar were called up in corresponding moves. No word on Bautista’s test results just yet, but the fact that they called up two outfielders suggests he will miss a few games.

Categories : Series Preview
  • The Great Gonzo

    ‘They swept the Jays at home last week but lost two of three at Rogers Centre back in January’

    Who could forget the classic January Series. Jeter in his leather Bomber Jacket, CC wearing mittens, RA Dickey’s Long Johns with the crapper flappers. It was epic.

    • I’m One


    • cooolbreeez

      funny GG. But it’s indoors so the Candian Polar Vortex was not a factor.

      • The Great Gonzo

        Canadian Polar Vortex is ALWAYS a factor.

    • BrianMcCannon

      Haha. Nice.

  • Yankee$

    Let’s hope none of our outfielders kill any pigeons.

  • Eric S

    That would mean having to make contact with a baseball

    • trr

      not to mention reaching the outfield!

      (Yankee$ is of course referencing the Dave Winfield throwing incident)

      • Yankee$

        Yes, Mike’s picture of a swan or duck made me think sea-birds.

  • Frankie Cerveddardi

    I think they can take the series. If Lawrie and Bautista are down it’s just Encarnacion they have to worry about. Even with those two guys the staff held them down in NY. Whitley isn’t just getting lucky, he’s got a good array of pitches to keep hitters off balance. BGDP has finally learned how to attack hitters and not be the 2014 Phil Hughes. These guys are legit. Hiroki pitched well vs the Os but never gets run support.

    • TWTR

      They can take any series against any team (“You can’t predict baseball” – J.Sterling). But can they win series after series if they don’t hit significantly better? Doubtful.

      • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

        We really miss not having a cavalcade of amazing minor leaguers to replace our terrible veterans.

        • TWTR

          Or…like…any who play a position in the field.

          Or perhaps trade a positional surplus for a position of need.

          It’s complicated, I know.

          • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead


            • TWTR

              Heh, yeah, whatever.

  • mick taylor

    this yankee team is a 85 win team unless they start hitting. wonder what yogi thinks of mccann in his old spot as catcher making 85 million for his shit performance. mccann is the biggest reason the team is not hitting. could have had nelson cruz and jose abreu for the money crashman spent on this bust.

    • http://www.staggeringbeauty.com/ ALZ

      Wasn’t aware you could have 2 dh’s 2 1B and no catcher.

    • mitch

      I remember when you were calling for those exact moves over and over again this past off season

      • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

        He was too busy saying the Yankees should sign Grady Sizemore.

        • Preston

          Good thing they decided not to listen to him this time, unlike last year when they DID sign Travis Hafner.

        • fred robbins

          Hey Mike.. Give credit where it is due… I was on the “they should sign Grady Sizemore”…. I was wrong– it has happened before. He did look good for a few week though:)
          I guess if we were all psychics and could also go back and change things when we are wrong, the Yankees could go 160 and 2–
          You know, if a fan can’t have any fun complaining a bit, what’s the point? Shoot yourself?
          I mean, Beltran looks like a whale in the last photo I saw of him- holy cow… hard to imagine him being in the outfield. But hey- again-I just noticed, thanks to your line up post, that Jeter is not in the line up? Someone give Girardi’s balls a yank? or is it just a regular timed day off:)
          come on- can’t we all just get a long

      • mick taylor

        for all you choke mccann worshippers, hafner, was hitting well last year till he got injured. yanks only invested a few million in him for one year. so he was not a big hit. same with if they had signed sizemore, what would it have cost, 1 million. so yanks could have cut him and no big deal. wheras mccann is a huge financial committment . he will be a financial albatross around the team’s neck the next 5 years. he also blocks the team from playing a young catcher like murphy. if they switch him to dh, they cannot in the next 5 years sign a dh who can actually hit.

        • Old Man Time

          Disagreeing with your asinine assessments does not make one a “worshiper”. It simply means they have more patience and understanding of the game than you.

          • mick taylor

            eiter you work for cashman or have a relationship with mccann. 0therwise asshole, only an asshole like you would think that a player being paid nearly one – tenth of a billion dollars is above criticism for his awful performance. i will bet you sweetie a steak dinner at gallaghers that your special friend mccann finishes this season as awful as he started it

            • Old Man Time

              Did I say he was above criticism? No. But like the majority of the horseshit you spew on this site, your imagination created that conversation.

    • Mandy Stankiewicz

      maybe he’d say something like, “it isn’t over until it’s over.” –yogism

      • trr

        Or wondering how much he’d be worth if he played today

  • cooolbreeez

    He looked pretty clutch Friday night, or did you miss that game?

    • trr

      we saw it breeez, along with the dozens and dozens of other games where he wasn’t so clutch…

      • The Great Gonzo

        Wellp, they can’t all be Varitek out there…

  • http://www.staggeringbeauty.com/ ALZ

    Losing Bautista is huge. He is by far the biggest thing keeping that lineup relevant, he is so good.

    • FIPster Doofus

      By far? Edwin Encarnacion, ML leader in HRs, says hi.

    • The Great Gonzo

      Certified Yankee Killer Melkenstein Cabrera III says go fuck yourself.

  • The Great Gonzo

    At the risk of jinxing it and the whole situation going pear-shaped, if this past weeks showed us anything its that these are same old sorry ass Blue Jays.

    The Yankees are not awesome. The Reds are not even good. The Blue Jays got trampled by both of these teams.

  • trr

    I’m hoping for the best, as always.
    But our offense is downright, uh, offensive?

    Chase, Phelps, Hiro – try to keep the ball in the park guys….

  • http://thewebsitemarketingagency.com Geno

    Marcus Stroman, the sausage king of Toronto?

  • W.B. Mason Williams

    Here’s to leaving this city with some furious BJs.

  • Chuckit

    It’s pretty simple-no hits= no wins.This offensive display WAS offensive! It seems that it’s all or nothing with these guys.If they can’t get more consistency,even Tanaka can’t save this season.

  • fred robbins

    Tanaka is a man of honor. He just bought a set of Hari Kari knives for giving up two runs. Nuno on the other hand, just reserved a table at the best all you can east restaurant in honor of his great showing last time out with the well respected after game quote of, ” I left a few fastballs in bad location”.

  • Anthony

    They won 2 of 3 in April, they’re 5-1 against the Jays this season.