A day after the Athletics finished off the Tampa Bay Rays, and Rougned Odor finished off Jose Bautista, a pair of AL East foes will clash north of the border, at the Rogers Centre. The Rays and Blue Jays have previously battled twice this season, with Tampa Bay winning three of the seven contests.
Suffice it to say, the Rays are not playing their best baseball right now, losing five of their last six contests. They did beat up on the Athletics 6-0 on Saturday, however, the team has allowed 30 runs over a six game stretch. Simply put, they need both their pitching and offense to step up.
Granted, as Marc Topkin (Tampa Bay Times) wrote*, they are hitting more home runs than ever at this point of the season — 50 through Sunday, 1.43 per game — and are on a pace for 226, which would smash their club record of 199 set in 2009. However, the homers have accounted for an unsustainable percentage of the total runs scored, nearly 60% — well above the league average of 37.3%. And even with the power surge, the team ranks near the bottom of the league in runs scored.
Steven Souza Jr. has eight of those homers and 16 RBI, while Corey Dickerson also has eight homers — and leads the team with 17 RBI — but he is hitting just .183.
As for Toronto, the Blue Jays are starting to play better, yet they are still too inconsistent, especially offensively. This was an offense that was one of the best in baseball last season, but this year it has been a different story altogether. In 2015, the Jays outscored their closest competitor by over 100 runs as they led the majors. Currently, however, Toronto is just seventh in the AL in scoring.
That offense also ranks 20th in the league in scoring, putting up just 4.08 runs per game. And while they average 4.32 runs per game in the Six, the Jays allow 4.11 runs per game in the Rogers Centre. As of Thursday, the 3-4-5 batters were hitting a combined .179 in 452 plate appearances. Toronto’s greatest strength has been the weakness of the club so far.
Kevin Cash will throw Drew Smyly (1-4, 3.63 ERA), Chris Archer (2-4, 4.57 ERA) and Jake Odorizzi (0-2, 3.83 ERA) over the next three days. John Gibbons will counter with JA Happ (5-0, 2.05 ERA), Marcus Stroman (4-0, 3.54 ERA) and RA Dickey (2-4, 4.31 ERA).
Smyly didn’t have his best stuff in his last start, but he competed Tuesday, taking the loss against Seattle. With a deceptive fastball thanks to his over the top delivery, look for Smyly to try to get ahead of Toronto’s batters. He is 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA in three career outings at Rogers Centre. Archer went 2-0 with a 0.96 ERA in three starts leading up to Wednesday’s no-decision, when his control lapsed once again. Not attacking the zone, and falling behind in the counts, have been his biggest enemy this season. He’s 0-1 with a 3.27 ERA in two starts against Toronto this year. Odorizzi is still searching for his first win. He’s 0-1 with a 4.24 ERA in three May starts, and he’s 2-2 with a 3.31 ERA in eight career starts against Toronto.
Happ turned in a gem on Tuesday, pitching 8-2/3 innings of six-hit shutout ball. He baffled the Giants lineup all night long, throwing 75 of 111 pitches for strikes and recording 20 of 32 first-pitch strikes. Happ has been particularly sharp in his last two starts, surrendering just one earned run over the last 15-2/3 innings, while fanning 10 and not surrendering any home runs. A caveat for the 33 year-old lefty, the current metrics indicate that he’s pitching above his head. Happ’s 2.05 ERA is almost two full runs below his career figure (4.04), while his .267 BABP over the last 14 days speaks to a certain measure of luck. Key matchups: Tim Beckham (3-9, 2B, RBI, BB), Desmond Jennings (3-12, 2B, 3B, 2 RBI), Evan Longoria (9-24, 2 2B, HR, 2 RBI, 3 BB), Brad Miller (2-3), Logan Morrison (7-14, 3 2B, 4 RBI, BB), Steve Pearce (8-24, 2 2B, 3 HR, 9 RBI, 2 BB), Steven Souza Jr. (4-9, 2 2B, HR, RBI)
Stroman is on a nine-game winning streak — the longest by a Toronto pitcher since Roy Halladay won 15 consecutive decisions in 2003. Wednesday’s late-inning rally against San Francisco got Stroman off the hook for the loss and kept his winning streak alive. the 25 year-old righty was last tagged with a loss on September 20, 2014. This will be Stroman’s third start against Tampa Bay in 2016. He went eight innings each of the first two times and has allowed a total of four runs. Key matchups: Curt Casali (2-3), Hank Conger (3-8, HR, 3 RBI, BB), Desmond Jennings (3-8, RBI), Evan Longoria (6-12, 2B, 2 HR, 4 RBI, BB), Steve Pearce (3-5, HR, RBI, BB)
Dickey pitched eight scoreless frames and gave up just three hits in a victory over Texas on Friday. He fanned six and walked one. The veteran knuckleballer posted his third consecutive quality start, flummoxing batters up and down the Rangers lineup. Dickey induced 14 whiffs — the most for him since he recorded a season-high nine against the Red Sox on April 9th. The 41-year-old has been able to lower his ERA from 6.75 to 4.31 because of most recent trio of solid appearances. Dickey is 8-8 with a 5.45 ERA in 16 career starts against Tampa Bay. Key matchups: Tim Beckham (1-3, 2B, 2 BB), Curt Casali (1-4), Hank Conger (1-2), Brandon Guyer (3-12, 2B, RBI, BB), Evan Longoria (12-46, 5 2B, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 5 BB), Steven Souza Jr. (3-8, HR, 2 RBI, BB)
*I updated the numbers to account for Tampa Bay’s four weekend homers.
— Evan Longoria has collected a double and a run scored in four consecutive games.
— Brandon Guyer homered twice on Sunday and has recorded four hits and seven RBI in his last two games, but is just 2-14 (.143) lifetime against Happ.
— Troy Tulowitzki is 8-20 (.400) with three homers, seven RBI and as many runs scored in his last five contests.
— Josh Donaldson went 0-14 in his last three games, but is 7-14 with three homers in his career versus Smyly.
— According to Winners and Whiners…
Tampa Bay is:
- 1-4 in their last five road games vs. a left-handed starter
- 1-4 in their last five during game one of a series
- 15-5 in their last 20 home games vs. a team with a losing record
- 19-9 in their last 28 home games following a road trip of seven or more days