Toronto Blue Jays Series Preview: September 6 to 9

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Dwelling on an embarrassing series loss to the Orioles will do the Yankees no good with the upstart Blue Jays coming to town. Toronto trails the Yanks by four in the loss column entering this four game series in the Bronx, making these games quite pivotal. Either the Yankees can bury Toronto, or the Blue Jays will force the Yankees to fend them off for at least a bit longer.

These two sides haven’t squared off since mid-June, when the Yankees swept Toronto in a three-game set in Buffalo. Depending on how this week’s slate goes, the three games to end the month between these two teams in Toronto could be awfully interesting. But first, let’s preview this upcoming series:

Their Story So Far

It took a few weeks post-trade deadline, but the Blue Jays are finally making their push. They’ve won four in a row and seven of eight, including their three game sweep of the A’s over the weekend. The playoff odds still have them as a longshot, but a four game deficit isn’t insurmountable at this stage of the season.

While the Jays are known for offense, starting pitching has really helped them get back into the hunt. Robbie Ray has become an ace, Steven Matz has pitched well down the stretch, Hyun Jin Ryu remains good, and Alek Manoah is having a nice rookie season. Oh, and it doesn’t hurt to add José Berríos at the deadline of course.

If Toronto had a better bullpen, things might be different. They’re 3-9 in extra innings and the club’s relievers rank 18th of 30 teams in Win Probability Added. They brought in Brad Hand to help at the deadline, but he pitched so poorly that they let him go.

So, if the Jays are going to make October this year, it’ll be behind it’s great lineup (111 OPS+, third-best) and starting five. They may run out of time given that it’s now September 6th, but the Blue Jays are looking formidable for years to come.

Injury Report

PlayerPositionInjuryRoster StatusEstimated Return
Santiago EspinalINFStrained hip flexor10-day ILTBD
Cavan Biggio3B/OFBack tightness, sprained UCL10-day ILMid-September
Ross StriplingRHPStrained oblique10-day ILTBD
AJ ColeRHPNeck discomfort60-day ILTBD
Julian MerryweatherRHPStrained oblique60-day ILTBD
David PhelpsRHPLat surgery60-day IL2022
Kirby YatesRHPTommy John Surgery60-day IL2022

Spotlight: Marcus Semien

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How many teams are kicking themselves for not offering Marcus Semien a multi-year deal last offseason? After signing a one-year contract to play second base for Toronto, Semien has a .266/.334/.530 (131 wRC+) batting line, 35 homers, and 14 steals in 15 attempts. That’s good for nearly +6 WAR depending on the version of your preference.

Semien will re-enter free agency a year older (31), but with another terrific year under his belt. In 2019, Semien netted roughly +8 WAR as Oakland’s shortstop, but perhaps some teams shied away after Semien struggled in 2020. I don’t think there’s any doubt about him anymore.

Toronto wants to keep Semien long-term (duh), but there will be much more competition to sign him this time around. And one thing the Jays can’t offer Semien is the option to play shortstop with Bo Bichette entrenched there. It’s unclear whether or not Semien wishes to return to the position, but to do so, he’d have to go elsewhere. If he wants to leave the AL East, that’d be just fine with me.

Projected Lineup

  1. George Springer, DH (.263/.356/.576, 147 wRC+)
  2. Marcus Semien, 2B (.266/.334/.530, 131 wRC+)
  3. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 1B (.318/.409/.598, 169 wRC+)
  4. Bo Bichette, SS (.293/.344/.462, 119 wRC+)
  5. Teoscar Hernández, CF (.292/.338/.503, 126 wRC+)
  6. Corey Dickerson, RF (.286/.321/.494, 115 wRC+)
  7. Lourdes Gurriel, LF (.277/.313/.452, 104 wRC+)
  8. Kevin Smith, 3B (.115/.233/.231, 37 wRC+ in 30 PA)
  9. Danny Jansen, C (.200/.283/.415, 88 wRC+)

Bench:

  • Alejandro Kirk, C (.275/.350/.467, 121 wRC+)
  • Reese McGuire, C (.268/.327/.366, 91 wRC+)
  • Jake Lamb, 1B/3B/LF (.211/.318/.386, 99 wRC+)
  • Breyvic Valera, UTIL (.228/.279/.333, 66 wRC+)
  • Jarrod Dyson, OF (.222/.261/.310, 53 wRC+)
  • Randal Grichuk, OF (.240/.280/.429, 88 wRC+)

Pitching Matchups

Today, 1:05pm:

LHP Hyun Jin Ryu (114 ERA+)

Ryu has had a good but not great season for the Jays. He pitched like an ace last year, whereas this season, he’s been more of a mid-rotation type. The veteran lefty has faced the Yankees three times in 2021 and pitched well: 2.50 ERA in 18 innings.

RHP Jameson Taillon (95 ERA+)

After a blazing hot couple of months, Taillon has cooled off in his last four starts (8.20 ERA). He’s looked a bit more like the guy Toronto saw and knocked around earlier this year (5 ER in 3.2 IP in April).

Ryu.

Tomorrow, 7:05pm:

LHP Steven Matz

Although fellow lefty Robbie Ray has gotten a lot of (deserved) attention for his breakout, Matz is also pitching very well late. He’s got a 1.65 ERA in his last six starts, which has dropped his ERA to 3.80 on the season. Matz shut down the Yankees back in June with 6.2 innings of one run ball.

RHP Gerrit Cole

It’ll be tough for Cole to follow his last outing (15 strikeouts against the Angels), but he has pitched well against the Blue Jays this season (who hasn’t he pitched well against, in fairness). Cole’s given up five runs in 19.1 innings against Toronto in 2021.

Matz.

Wednesday, 7:05pm:

RHP Alek Manoah (123 ERA+)

Manoah impressed in his major league debut at Yankee Stadium earlier this year and has continued a strong rookie campaign since. In 79.1 innings, the 23 year-old holds a 3.63 ERA.

LHP Néstor Cortes (158 ERA+)

Toronto has yet to see Nasty Néstor in 2021. He’s made some legitimate improvements this year and isn’t the same guy who had an ERA north of 6 against the Blue Jays in prior seasons.

Manoah.

Thursday, 7:05pm:

RHP José Berríos (120 ERA+)

It’s been a mix of good and bad starts since the trade from Minnesota, but the last two have been quite good for Berríos. He’s fanned 18 batters and allowed just four runs in his last two starts (13.2 innings).

LHP Jordan Montgomery (121 ERA+)

Monty hasn’t surrendered more than three runs in a start since June 15th. His opponent that day? None other than the Blue Jays, who tallied four in 5.1 innings.

Berríos.

Bullpen Status

PitcherSundaySaturdayFriday
Jordan Romano1319
Tim Mayza15
Adam Cimber6
Trevor Richards512
Joakim Soria17
Taylor Saucedo (L)8
Bryan Baker19
Nate Pearson1423
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2 Comments

  1. Remind me why Gallo is batting 2nd? Isn’t this spot for a hitter with high average? BTW Gallo’s lifetime BA is .206, so he’s having a typical season.

  2. Anthony Rizzeddardo

    A split would be a miracle, Derek. More likely we win the Cole start and that’s it. Already down 2-0 as Tallion regresses to the mean. Gos they’re bad. I don’t think this sorry excuse for a ballclub makes the postseason nor does it deserve to.

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