Series Preview - Blue Jays (50-43) @ Red Sox (48-45)
69 games left. Perfect time to flip this thing around.
Friday, July 22nd 7:10 PM - Nathan Eovaldi (4-2 3.34 ERA) vs Kevin Gausman (6-7 2.87 ERA)
Saturday, July 23rd 4:10 PM - Kutter Crawford (2-2 4.40 ERA) vs Alex Manoah (10-4 2.28 ERA)
Sunday, July 24th 1:35 PM - TBD vs Ross Stripling (5-3 3.03 ERA)
We're beat up. No way around it. Reinforcements were on the way, but it seems like every fucking week there is a setback. Whether it be Sale's broken pinky, Josh Taylor continuously being pulled off his rehab assignments, Kiké's comeback being pushed, or Paxton being entirely MIA, we can't seem to catch a break. We have all the pieces there, yet it just seems to come apart each time it's looking up. But, this is where you see what this team is made of. Each and every at-bat matters between now and August 2nd. Will we be sending prospects to Colorado for Cron and Bard, giving us a legitimate first baseman and bullpen arm, or will we be sending some of our favorite players to teams that can challenge the Yankees. No one really knows at this point, including our front office. Over this homestand, we'll see if this team folds and calls it a season, likely being end of our core for the past 5 years, or if they can push through adversity and make another fucking run at this thing.
It starts with the Blue Jays. We're going to have to beat their best that have had our number all season. Tonight, we'll see Gausman. This season, we have managed to get 1 run against him in 15 innings. That's fucking absurd for this lineup. Most recently, Gausman went 7, allowing no runs and striking out 10. Devers had a double off of him, and that's about it for positives from that game on June 27th. Bogey had 2 Ks and a walk, which isn't the norm for him against Gausman. He's .333 against him with 2 doubles and a home run. We need water to find its level there. JD was 0fer. He's batting .316 with a double and a home run in his career against the righty. We'll need him to step up. If those two guys and Devers can lead this team, and show them that this season isn't over, other people will come throught. Whether it be Story, Dugie, or even Bob, people will go as the middle of the lineup goes.
We'll also need a good start from Eovaldi. He was not good in his first start back against the Yankees, going 4.1 and allowing 3 on an 80 pitch limit. His home run issue is still evident, as he's in the bottom 5% of the league in average EV. So what's the issue? His slider is getting fucking walloped, with an xwOBA of .564 compared to a .285, .195, and .302 on his curveball, splitter, and fastball. He has allowed 5 home runs on it, which is more than any other pitch in his arsenal, even though he only throws 13.9% of the time. It just isn't fucking working at all. The most frustrating part of it is there isn't a noticeable difference in the pitch from prior seasons. He has missed his location a couple of times, but even then the numbers against it are preposterous.
Looking at him against the Blue Jays, he's allowed 3 runs in 11.2 innings this season. Those numbers are from consecutive matchups in April, going 4.2 and 7 in those. For his career, he has a .276 BAA with 8 home runs and 30 strikeouts in 123 ABs against this Jays lineup. Their xwOBA is .318 against him, and that's compared to a .279 for the Sox against Gausman. The biggest difference is the Red Sox are very top-heavy against Gausman, while the Blue Jays are decent throughout. Springer, Gurriel, Vladdy Jr., and Bichette all have 5 hits a piece, with another 4 batters having multiple hits in under 10 ABs. Consistent hitting throughout the lineup will usually prevail over a few guys really showing out, so I am giving the Blue Jays the edge in starting pitching.
Moving onto Saturday, we get to see Kutter Crawford against Alek Manoah. Crawford has looked fucking outstanding since his most recent call-up. Cora stretched him a little bit in his most recent start, and it caused him 3 earned runs, but his cutter looked like one of the better pitches that I have seen. Before that, he let up one earned in 5 innings to the Yankees, and a 5.2, 0 earned performance against the Rays again. He looks like a legitimate option at the major league level, and will be able to shoulder some of the load should this team decide to make a push. I expect him to be at the big league level for the rest of the season. This Blue Jays lineup should be a good challenge to see if he can consistently throw at this level.
We get Manoah. Fuck this guy. In his first appearance against the Sox, he went 7 and allowed none, but last month we actually were able to get 3 runs (2 earned) off of him in another 7 inning performance. Dugie is the only guy that can consistently hit off of him, carrying a .455 BA with 1 HR off Manoah. JD is 0-9, Raffy is 1-9, and X is 1-6. Franchy is the only other guy with multiple hits, going 3-5. He will be the second hurdle we have to get over to be buyers at the deadline. We can't really afford to put up a dud against him if we want to compete for a playoff spot. To remind you of what we need to get past, here are his percentile rankings:
However, there is some hope. Manoah has been regressing, even if it is just a little bit. I took a look at my series preview from last month, and a lot more of his percentiles were in the low 90s, including xwOBA, xSLG, and xERA all in the 92nd percentile. 82nd percentile is still ace material, but over his last 100 PAs, he actually has looked somewhat average based on this chart of his xwOBA over that time:
The result of that rise in xwOBA is 8 runs allowed in 20 innings through the month of July, including a 4 earned performance to the fucking A's on the fourth. Keep in mind that he obviously is coming off the All-Star break and will have ample rest time, but he has looked human. Our bats are just as good as any, and we can get to him.
Lastly, we have a matinee Sunday where we'll face Ross Stripling. He went 5, allowing 2 last month against the Sox. He'll be the best matchup we have, but similar to Gausman and Manoah, we just kind of struggle against him (although to a much lesser extent). Aside from Bogey, who is 5-11 with a double and a home run, most of our guys hover in the mid .200s against Stripling. That's a bit of a double-edged sword. Obviously, you'd like to see JD and Devers rake off a guy with an xBA in the 19th percentile, but it also means that there won't be any easy outs for him in the back half of our lineup. If this season has told us anything, it's that we need the 6-9 hitters to do something in order to put runs on the board. Either JD, Raffy, or X will get on, it's a matter of someone bringing them in. I really don't know who to expect to get the nod in this one, but any of our starters should be able to keep up with Stripling.
Second half starts tonight. I don't know what this team looks like in a week and a half, but I do know this series will likely dictate how the deadline shakes out. All I know is I don't want to see any of our guys wearing a different jersey come August 3rd.