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Game #17 Preview: Kennedy vs Happ

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Royals (3-12) vs Blue Jays (11-5)

MLB: Game One-Kansas City Royals at Toronto Blue Jays Gerry Angus-USA TODAY Sports

After winning a pair of games against the Royals yesterday, the Blue Jays go for the sweep this afternoon at 4:07 ET.

Except this isn’t your regular “I’ll throw on Sportsnet and watch” or “I’ll fire up MLB.tv when I get home and be caught up by the 6th inning” type game. That’s because today’s game is brought to you Cambridge Analytics, and will be streamed live to everyone’s tiny screens in poor resolution via The Facebook.

Now, I get that MLB is trying to reach a new audience, but this feels like it is coming at the expense of the old. I do at least appreciate that they’re doing it only for day games, which is somewhat smart. People sitting on their computers at work are already on Facebook all day anyway, so you might as well give them something else to watch. And for the people on their commute, they can chew up their data watching while sitting on the train. That seems almost kinda smart.

If they didn’t already have those capabilities with MLB.tv.

I’m hoping that they realize how poor of an idea this turned out to be and next season get back to their senses.

Anyway, we have a game to preview.

Blue Jays’ Starter

J.A. Happ makes his 4th start of the season today. He’s carrying a 3.94 ERA with a 4.74 FIP over his 16 innings of work thus far. He’s also struck out a very impressive 23 batters while walking just 5. But it’s the 4 home runs that ruin his line, something that he’s going to have to get a handle on to be able to keep his ERA under 4 going forward.

His last start was last Monday, April 9 against the Orioles. He went 6 innings, allowing only 1 run while striking out 9. But he danced around trouble all night. In the first and second innings, he allowed the first 2 batters to reach, only to leave them right there with 3 strikeouts. In the 5th inning, he allowed the first 2 to reach, then loaded the bases with 1 out, but stranded all the runners. The Orioles left 11 runners on base in total that game as the Jays won 7-1 (but 5 of those came in the 9th on a Grandy bases loaded walk and a grand slam from Donaldson).

Royals’ Starter

Right hander Ian Kennedy gets the ball for the Royals, making his 4th start of the season. The 33rd year old is off to a really great start for the Royals. He has allowed 2 runs over 18 innings, striking out 16 while only issuing 4 walks.

Kennedy had a bad year last year. He put up a 5.38/5.61/5.25 line in 154 innings across 30 starts. Unlike other pitchers who see struggles as they get into their 30s, this was not a velocity related decline. That part of his game has been steady, including into this year, for a long time. And he’s the rare pitcher that hasn’t struggled with injuries, starting at least 30 games every year since 2010.

No, Kennedy’s problems last year came with a spike in walks coupled with an unhealthy level of home runs. He allowed one at pretty much a 2 per 9 innings clip, surrendering 34 on the season. The league leader was Rick Porcello with the Red Sox, who allowed 38 but did that over 203.1 innings. His 1.99 HR/9 was the second most in all of baseball among pitchers with at least 150 innings.

Blue Jays’ Lineup

Curtis Granderson will finally be making his return to the starting lineup. He was the DH last Friday in his only start since Teoscar was recalled. It’ll be interesting to see what they end up doing here with their 5 outfielders and only 4 spots to put them. I’m guessing Pearce will be the odd man out, even though that’s probably the worst choice.

I’m pretty sure Travis and Martin will be in there today, but who knows.

Solarte, Diaz and Smoak - those guys seem certain to be in there.

Royals’ Lineup

They came into yesterday having hit 5 home runs, with only Mike Moustakas and Lucas Duda getting in on the fun. Yesterday, Moose and Duda each added to their tally in the first game, while Abraham Almonte and Carlos Correa Alcides Escobar (sorry, he just looks like Correa when playing against the Jays) launched their first homers of the year in the nightcap. The double header nearly doubled their HR output on the season.

Yesterday’s Heroes

Luke Maile.

Luke Maile.

Luke Maile.

Alright, the actual offensive monster was Mookie Betts of the Red Sox, who went 3-3 with 3 home runs and a pair of walks, as his Red Sox destroyed Shohei Ohtani and the Angels 10-1. But Luke Maile had a pair of huge bases loaded singles, plus an amazing 10 pitch walk, so he gets an honourable mention.

Luke Maile wasn’t even the WPA King on his own team in Game 2 yesterday apparently (Pearce edged him .397-.357). But the real hero yesterday was Patrick Corbin of the Diamondbacks. He threw a 1-hit shutout, striking out 8 and walking 1, as the D’Backs beat the Giants 1-0. Corbin also takes the WPA King title with a .763 WPA from the mound (we’ll ignore his -.083 at the plate, because he shouldn’t have been there in the first place).

Milestone Watch

It appears I didn’t do this section yesterday, and John Axford went ahead and got his 500th career appearance anyway. Crafty veteran. He’s 2 short of John Hiller now for 4th all time for Canadians in relief appearances.

Kevin Pillar took a walk yesterday, and is now only 4 away from 100 for his career.

As eastcoastjayfan brought up the other day, Justin Smoak is now at 998 career games. He’ll get the honour of getting number 1000 at Yankee Stadium (the same place he hit his first career grand slam).

Find the Link

Find the link between Kennedy and a fellow former Trojan who once struck out 16 Reds in a September 2004 start.