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Game #19 Preview: Estrada vs Gray

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Blue Jays (12-6) vs Yankees (9-8)

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at New York Yankees Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

After a frustrating loss last night at the hands of the Yankees, the Blue Jays get right back at it tonight for game 2 of the 4 game set, with the first pitch scheduled for 7:05 ET.

Blue Jays’ Starter

Marco Estrada makes his 4th start of the season tonight. He has thrown 17 innings across his first 3, compiling a 1-1 record and a 4.24 ERA. Like fellow righty starters Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman (and even Joe Biagini in his spot start), Marco is walking more this year than in the past, currently sitting at a 9.7% rate compared to a career average of 7.6%.

In his last start against the Orioles, Estrada started great, getting through 3 innings while only allowing a walk. The second time the heart of the order came around though, they were ready for his changeup and hit him up for 3 runs on 3 hits (2 off that changeup) a walk and a sac fly in the 4th. After loading the bases with none out and allowing a run to score to start off the 5th inning, Estrada’s night was done. Luckily for Estrada’s ERA, Danny Barnes came in and got a pair of strikeouts before ending the inning on a long fly out to CF.

Looking at the numbers, the first time through the order the Orioles went 0-8 with a walk. 2nd and partial third, they went 6-10 with 2 walks. This hasn’t been such an issue in the past, so hopefully it was just a blip against the O’s.

Yankees’ Starter

Right hander Sonny Gray makes his 4th start of the season. Despite strong peripheral numbers (15 strikeouts and no home runs over 13 innings, but 7 walks - leading to a 2.67 FIP), Gray has struggled to start his first full season in Pinstripes. His 6.92 ERA is worst among Yankee starters.

Gray, forever a groundball artist, is once against killing worms this year. It’s obviously still early, but he’s currently 5th among starters with at least 10 innings with a 60.5 GB%. This is a part of the reason he has yet to allow a home run.

Gray faced the Blue Jays in his first start of the season, allowing just 1 run on 7 hits and 3 walks. But the Jays ran the pitch count up against him, getting him out of the game after 4 innings. He struck out 8 Jays hitters, but they would ultimately get the last laugh against the bullpen, scoring 6 runs late giving the Jays a 7-4 win.

Blue Jays’ Lineup

Kendrys Morales is expected to be activated from the DL prior to today’s game. I think we’d be foolish to expect him to be on the bench. Which means we’ll likely see Curtis Granderson back in the outfield with a righty on the mound.

Which pushes the question to what to do with Teoscar Hernandez. If he’s still on the team, he deserves to be playing. And Randal Grichuk is still struggling (I don’t have time to search for a stronger word), so giving him a few days off here, maybe re-jig his stance a bit or something, would make sense.

I feel like we might not see Devon Travis in this one. After fouling a ball off his ankle yesterday, he appeared to tell John Gibbons and Nikki Huffman that his foot was asleep. If a foul ball makes your foot go to sleep, you’re probably going to have some pretty good swelling in the morning.

I know Steve Pearce should never be considered a second baseman, but it makes me wonder if he can slide over to 3B for a few games. He has a total of 70 Major League innings there, last appearing there in 2016 for the Rays. And given the makeup of the Yankees’ batting order, there won’t be a whole lot of chances at 3B with a righty on the mound. I’d say give him the start there today and tomorrow. Because the other alternative is having Gift Ngoepe make a couple starts, and we need all the offense we can get.

Yankees’ Lineup

As alluded to just above, and witnessed last night, the Yankees are able to trot out a lot of left handed bats against righties. And three of the remaining righties are flyball-heavy hitters Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Gary Sanchez. But lefties Brett Gardner, Tyler Wade and Didi Gregorius, coupled with switch hitters Aaron Hicks and Neil Walker (and perhaps utility infielder Jace Peterson) means the Yankee batters will have the platoon advantage or have a slugger at the plate most of the night.

Yesterday’s Heroes

Jeimer Candelario had a big game yesterday. He went 4-4 with a home run and a walk, driving in 3 as his Tigers trounced the Orioles 13-8.

Lorenzo Cain was the WPA King last night. He went 3-4 with a home run and a walk, scoring 4 times while driving in 2, which lead his Brewers to a 12-3 floor cleaning of the Marlins. He had a .362 WPA for the game.

The Pitcher of the Day was Charlie Morton of the Astros. He threw 7 shutout innings on 3 hits, struck out 8 and didn’t allow a walk. His efforts helped his team to a 9-2 win over the Mariners.

Milestone Watch

John Axford got into the game again last night, making career relief appearance number 501. His next appearance pulls him into a tie with John Hiller for 4th all time for Canadians.

Marco Estrada is 6 strikeouts away from 1000 for his career. So he might actually get there today. Once he gets his 5th strikeout, he’ll move into the Blue Jays top 20 all-time list too.

Today is also Marco Estrada’s 100th game as Blue Jay, as well as his 93rd start, which ties him with Brandon Morrow for 19th all time as a Blue Jay.

Find the Link

Find the link between Gray and the grandson of the second last AL player to get the hitting Triple Crown.