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Game #22 Preview: Porcello vs Happ

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Red Sox (17-4) vs Blue Jays (13-8)

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at New York Yankees Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

The Blue Jays roll back into town after a 1-3 road trip through the Bronx. The Red Sox are in town to greet them as they kick off a 6 game homestand. Tonight’s game gets underway at 7:07 ET.

Blue Jays’ Starter

J.A. Happ makes his 5th start of the year. He is 3-1 with a 4.50 ERA over 22 innings. He has struck out 31 and walked 7, while also surrendering 5 home runs. The strikeouts are a very impressive thing early, as he’s been able to use them in high leverage spots - he has struck out 11 of the 21 (52.4%) batters he has faced with runners in scoring position, while only striking out 20 of the 76 (26.3%) other batters he has faced. That 26.3% would even be a career high for him, so I unfortunately can’t see these strikeout rates being sustainable. If he’s going to continue to have success, he is going to have to cut down on the home runs. Lucky for him, that 27.8% HR/FB rate isn’t sustainable either.

Red Sox’ Starter

Rick Porcello is back. The 2016 Cy Young winner who lead the league in home runs (38), hits (236) and losses (17) in 2017 - although admittedly it’s because he pitched so much, also leading the league in total batters faced (885) - is off to a phenomenal start to his season.

Through 4 games and 25.2 innings, Porcello is 4-0 with a 1.40 ERA. He has struck out 20 while walking 1 and failing to give up a home run yet. I was originally going to dock him points because he got to face to the Rays twice to start the season, but after giving up 4 runs in 12.2 innings, he has turned around and thrown 13 shutout innings against the Yankees and Angels.

So damn.

The Blue Jays faced Porcello 4 times last year. The first 2 starts he did alright, 13.2 innings, 4 runs (only 1 earned) on 12 hits. However, last September, the Blue Jays teed off on him to the tune of 12 runs on 17 hits, including 5 home runs over 11 innings. Unfortunately for the Jays, those offensive outbursts were off the bats of guys like Darwin Barney, Jose Bautista and Raffy Lopez. But the Jays at least do know what his Achilles heel looks like. They’re just not likely to find it at this point in 2018.

Blue Jays’ Roster

I don’t even know what to speculate here.

I think Devon Travis is going to be at 2B. I would imagine the left side of the infield will be Solarte and Diaz. I would also assume Gurriel isn’t on the bench.

Since it’s a righty on the mound, Granderson is probably in the outfield. Pillar and Teoscar will likely be out there too. Grichuk is probably out there too.

Morales is likely to continue to be our DH, even though Pearce should be.

Maile might catch Happ, but more likely Estrada on Wednesday. Martin will catch 2 games this series, with one of them likely being Sanchez’ start.

So today’s lineup will feature 13 players, including 4 outfielders, 5 infielders, 2 catchers and a pair of DH. Because I don’t know.

Wait, Justin Smoak! (Barring injury) I have 100% confidence that he will be playing first base today!

Red Sox’ Lineup

They’ve done alright so far. Collectively they’re hitting .277/.344/.467 (118 wRC+) which is good enough for 3rd in Majors. And unlike last year when they were last in the AL and 4th last in the Majors in home runs, their 26 home runs have them 8th in all of baseball, just behind the Blue Jays’ 28. As a result, they’re second in all of baseball with 5.9 runs per game (Jays are 4th at 5.52).

Individually, they’ve been great outside the catcher position. Blake Swihart, Christian Vazquez and Sandy Leon are the only 3 Red Sox with a negative WAR. Those 3 plus Brock Holt (96) and Jackie Bradley Jr. (90) are the only 5 position players not above 100 wRC+.

The “off to a great start” list begins with Mookie Betts. The 2016 AL MVP Runner Up “struggled” his way to a 5.4 WAR in 2017 - but mostly on his defense and baserunning, as he only had a 108 wRC+. His 2018 start has been impressive though, as he has a .366/.459/.732 (214 wRC+) with 6 home runs and a pair of steals.

Other players off to a hot start offensively include Mitch Moreland (170 wRC+ in 49 PA) and Hanley Ramirez (136 wRC+ in 78 PA). I was originally also going to throw JD Martinez in that list as well, but when a 135 wRC+ would be 1 point below the low mark over your past 4 seasons, it’s closer to a slow start.

Xander Bogaerts is also off to a hot start (198 wRC+) but he ended up on the DL a couple weeks ago. Tzu-wei Lin has replaced him in the lineup, and is doing pretty well for a traditionally defense first player (111 wRC+).

Last Night’s Heroes

Jose Abreu had a big game, going 4-5 with a pair of home runs, helping his White Sox beat the Mariners 10-4.

Tyler Skaggs of the Angels is the WPA King and Pitcher of the Day. He threw 7 shutout innings against the Astros, helping lead his team to the 2-0 win over the defending Champs. He put up a .438 WPA for the game.

Find the Link

Find the link between Porcello and the last Tiger to win Rookie of the Year.