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Game #36 Preview: Paxton vs Stroman

Mariners (19-14) vs Blue Jays (19-16)

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Tampa Bay Rays Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

After an off day yesterday, the Blue Jays kick off a 6 game homestand this evening as the Mariners roll into town. The game starts at 7:07 ET.

Blue Jays’ Starter

Now that the calendar has flipped over to May, we have seen what good Marcus Stroman can look like. In his last start against the Twins, Stroman was the tough luck loser as he went 7 innings, allowing 2 runs on 6 hits as the Jays were shutout 4-0. He struck out 6, and still allowed a home run, but arguably the best sign from that start is that he only walked 1. In his last 2 starts, he has walked 2 over 12.1 innings, compared to the 14 over his first 20 innings. If he can keep that under control, we’ll start to see a lot more starts like his last one as the season continues.

Because it is needed. Even with that last start, he is now 0-4 with a 7.52 ERA on the season, walking nearly a batter every other inning.

Look for Stroman to use his cutter more. Shi Davidi tells us that he brought it back for his last game, throwing the pitch for the first time in who knows how long (at least according to Russell Martin). If he’s able to throw it effectively, it’ll work well off his sinker, and hopefully lead to more success going forward.

Mariners’ Starter

Canadian lefty James Paxton makes his 4th career start on Canadian soil this evening. The man affectionately known as Big Maple brings a 1-1 record with a 4.19 ERA into tonight’s contest, but has pitched better than his ERA shows. He has been racking up the strikeouts, which has helped him to a 3.06 FIP.

Paxton has historically been a groundball pitcher, but has so far not gotten many through his 38.2 innings in 2018. Only 25 of his 89 balls in play have been on the ground, but his BABIP, which is usually lower for flyball pitchers, isn’t helped by this. His .349 BABIP on the season is a career high, and significantly higher than his .305 mark.

But it’s the strikeouts that have given him some success this year. In his last start against the Athletics, Paxton struck out 16 in 7 shutout innings. It marked the third time this season he reached double digits in strikeouts, and the 6th straight game he struck out more than one per inning.

Blue Jays’ Lineup

An announcement has yet to be made, but it’s hard to imagine Aledmys Diaz not being DL bound. I would guess that it means Richard Urena is turning right back around and coming back to Toronto. Although alternatively we could see Tim Lopes make his debut, or there is an outside chance that Devon Travis comes back (although in his first 5 games in Buffalo, he has all of 3 singles and a double, so I’m guessing they hold him there until his 16 days are up he starts hitting well).

Elsewhere around the diamond, Russell Martin will be catching in this one. The infield for the next while should be pretty much Donaldson-Gurriel-Solarte-Smoak every night. The outfield is where we get to have some fun, although it would be more fun if Gibby would DH one of the extra outfielders instead of Kendrys Morales.

For this one, I would imagine we’ll see Alford-Pillar-Hernandez across the outfield, although I would rather Teoscar be our DH until Pearce is back. I really want to see Pompey-Pillar-Alford across the outfield for defensive purposes.

Mariners’ Lineup

The Mariners are off to a good start to their season, hitting .257/.320/.430 (107 wRC+) as a team. Right Fielder Mitch Haniger is off to an especially hot start, hitting .297/.380/.627 (169wRC+) with 10 home runs over his first 137 PA.

Elsewhere around their roster, the vets are doing alright. Robinson Cano (129 wRC+), Nelson Cruz (124) and Dee Gordon (124) are providing well above average offence, although for Cruz especially, he still has a lot more to offer. Shortstop Jean Segura is off to a nice start as well, putting up a 107 wRC+ while chipping in 5 stolen bases.

Corey’s brother (Kyle Seager) and Mike Zunino are struggling a bit, both putting up a 90 wRC+.

Yesterday’s Heroes

George Springer of the Astros was the monster bat yesterday, going 6-6 with a home run and a double in Houston’s 16-2 shellacking of the Oakland Athletics.

Twins rookie Fernando Romero, making his second career start (first was against the Jays in Stroman’s last start) went 6 shutout innings, striking out 9 while surrendering 3 hits and 3 walks. We’ll give him both Pitcher of the Day and WPA King, as his .297 WPA was tops across the 7 games played yesterday.

Milestone Watch

Josh Donaldson needs 2 more walks to catch Ed Sprague for 20th all time as a Blue Jay.

With 3 home runs, Donaldson would catch Shawn Green for 13th all time as a Blue Jay.

Marcus Stroman needs 11 strikeout to get to 500 for his career.

Find the Link

Find the link between Paxton and the man who debuted as the 13,607th player in MLB history.