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Game #69 Preview: Gonzalez vs Sanchez

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Nationals (37-28) vs Blue Jays (30-38)

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Tampa Bay Rays
“Happy Birthday Kate!”
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Jays happily return home today in order to celebrate Kate’s birthday, but also to welcome the Nationals into town. Today’s game gets underway at 7:07 ET.

Blue Jays’ Starter

Aaron Sanchez gets the ball, looking to build off back to back solid starts. Over his last 2 starts, Sanchez has pitched 12.1 innings, striking out 12 while only surrendering 8 hits, with 1 being a home run. However, his biggest struggle of 2018 was still very present, as he walked 7 over those 12 innings, and has walked 5.20 batters per 9 innings thus far this year, 12.9% of all batters faced. That rate is bit better against righties, at 8.5%, but that just goes to show his other major weakness this year - lefties are hitting .306/.436/.500.

Nationals’ Starter

Left hander Gio Gonzalez starts for the Nationals. Through his first 13 games, the 32 year old Gonzalez is 6-2 with a 2.65 ERA. He is striking out batters at just over a batter per inning (9.04 per 9 innings), while doing an excellent job of preventing home runs (0.60 per 9 innings). His walk rate (3.86 per 9 innings) is the highest it has been since he made the move to Washington 7 seasons ago. But putting all of that together, he still has a 3.23 FIP, the best it has been since he entered his 30s and the 17th best in baseball among qualified starters.

His last time out, things didn’t go so well. He allowed 4 runs on 6 hits, 4 walks and only 3 strikeouts over 3.1 innings against the Giants. It was his worst start of the season under many different measures - shortest start, most runs, tied for the most walks, tied for the fewest strikeouts, and the only start this year where he walked more than he struck out.

Blue Jays’ Lineup

It appears that Josh Donaldson is going to be activated for this game. I hope that this does not prove to be an erroneous move, as a healthy Josh Donaldson is a lot more valuable in a trade than one playing an extra week or two at 70% of his ability.

With Donaldson back, I think we’ll be seeing less of Yangervis Solarte. Devon Travis has hit well enough since coming back up at second base (93 wRC+) to reclaim his full time role over Solarte, who has been struggling with the bat recently (82 wRC+ over the arbitrary ‘last 30 days’). Solarte will still get some time filling in occasionally at 3B, SS and 2B to probably play >60% of the time going forward though.

Randal Grichuk has been great since coming back, and has quickly earned back his full time gig in right field. Which means that Granderson is essentially in a platoon with Morales at DH. I have a feeling that Granderson might be one of the first chips to go in a trade, as much as I hate to say it (especially on Kate’s birthday).

Nationals’ Lineup

Rookie sensation Juan Soto has been hitting in the bottom half of the order, but could be inching his way up soon. Through his first 20 games, the 19 year old is hitting .344/.447/.641 with 5 home runs. Must be nice to have a 19 year that can hit playing in the Majors.

The Nationals have recently gotten lefties Adam Eaton and Daniel Murphy back from the DL. Murphy has played 2 games at DH, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him there again today while switch hitting Wilmer Difo continues to draw the starts at 2B.

The Nationals figure to start at least 6 lefty bats against Sanchez in this one. Speedster Trea Turner and third baseman Anthony Rendon, plus whoever is catching (I think Pedro Severino gets most of the starts) are likely the only righties that will be in there.

Yesterday’s Heroes

David Peralta of the Diamondbacks gets the Monster Bat award. He went 2-3 with a pair of homers, while also getting plunked, as his Diamondbacks doubled up the Mets 6-3.

Reliever Ty Blach is our WPA King. He threw 83 pitches from the 10th inning to 2 outs in the 16th, 6.2 shutout innings. That was worth a .799 WPA, and he also got the win as the Giants scored 3 in the top of the 16th to win 6-3 over the Marlins.

Anibal Sanchez narrowly edges out Blach for Pitcher of the Day. Over 7 shutout innings, Sanchez allowed just 4 hits, walking none and striking out 6 as his Braves beat the Padres 4-2.

Milestone Watch

Aaron Loup is now just 2 appearances back of Jim Clancy for 7th in franchise history.

Josh Donaldson continues his pursuit of Shawn Green on the franchise home run leaderboard. To recap, Donaldson, who hasn’t hit a home run since the double header in Cleveland, has 116 home runs as a Blue Jays. Green sits 13th all time at 119.

Find the Link

Find the link between Gonzalez and the outfielder we were forever tied to in trade and FA rumours, until he finally signed with the Mets this past winter.

And don’t forget to wish Kate a Happy Birthday!

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