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Game #78 Preview: Happ vs Verlander

Blue Jays (36-41) vs Astros (52-27)

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Los Angeles Angels Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Blue Jays head to Houston to take on the defending World Series Champions for 3 games. Tonight’s game starts at 8:10 ET.

Blue Jays’ Starter

The Jays start the series off by throwing Ace J.A. Happ out there. He’s having a great season, and if he can contain the Astros, he would definitely even further boost his trade value.

Through 15 starts and 91 innings, Happ is 9-3 with a 3.56 ERA. His career high strikeout rate (10.09 per 9 innings) is slowly coming down from its lofty heights. At the end of April, it was at 12.50 per 9 innings, and has been a more Happ-like 8.51 since. But he has reduced his home runs enough in that span to offset that drop in home runs. At the end of April, his ERA and FIP were 3.50 and 3.33, whereas since then he has put up 3.60 and 3.62 values.

His last time out, Happ threw 8.1 innings, allowing 4 runs on 6 hits, walking none and striking out 8. But 2 of those hits came in the 9th inning, and those 2 hits came around to score after he was pulled. A line of 8 innings with 2 runs on 4 hits and no walks looks a lot better, but he was at 106 pitches (I believe) through 8 and Gibby thought he could try for the complete game. The Jays still won 5-4 over the Braves, so no harm I suppose.

Astros’ Starter

Veteran starter Justin Verlander, once considered the best pitcher in baseball, is on the mound for the Astros. There was a period where people were thinking that the days of amazing Verlander were over, as he put up a 4.54 ERA in 2014 before missing nearly half a season in 2015. But those people were wrong. Verlander is better than ever this year, mixing his normally good strikeout ability with a newfound ability to walk virtually no one. Through his first 16 games, Verlander is 9-2 with a 1.60 ERA.

Through 107 innings, his counting stats are quite impressive. He has 130 strikeouts, while surrendering just 9 home runs. He has allowed just 62 hits, which when coupled with 21 walks, gives him an absurdly low 0.78 WHIP. Batters have a combined .223 wOBA against him, which is like facing an elite reliever, except for 7 or 8 innings instead of just 1.

Blue Jays’ Lineup

Kendrys Morales (.849 OPS in 46 PA) and Curtis Granderson (.802 OPS in 35 PA) have had some success against Verlander in the past. Justin Smoak has touched him up for 3 home runs in 24 PA as well. All 3 might actually be in the lineup tonight too.

Russell Martin will likely be back in the lineup today after a day off yesterday.

I would imagine Randal Grichuk will also be back out there, perhaps in CF in this one to give Pillar a day off.

Astros’ Lineup

Reigning MVP Jose Altuve is having another good season. Through 347 PA, he is hitting, .345/.405/.492 (152 wRC+), although the 7 home runs are off the pace of the 24 he hit the last 2 seasons.

Carlos Correa (129 wRC+), George Springer (130) and Alex Bregman (132) complete the amazing core, while Evan Gattis (121), Yulieski Gurriel (113), Josh Reddick (107), Marwin Gonzalez (99) and Brian McCann (81) fill out the rest of the overstuffed lineup. Max Stassi (133 wRC+ in 145 PA), Tony Kemp (127 in 103) and Tyler White (105 in 11) make up the good hitters on the bench.

Jake Marisnick is about the only guy on the team that you could be disappointed in, as he has a 40 wRC+ in 139 PA, but is playing good enough defense that he is only at -0.1 WAR. He is one of just 2 people (batters and pitchers) to wear an Astros jersey and post a WAR below 0, with the other being Tim Federowicz over just 7 PA.

Yesterday’s Heroes

Giancarlo Stanton went 5-5 plus a walk yesterday, hitting a home run, 2 doubles and 2 singles to earn the Monster Bat award. His efforts weren’t enough though, as the Yankees lost to the Rays 7-6 in 12 innings.

Daniel Murphy went 3-4, including a 2 run single in the bottom of the 8th to give Nationals the lead and to earn the WPA King title. That single was worth .497 WPA, and his total on the day was .633, as he lead his Nationals to the 8-6 win over the Phillies.

Chris Sale and Jose Berrios both went 7 shutout innings, allowing 5 baserunners (4 hits and a walk for Sale, 3 hits and 2 walks for Berrios) while striking out 13 and 12 batters. They are our co-winners of the Pitcher of Day award. Sale helped his Red Sox beat the Mariners 5-0, while Berrios and the Twins beat the Rangers 2-0.

Milestone Watch

J.A. Happ is going for his 59th win as a Blue Jay, which would move him ahead of Kelvim Escobar and into sole possession of 9th place.

Happ is also 8 strikeouts behind Duane Ward for 9th in franchise history at 671.

Find the Link

Find the link between Verlander and the guy who lost Game 1 of the first World Series that the Dodgers actually won.