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Game #81 Preview: Liriano vs Stroman

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Tigers (36-46) vs Blue Jays (37-43)

Toronto Blue Jays v Houston Astros Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Today marks the halfway point in the season. And the Jays have already started moving pieces away, trading Pearce to Boston last night.

The Jays return home from an entertaining west coast road trip to welcome the Tigers into town. The game gets underway at 7:07 ET tonight, back to our normal time.

Blue Jays’ Starter

Marcus Stroman gets the start for the Jays, still hunting for his first win of the season. Through 8 starts, he is 0-5 with a 6.80 ERA, struggling with walks and home runs before going on the DL at the beginning of May.

He made his return from the DL last Saturday against the Angels, and things went much better. Still working to build up to full strength, he threw 81 pitches through 5 shutout innings. He allowed 6 singles and a walk, striking out 5 and rolling an 80% GB rate. It was vintage Stroman, and hopefully something we can start to expect out of him a lot more going forward.

Tigers’ Starter

Old friend and Bringer of Young Talent Francisco Liriano gets the start for the Tigers. On the surface, the left hander is having a pretty decent year - over his first 11 games, he’s averaging about 5.5 innings, and is 3-3 with a 3.94 ERA - about what I was hoping for from him as a 5th starter last year.

But looking at his other numbers, he’s having a pretty non-Liriano season. He has just a 7.01 K/9 mark this season, a career low and contrary to the trend around the rest of baseball. Before the last couple years, Liriano was consistently well above average getting strikeouts, landing in the top 20 for career K/9 by a starter. To see him fall back as everyone else surges ahead goes to show that his stuff isn’t what it used to be.

He also is walking batters at an above career average rate, while getting fewer ground balls than normal too. More flyballs is meaning more home runs for Liriano as well, which are also occurring at an above career average rate. Add all of this up, and he has a 4.88 FIP, the second worst of his career behind his 2016 season that allowed the Jays to buy super low on him.

Blue Jays’ Lineup

With a lefty on the mound and Steve Pearce traded away, it’s pretty easy to to predict who will be starting in this one.

Teoscar Hernandez in LF, Kevin Pillar in CF, Randal Grichuk in RF. Across the infield will be Yangervis Solarte at 3B, Aledmys Diaz at SS, Devon Travis at 2B and Justin Smoak at 1B. Russell Martin will catch and Kendrys Morales will DH.

There is still the question of who will be added to the 25 man roster to take the place of Steve Pearce. It should be someone who can play the middle infield, but it might not be. There is still an opening on the 40 man roster as well, as only one spot was filled by DFAing Gio Urshela and trading Pearce when Thomas Pannone was (will be?) activated from his suspension.

I’m not sure who the Jays will add. It can’t be Lourdes Gurriel Jr unless someone goes on the DL today. It could be Richard Urena, who is already on the 40 man. Or it could be someone not on the 40 man, like Tim Lopes or maybe they go with Jason Leblebijian. We’ll find out in the next few hours.

Tigers’ Lineup

Future Hall of Famer Miguel Cabrera went down for the season on June 12 with a ruptured biceps tendon. I was really looking forward to watching him play, as he was having a nice bounceback season. In his stead, John Hicks has been getting the bulk of playing time at 1B, and is putting up a respectable 110 wRC+ on the season while playing slightly below average defense at 1B.

Elsewhere around the lineup, the Tigers have 4 other useful players - Leonys Martin (109 wRC+ and good defense in CF), Jeimer Candelario (118 wRC+ and solid defense at 3B), Jose Iglesias (89 wRC+ and good defense at SS) and Nicholas Castellanos (136 wRC+ and butcher-level defense in RF).

On the other end of the spectrum is catcher James McCann (66 wRC+ and about average defense at catcher), Dixon Machado (50 wRC+ and about average defense at 2B) and Victor Martinez (69 wRC+ and about the speed of dirt at DH).

And I guess that leaves us with a “somewhere in the middle” report for left fielder JaCoby Jones, who has a 73 wRC+, but is playing superb defense in LF.

Yesterday’s Heroes

Jake Marisnick hit a home run in his second straight start for the Astros, going 2-2 while adding a walk and HBP to earn the Monster Bat award from last night as he was the only offense in a 1-0 win over the Rays.

DJ LeMahieu had a big single in the top of 7th to open a 7-5 lead, and followed that up with a 2 run home run in the top of the 9th to turn an 8-7 deficit into a 9-8 lead and win over the Giants. LeMahieu contributed .865 WPA for the Rockies to get our WPA King award.

Pitcher of the Day goes to Zack Greinke, who threw 7 shutout innings against the Marlins in the Diamondbacks 4-0 wins, and to Lance McCullers Jr, who threw 7 shutout innings against in the aforementioned 1-0 Astros win over the Rays.

Milestone Watch

Marcus Stroman is looking for his 38th win career win, which would tie AJ Burnett for 20th as a Blue Jay.

Find the Link

Find the link between Liriano and former catcher AJ Pierzynski.