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Game #24 Preview: Samardzija vs Thornton

Giants (9-14) vs Blue Jays (11-12)

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Oakland Athletics D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports

Fresh off a costly but successful 7 game road trip, the Blue Jays return home to play a pair against the Giants as they kick off a 5 game homestand. Tonight’s game gets underway at 7:07 ET.

Blue Jays’ Starter

Trent Thornton, who perhaps until recently was holding on to a precarious position in the rotation, makes his 5th start of his young career. After a second rough start, questions were starting to be raised about whether the Jays would continue to use him in the rotation in the early going. Now that we’ve lost at least one member from the rotation, his grasp on the rotation is a fair bit more secure. So long as he can improve on what he has done the last two times out.

In his last two starts, one against Tampa Bay and most recently in Minnesota, Thornton struggled allowing runs, and failed to get the swinging strikes that defined his first two starts. In 7.2 innings, Thornton allowed 9 runs on 14 hits, walking 5 and allowing 3 home runs, two of the 5th deck variety. But the biggest difference in those two starts compared to his first two was that he struck out just 6 batters in 7.2 innings, after striking out 15 in his first 10.2 innings.

Giants’ Starter

The Giants will send veteran righty Jeff Samardzija to the mound, and to be quite honest, I completely forgot he was still pitching in the Majors. Samardzija signed a 5 year, $90m contract with the Giants prior to the 2016 season, and is currently in year 4. The early returns on that contract were alright, as he gave the Giants 411 innings of 4.12 ERA, although a bit better 3.73 FIP. But when you’re paying a pitcher $18m per year, you’re probably hoping for a bit more than a 101 ERA+ in the first two seasons, even if he did eat a bunch of innings.

It was a different story this past year though. In 2018, Samardzija missed a bunch of time due to shoulder problems, and when he did pitch, he was a lot worse due to lower velocity and poor command, no doubt a result of a still aching shoulder. His fastball velocity was down about 1.5-2 mph from his peak, and if you’re looking for a troubling trend for 2019, the early returns on his fastball velocity show another 1.5 mph dip from his 2018 lows.

Blue Jays’ Lineup

After a very successful road trip where the Jays scored 39 runs in 7 games, the Jays’ bats will look to continue their merry hitting ways back home.

While the starting rotation was noted for the losses that it has taken, early season offensive leader Freddy Galvis also came out of the game early on Sunday. There is reason for optimism though, as he indicated after the game that it was just due to tightness in his leg, and he didn’t feel like he was the best guy to have out there. Considering Richard Ureña made the final catch on a long run, it may have been a game saving move. So hopefully Galvis is back in there without hesitation today.

Giants’ Lineup

U.S. Anticipates Return Of ‘The Man Of Steel’ Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images

As the Giants come to town, that means the return of beloved Blue Jays’ icon Kevin Pillar. Pillar has had an interesting offensive output since going over to the Giants. In 18 games (17 starts in CF and one late game substitution), Pillar is hitting .226/.242/.452, just a 76 wRC+. The obvious number that jumps out is the .226 ISO, which is .088 points higher than his career mark. Pillar has launched 4 home runs and chipped in a pair of doubles while driving in an impressive 13 runs in his short time in San Francisco.

Elsewhere around the Giants lineup, we find a bunch of other hitters struggling to put up much offense. Madison Bumgarner is one of just 3 batters that have a wRC+ above 100, and he isn’t pitching or hitting in this series. The other two are Brandon Belt (104) and Pablo Sandoval (112 in 28 PA, while still being paid $18,045,000 Boston beans). Overall, the Giants have scored just 2.91 runs per game, the second lowest total in all of baseball.

Yesterday’s Heroes

It was a small docket of games, but we’re still able to flush out a Monster Bat, as Nolan Arenado is a deserving recipient. Arenado knocked out a home run as his 1000th career hit, while also chipping in a pair of doubles as his Rockies took down the visiting Nationals 7-5.

Finding a Pitcher of the Day is a little harder, so we’ll just go with J.A. Happ. Happ threw 7 innings, allowing a pair of runs on a second inning Jonathan Lucroy home run, but allowed just 3 hits and 2 walks total. The Yankees eventually emerged victorious after 14 innings, beating the Angels 4-3.

Former Blue Jay Giovanny Urshela, now apparently playing for the Yankees, drove in that winning run, which gave him a .403 WPA on the day and the title of WPA King.

Find the Link

Find the link between Samardzija and the Pitcher of the Day.

Stats are courtesy of Fangraphs