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Game #76 Preview: Thornton vs Sale

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Blue Jays (27-48) vs Red Sox (41-35)

MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Toronto Blue Jays Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports

The Blue Jays hit the road again after a very brief homestand, with a stop in Boston to take on the third place Red Sox. Tonight’s game gets underway at 7:10 ET.

Blue Jays’ Starter

The Jays will turn to one of the only members of the rotation they can trust in Trent Thornton, hoping he can contain the Red Sox potent lineup. The rookie Thornton will be making his 16th start of the season, and he is currently 2-5 with a 4.36 ERA. He has spent most of the season keeping the ball in the air, as his groundball rate has inched lower and lower as the season has progressed. His season total GB% is now down to 32.4% after getting a combined 25% in his last 2 starts. The low groundball rate will typically lead to a lot of home runs, which has been the case somewhat for Thornton as he currently sits 27th of 82 qualified pitchers in home runs per 9 innings. His HR/FB rate is below average however, as flyball pitchers tend to do a bit better in that department.

Red Sox’ Starter

The Red Sox will send Ace Chris Sale to the mound, and he’ll be making his 16th start of the season as well. Sale’s numbers on the season look a bit off, currently sitting at 3-7 with a 3.49 ERA, but don’t let those numbers give you false confidence. He had a very rough start to his season, allowing 17 runs in his first 18 innings, losing all 4 of those starts. Since then, he is 3-3 with a 2.24 ERA, and an even better 1.91 FIP. His FIP on the season is still an impressive 2.80, fueled by the second best strikeout rate among qualified starters, currently sitting at 12.95 K/9.

Sale faced the Jays earlier in the season, back before he turned his season around. In that April 9 outing, the Jays touched him up for 5 runs on 7 hits over 4 innings, striking out just 3 times. It was a rare treat for the hometown Jays’ fans, as they typically don’t get to see their Jays be successful against Sale, a pitcher with a career 2.28 ERA against them entering that game.

Blue Jays’ Lineup

Despite losing 3 of 4 games against the Angels, the Jays’ offense had a good series. They worked Angels’ pitching for 16 walks and hit 10 home runs, allowing them to score 19 runs. I think it’s fair to expect more runs than that with so many home runs and walks, but still a strong series nonetheless.

It was good to see Teoscar Hernandez healthy and back in the lineup. With the home run he hit, I think it’s safe to say that his wrist is better.

Billy McKinney, with his time at 1B going perfectly fine yesterday and then hitting the walkoff home run, has perhaps earned himself a start at 1B today. If he does get the start there, it would be his first start at the position in the Major Leagues.

Eric Sogard had another multi-hit effort last night, his 10th in 14 games this month. He also chipped in a pair of walks, something that had been missing in his game this month, if you were looking for things to complain about.

Red Sox Lineup

The Red Sox, who had one of the best offenses in baseball last year, currently sit just outside of the top 5 this year, scoring the 6th most runs per game at 5.37, and sitting 9th with a 105 wRC+.

Last year’s AL MVP Mookie Betts has taken a pretty big step back this year. His BABIP is over 80 points lower than last year, which has led to an 80 point reduction in his batting average. His wRC+ is down to 123, still an excellent number for an amazing defensive right fielder, but no longer MVP level. He’ll likely to bounce back up towards his numbers from last year as we move forward, but don’t expect to see it go quite that high.

J.D. Martinez is also having an off-year, at least by his standards. He currently has a 133 wRC+, his lowest mark since leaving Houston before the 2014 season. He also has just 16 home runs as we approach the halfway point in the season, a much reduced pace for the guy who has averaged 44 in his first two seasons with the Sox.

Yesterday’s Heroes

Eric Sogard, with his 3-3 day and 2 walks, falling a triple short of the cycle, has earned the Monster Bat award. He likely never thought he’d get earn this award.

Matt Chapman hit a 2-out, 3-run walk off home run for the Athletics last night, turning a 4-2 deficit into a 5-4 win over the visiting Rays. That play alone was worth .858 WPA, making the WPA King decision easy as Chapman ended the night with a total of .887.

Prior to that 9th inning, Frankie Montas held the Rays to just 1 run on 4 hits, striking out 9 and walking none over 8 innings to earn the Pitcher of the Day honours. It was a pitcher’s duel between him and Charlie Morton until that 9th inning, changing from a 1-1 tie after 8 into a 5-4 walkoff win.

Find the Link

Find the link between Sale and Tommy Bond.

Stats are courtesy of Fangraphs