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Game #136 Preview: Miley vs Thornton

Astros (87-48) vs Blue Jays (54-81)

Atlanta Braves v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

The Blue Jays continue their tough homestand tonight, now welcoming the AL West division leading Astros into town for a 3 game series. Game 1 gets underway tonight at 7:07 ET.

Blue Jays’ Starter

Trent Thornton will return to the mound after a bit of a longer break between starts thanks to the off days. Hopefully that means good things for him, as he has gotten beat up recently and has looked to be out of steam as he wraps up a heavy workload season. While he has gotten just 1 more out in total than last year now at 124.2 innings, he has faced 40 more batters so far, and has done so at a higher level against tougher competition, so it’s understandable that there is some fatigue there. His average fastball velocity has dipped a bit over his last several starts, sitting closer to 94 mph for the first half of the season, but now down to and below 93 mph as the season has worn on. That has caused his ERA to balloon to 5.34, which coupled with his 4.96 FIP and 4-8 record makes him seem more like a weak backend starter as opposed to the potential mid-rotation skills he possessed earlier in the season. How he bounces back next year will be vital to his future in the organization.

Thornton will be making his second start against his former organization. If he can replicate anything close to the success that he had the first time, everyone should be happy. In his June start down in Houston, Thornton twirled 6.2 shutout innings, dancing around trouble a little bit as he allowed 6 hits and gave up 3 walks, but he stranded them all thanks to 7 strikeouts and some pretty lazy fly balls.

Astros’ Starter

The Astros will go with veteran left hander Wade Miley. Miley will be making his 28th start of the season, and will look to improve upon some pretty good looking numbers. He is 13-4 with a 3.27 ERA, numbers that paint him as a pretty good pitcher, but very clearly the third best on the Astros’ staff. However, the 4.36 FIP doesn’t look quite as nice, as unlike his Ace teammates, Miley doesn’t rack up the strikeouts. He has seen an uptick compared to last year, but he’s barely above his career average despite the league wide increase, currently sitting at 7.62 per 9 innings.

Blue Jays’ Lineup

Reese McGuire seems to have taken on a bit more of the workload behind the plate, and although there is a lefty on the mound, I think they go with Reese behind the plate again, as he has caught each of Thornton’s last 3 starts.

The lefty on the mound does likely mean that Billy McKinney is on the bench. Fellow lefty hitting outfielder Derek Fisher on the other hand is probably happy to see a lefty, as his splits this year are encroaching on absurd now, as he has a 149 wRC+ against lefties and a 35 against righties so far in 2019.

Rowdy Tellez may also be in jeopardy of sitting too, depending on how many lefties Charlie Montoyo tries to keep out of the lineup. If that is indeed the strategy, we probably see Brandon Drury at 3B as Vladimir Guerrero Jr. gets a day at DH.

Astros’ Lineup

Old friend Aledmys Diaz returned from the Injured List a few days ago, and could see a bit of playing time as Carlos Correa has landed back on the IL. Abraham Toro, their 15th ranked prospect, has taken a lot of the starts at 3B while superstar Alex Bregman has slid from 3B over to SS.

Josh Reddick, who had a pretty fun, hair flipping ejection on a bad strike 3 call last night, will likely be in RF against all the righties the Jays will throw at the Astros this weekend. If someone like Anthony Kay starts on Sunday, then that’ll get Reddick to the bench.

Even with Correa (140 wRC+) down, the Astros have 6 other regulars in their lineup with a wRC+ of at least 137 - Yuli Gurriel (137), Jose Altuve (143), Michael Brantley (148), George Springer (150), Alex Bregman (160) and rookie of the year front runner Yordan Alvarez (187). This is just a flat out absurdly good team.

Yesterday’s Heroes

Kevin Newman went 4-4, hitting 2 home runs, a double and single and also taking a bean ball to earn the Monster Bat award. He also drove in 4 to help his Pirates take down the hometown Rockies 11-8.

Mike Clevinger went 8 shutout innings, allowing just 4 hits and no walks while striking out 10 to earn the Pitcher of the Day award. And since he went 8 innings in a close game, he picked up a lot of WPA to also earn the WPA King title with a .565 mark in Cleveland’s 2-0 win over the Tigers.

Find the Link

Find the link between Miley and the pitcher who started the last game the Montreal Expos won.

Stats are courtesy of Fangraphs