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Game #116 Preview: Thornton vs Kittredge (o)

Blue Jays (46-69) vs Rays (65-49)

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Blue Jays play their penultimate game of this long, successful road trip, with game 2 of 3 against the Rays set to go this evening. Gametime is set for 7:10 ET.

Blue Jays’ Starter

The Jays will go with Trent Thornton, who will make his second start since returning from the injured list with right elbow inflammation. He returned to good results too, as he threw 6 innings of 1 run ball, allowing 5 hits and striking out 3 while most importantly walking none. It was just the second time since April that he didn’t walk anyone, although both of those starts came against the Orioles.

On the season, Thornton is 4-7 with a 5.23 ERA and an even better 4.59 FIP. He has battled inconsistencies throughout the season, something that isn’t all that surprising for the rookie. He has a handful of really good games, as well as a handful of really bad games. If he can balance that line closer to his good games, the Jays will have a solid pitcher for years to come.

Thornton has faced the Rays twice this year, and has had two bad starts to show for it. The first one is where they launched two home runs into the 500 level at the Rogers Centre, and generally hit him very hard. The second one wasn’t a whole lot better. In 7.2 total innings, he has allowed 8 runs on 15 hits, walking 5 and striking out 8. He allowed 3 home runs, all coming in that launch pad game in Toronto, where Brandon Lowe got one off him and Austin Meadows got him for two.

Rays’ Starter

The Rays will open the game with Andrew Kittredge, his 4th opening assignment of the season and 18th appearance overall. Through 25 innings, Kittredge is 1-0 with a 2.52 ERA, and has spent a good portion of the year down in AAA after an abysmal season last year that saw him put up a 7.75 ERA over 38.1 innings.

Kittredge has faced the Jays just once this year, opening the July 27 game to poor effect. He made it through 3 innings, allowing the Jays to score in each of the first 2 innings, getting knocked around for 5 hits, although he didn’t walk any and did strike out 7. One of the runs came off a Cavan Biggio home run.

Following Kittredge will likely be Ryan Yarbrough working as the bulk guy. Through 85.1 innings in this role in 2019, Yarbrough is 10-3 with a 4.01 ERA, having a rough time getting strikeouts (just 6.86 per 9 innings), but also doing an incredible job limiting walks (1.27 per 9 innings) and home runs (0.84 per 9 innings). He has done exceptionally well in his 3 appearances against the Jays, where he has allowed just 1 run over 11 innings, surrendering 6 hits and 2 walks while also striking out 6.

Blue Jays’ Lineup

Bo Bichette will look to continue his early career dominance, now looking for a double in his 7th straight game and in general looking to continue his career opening hit streak to 9. He really has shown why he was a top 10 prospect in all of baseball, and has been an incredible addition to the top of this lineup since he got here.

Not only has Bichette been great, but he seems to have brought some energy and excitement to this lineup in general. Granted that it has been against some very terrible teams, but Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (259 wRC+), Freddy Galvis (219 wRC+) and Randal Grichuk (199 wRC+) have all been just as dominant as Bichette has been since his arrival.

On the flip side, Justin Smoak is in the midst of a rough patch, although he did at least pick up a single last night. He has just 2 hits on this road trip in 24 AB, but has drawn 6 walks. The trade deadline fell smack in the middle of this road trip, so you have to wonder if that has taken its toll on him a bit.

Rays’ Lineup

The Blue Jays halted Tommy Pham’s 9 game hitting streak last night, as he has been hitting the ball well of late, and really all season. That 9 game hitting streak even made it through being forced to miss a few games from a hand injury that no doubt caused him some discomfort to play through. So good for him being able to keep the hitting up despite the injury.

Kevin Kiermaier returned from injury last week, inserting himself back into CF. After coming back with a pretty good bang by hitting a home run and triple in his return, he hasn’t reached base in 14 plate appearances since that game. But his defense is back, and I’m sure the Rays are happy about that.

Brendan McKay, the highly touted 2 way player who is slated to start tomorrow on the mound against the Jays, hasn’t really broken into the Major Leagues as a hitter yet. He has just 4 plate appearances, all as DH on July 1, but has since been focusing entirely on the pitching side of things. I get wanting him to master one craft, but I was hoping that we would get to see his skills on both sides of the ball.

Yesterday’s Heroes

Jonathan Villar went 4-5 while hitting for the cycle last night, good enough for the Monster Bat award. He apparently didn’t even know he was close until after his 9th inning single as he was told that he had done it by his first base coach. I’m not sure I fully believe that, but good for him achieving one of baseballs more random, overrated, yet still pretty cool accomplishments. Villar’s big night was not enough to overcome the Yankees’ savages, and the Orioles fell 9-6.

Mike Minor turned in another masterful performance out of the Rangers rotation, this time pitching 7 shutout innings. He got knocked around a bit, bending but not breaking while allowing 7 hits and a walk, but he got through the baserunners and was able to earn the Pitcher of the Day award in the Rangers 1-0 win over Cleveland. And because it was such a close game, Minor picked up .509 WPA, which gets him the WPA King title as well.

Find the Link

Find the link between Kittredge, Yarbrough and Jesus Sucre.

Stats are courtesy of Fangraphs