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Game #145 Preview: Eovaldi vs Zeuch

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Red Sox (76-68) vs Blue Jays (55-89)

Toronto Blue Jays v Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Joseph Garnett Jr. /Getty Images

After getting swept on the road, the Blue Jays return home to try and end their 7 game losing streak in the first of three against the Red Sox. Tonight’s game gets underway at 7:07 ET.

Blue Jays’ Starter

T.J. Zeuch will take the mound for the second time at the Major League level, and I think it’s safe to say his first outing went well, or at least as well as one can expect for a Major League debut. Working as a bulk guy in his first appearance (he is expected to be a regular starter today), Zeuch allowed a pair of runs over 4 innings, collecting 4 strikeouts and 2 walks. He limited the Braves to just 3 hits, the only painful one being a 2-out double by Josh Donaldson in his 4th inning of work that drove in his two previous walks that were in scoring position after a wild pitch. But aside from that struggle, he looked pretty good as he got through his 4 innings on 73 pitches. He made it through his first 3 shutout innings on an effective 47 pitches.

Red Sox Starter

The Red Sox will send one of their biggest offseason re-signings in Nathan Eovaldi, the man they rushed out to sign to a big contract after his postseason heroics. The early returns have not been good for the Eovaldi and the Sox, as he struggled through an elbow injury and surgery early, and hasn’t been overly effective when he has pitched. His surgery was to remove loose bodies from his elbow at the end of April, which kept him out of action for about 3 months. When he returned from the Injured List, he spent about a month in the bullpen, building up strength while also being considered for a high leverage role. But that didn’t pan out, and he’s back in the rotation.

On the season, Eovaldi is 1-0 over 48.1 innings, pitching to a rough 5.77 ERA and 5.61 FIP. He is getting more strikeouts than ever before, over one per inning, but has uncharacteristically struggled with walks, while fighting the same home run surge that everyone across the league is.

Eovaldi faced the Jays back in April, and he struggled against a team that was not hitting well at the time. He gave up 5 runs on 6 hits and 4 walks, all of the damage coming the second time through the lineup in the third inning, as both Justin Smoak and Rowdy Tellez touched him up for 2 out home runs accounting for all 5 runs.

Blue Jays’ Lineup

Both Luke Maile and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. have had whispers of being activated in this series, and today could very well be the day. I don’t know if they’d have Maile catch Zeuch, but maybe they’ve been working together as Maile has been getting up to speed. Otherwise I would expect Reese McGuire to be behind the plate in this one.

If Gurriel is in the game, I would guess that he’s going to get a fair bit of work at DH. The early reports of his game simulations made it seem like he wasn’t 100%, but good enough to get back into the lineup. So maybe he spends a good chunk of September in the DH spot.

I would guess that Tellez is the one at 1B, although maybe if Gurriel is back, we start to see a bit more of Billy McKinney at 1B too.

Anthony Alford should be starting in CF, but I really doubt he’ll be there.

Red Sox’ Lineup

They have one of the best offenses in the game, led by J.D. Martinez, Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts. Those four all have a wRC+ in the 133-142 range, and with the exception of Martinez who provides no defensive value, have also eclipsed the 5 WAR mark on the season. The Red Sox are the only team in baseball with 3 batters above the 5 WAR mark, yet are pretty unlikely to make the playoffs - the Yankees officially eliminated them from the division race yesterday, and they’re now 8 games back from the second Wild Card with only 18 games to play.

Eventually the Red Sox will accept their playoff-less fate and start some of their September callups, although their system being bereft of high level talent doesn’t give them a whole lot of excitement on that front either. Most of their callups so far have been to laughably fill out their bullpen (they have 16 relievers on the roster right now), while the bench has retreads like Gorkys Hernandez, Chris Owings and Juan Centeno. For the most part, they’re playing their regulars, although maybe a series on the turf in Toronto will drive them to play a few more backups than they have been.

Yesterday’s Heroes

Robinson Chirinos went 3-4 with a pair of homers, driving in 6 runs to pick up the Monster Bat award. The award could have gone to pretty much anyone on the Astros though, as they completely shellacked the Athletics 15-0.

James Paxton twirled 6.2 shutout innings against the Red Sox last night, good enough to pick up both the Pitcher of the Day award, and since the game was close enough, the WPA King award too. He allowed no runs on 4 hits and 3 walks, stranding all of his runners and striking out 7 along the way. He also managed to rack up a .416 WPA, the highest mark on a quiet night around the MLB as the Yankees beat the Red Sox 5-0.

Find the Link

Find the link between Eovaldi and former Blue Jay Kelly Johnson.

Stats are courtesy of Fangraphs