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Game #143 Preview: Kay vs Morton

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Blue Jays (55-87) vs Rays (84-59)

Toronto Blue Jays v Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

The Blue Jays will look to put an end to a string of terrible games, trying to end their 5 game losing streak and win a game down in Tropicana Field against the Rays. Tonight’s game is set for 6:10 ET.

Blue Jays’ Starter

Making his Major League debut for the Jays in this one will be left hander Anthony Kay. As I’m sure you’re quite aware, Kay came over (along with Simeon Woods Richardson) to the Jays in the trade deadline deal that sent Marcus Stroman to the Mets. Kay was assigned to Buffalo following the trade, and made 7 starts for the Bisons. Results wise, things went pretty well for him, as he was 2-2 with a 2.50 ERA in 36 innings, but he did have his struggles. His FIP was 4.54, thanks in large part to a massive 22 walks, as he walked at least 3 in all but 1 start when he walked just 2. He did at least manage to strikeout 39 batters as well, a rate that was a little over a strikeout per inning more than what he did throughout his Minor League career.

Kay features predominantly a 3 pitch mix, with your standard starter level fastball, curveball and changeup. His fastball sits in the low 90s, occasionally pushing it up to 95-96. He throws a pretty good changeup and curveball as well, both coming in as above average pitches. Both his fastball and his curveball have excellent spin rates (although nowhere near Trent Thornton level), which I’m sure is what attracted the Jays’ front office to Kay in the first place.

Rays’ Starter

The Rays will go with import Ace Charlie Morton. Morton was brought over this past winter in Free Agency, one of the rare big Free Agency gets for the Rays. The 35 year old has done a fantastic job for the Rays as well, really justifying the Rays’ belief in him. Through his first 29 starts, Morton is 14-6 with a 3.06 ERA, and an even better, AL leading 2.79 FIP over 170.1 innings. He has gotten to that point obviously with good strikeout and walk numbers, but he is also using his ability to keep the ball on the ground to push an AL best HR/9 rate of 0.69

Morton has made 2 starts against Toronto so far this year, and they have gone fairly well. The first one came in Toronto at the beginning of April, when the Jays scored 1 run on 4 hits over 4.2 innings, striking out 4 times and walking 3. A double, walk and an error loaded the bases with 2 outs in the 5th inning, which resulted in Morton being pulled just short of being eligible for the win. In his second start against the Jays, Morton was saddled with the tough luck loss as Jacob Waguespack outdueled him in a 2-0 Jays win. Morton went 7 innings, allowing a pair of runs on 7 hits, walking none and striking out 9. Bo Bichette touched him up for a first inning double to set up the first run, and a solo home run in the 3rd for the only 2 runs that scored that game.

Blue Jays’ Lineup

It was a pretty abysmal showing for the Jays last night, as they collected just 2 hits and 2 walks. Anthony Alford got one of the hits, his first hit in 7 Major League plate appearances in 2019. Now hopefully the Jays will move him to CF and play him every day, realizing he probably more than anyone else on the team needs to be getting everyday reps for the next 20 games.

With the righty Morton on the mound, I would imagine we see the Jays load up on left handers, which probably means at least one of Billy McKinney and Derek Fisher in the outfield and Rowdy Tellez back at DH, or perhaps even at 1B.

I was originally thinking that Reese McGuire would do the catching today, but Reese was up in the Majors before Kay was in the system, so there is no familiarity there. Beau Taylor caught one of Kay’s starts in Buffalo, the one where he allowed only 2 walks, so at least there is a little bit of familiarity, and the smallest modicum of success too.

Rays’ Lineup

Rookie Nate Lowe went hitless yesterday, and add on top of the hitless pinch hitting opportunity on Thursday, makes him 0-5 in this series. That’s a stark contrast from what he did against the Jays a month ago, and not what Rays fans have witnessed out of him in his first 123 PA. He entered this series with a 137 wRC+, with 6 home runs and 7 doubles. A month ago when the Jays faced him, he went 5-9 with a double, so being able to keep him off the bases through 5 PA seems like a victory here.

Austin Meadows, on the other hand, continues his exploitation of Jays’ pitching. He added 2 more hits yesterday, upping his season total to 24 hits in 13 games against the Jays.

Eric Sogard, inserted back into the lineup yesterday after taking a pitch to the glasses, left after 2 plate appearances because he fouled a ball off his foot. Thankfully it seems he’ll just miss the start against the left handed Kay today, but otherwise will be OK.

Yesterday’s Heroes

A.J. Pollock launched 3 solo home runs into the night yesterday, going 3-4 to pick up the Monster Bat award. But that wasn’t enough for the Dodgers, as they lost to the Giants 5-4, complete with a game ending Will Smith vs Will Smith showdown.

Shrimp was on the menu in New York last night, as Pete Alonso drew the walkoff walk giving the Mets the 5-4 win over the Phillies. An inning earlier, Alonso gave the Mets a brief lead with an RBI single, both plays contributing significant WPA to Alonso’s WPA King total of .536.

Dallas Keuchel twirled 6 shutout innings, working around 6 hits and a pair of walks to hold the Nationals off the board. He struck out just 3, but that was still enough to earn the Pitcher of the Day award in the Braves’ 4-3 win over the Nationals.

Find the Link

Find the link between Morton and Curtis Granderson

Stats are courtesy of Fangraphs