The Blue Jays are at the do or die portion of their schedule as they enter the final series of the season against the Orioles. Sweep them, and they have to rely on both the Red Sox and Mariners to lose at least one game this weekend to force a Game 163. If the Jays lose even once this weekend, they have pretty much no hope. So buckle in for tonight’s 7:07 ET start. It’s either going to be an exceptionally stressful weekend, or we’re going to be heartbroken and ready for the offseason.
Isn’t baseball fun?
Blue Jays’ Starter
Working on extended rest, Steven Matz heads to the mound for the Blue Jays. Matz last pitched last Thursday in Minnesota, as the Jays bumped his start to get Ryu-Berríos-Ray in the Yankees series. Matz will be making his last regular season start for the Jays, looking to put an exclamation point on a very strong season as he heads into free agency for the first time in his career.
Matz has put together a very good platform year, entering the free agent market as a 30 year old. He has a career high in wins, coming into play with a 13-7 record. His 3.88 ERA and 3.77 FIP are both the best numbers he has put up since his rookie season. The FIP is coming on the strength of his lowest HR/9 rate since that rookie year, coupled with very strong strikeout and walk numbers. All-in-all, it has been a great season for Matz, and a solid offseason trade pickup for the front office.
This will be Matz’ fourth outing against the Orioles’ this year, and he hasn’t had the greatest outings against them. Through a combined 15 innings, he has allowed 11 runs (10 earned) on 17 hits and 6 walks, striking out 15. He also allowed 4 home runs, although they all came in the two games in Baltimore, not when he faced them at the Rogers Centre a month ago.
They currently have TBA set to pitch for them. What they have announced though is that Thomas Eshelman will feature prominently in this one, whether as a starter or as a bulk guy. If he’s not starting the game, Fangraphs believes that it’ll be former Jays’ farmhand Conner Greene getting the opening assignment. Green has pitched well against his former organization, throwing 5.1 shutout innings across 4 appearances, allowing just 3 hits and 2 walks while striking out 8.
Eshelman is a soft tossing righty who the Orioles will probably hope to get 4 or so innings out of. He is by no means overpowering, averaging just 86 mph on his fastball, and striking out 11 in his 25.0 innings so far this year. Instead, Eshelman relies on soft contact, pop ups and not quite out fly balls. The type of pitcher that could probably give the Jays fits.
He did just that in his season debut back in June in Buffalo. In that one, he worked 4.1 innings, allowing just 1 run on 3 hits, walking once and striking out 3 times. The lone run unsurprisingly came on a solo home run, this one by Lourdes Gurriel Jr.
Blue Jays’ Lineup
Gurriel was out of the lineup yesterday, no doubt struggling as he works his way back from getting his hand spiked. Whether he plays today remains to be seen.
If there was a pitcher out there that I’d be like “this is the guy that Cavan Biggio should be in the lineup against”, it would probably be Eshelman. The soft tossing righty matches up well for Biggio, and it makes sense to get Biggio back into action tonight. Where he plays is a mystery still, but if Gurriel is still out, then maybe he should be DH. I would have taken him in that role over playing Grichuk yesterday too.
Grichuk hit perhaps his lowest point of the year last night. After going 0-3 with a couple hard outs and a pop up, he was lifted in the 9th inning for pinch hitter Breyvic Valera. I really don’t expect Grichuk to get another start this season.
If the Jays are going to sweep this series, they need the offense to kick it into top gear and make it easy. Like 44 runs in 3 games type easy.
Over the past couple weeks, a few Orioles’ position players have found their way to the IL. Infielder Ramón Urías is out with a strained groin. Utility player Jorge Mateo is out with lumbar inflammation. Anthony Santander is out with a sprained knee. And outfielder DJ Stewart is out with what is called “knee ostechondral defect”. All four are done for the season.
The Orioles continue to pretty much just be the Cedric Mullins show on offense. He’s kept up his incredible season as a 26 year old, coming in with a 139 wRC+, and now reaching the 30 home run - 30 stolen base mark. He’s the first, and probably only one this year to reach the 30-30 mark.
Behind Mullins is really a whole bunch of question marks. Rookie Ryan Mountcastle is their next best hitter, coming in with a 114 wRC+ and some big hits against Boston this week.
American League Comeback Player of the Year frontrunner (lock?) Trey Mancini and lefty masher Austin Hays round out the list of hitters with even a wRC+ over 90. So Matz and the rest of the staff have to work carefully through the top 4 batters, but that’s it.
Corey Seager went 3-4 with a pair of home runs and a double, taking home the Monster Bat award. He helped his Dodgers easily beat the Padres 8-3, but because the Giants keep winning, their elimination number for the NL West title is now down to 2, and the Dodgers seem set to host the Cardinals in the NL Wild Card Game.
Dylan Carlson hit a pair of home runs, both of them giving his Cardinals the lead. As a result, he gets the WPA King, as he racked up .449 WPA, and the Cardinals beat the Brewers 4-3, their 18th win in 19 games.
Rookie left hander Justin Steele had the best start of his young career yesterday. He went 7 shutout innings, allowing just 4 hits and a walk to take home the Pitcher of the Day award. He also picked up the 4th win of his career, leading his Cubs to the 9-0 win over the Pirates.
Find the Link
Find the link between Cedric Mullins and Mookie Betts/José Ramírez.