Happy Jackie Robinson Day! The Blue Jays have hit the road and will play the Royals on Jackie Robinson Day in Kansas City, the home of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum! The baseball game is set to get underway at 8:10 ET.
Blue Jays’ Starter
I have yet to see an official announcement, but this start might as well go to Tanner Roark. Roark has struggled so far this year, and officially was moved to the bullpen after his Sunday start was rained out. But he hasn’t pitched out of the bullpen since then, so moving forward with him in the rotation today makes about as much sense as anyone else.
Roark, who was really bad for the Jays last year, saw his 2021 season get off to just as rough of a start. Facing the Rangers back on April 6 for his only appearance of the season, Roark made it through just 3 innings, where he allowed 5 runs on 6 hits. He allowed a home run in each of the 3 inning he pitched. The lone bright spot in all of that is that he didn’t allow a walk, but he has a long ways to go if he wants to earn regular pitching time. Hopefully he is able to show something positive today.
Jakob Junis will make the start for the Royals, his second start of the season. His first 2 games of the season were single inning relief appearances, but he did manage 5 innings on April 7. Over 7 total innings, he has yet to allow a run, surrendering just 3 hits and 2 walks and striking out 9.
The right handed Junis is primarily a fastball-slider guy who will mix in the very occasional sinker and changeup. He also appears to be trying a new pitch, a cutter, but I don’t know if it’s actually true or just a pitch classification error, and his harder sliders are considered cutters - and by harder, I mean an average of 84 mph. His fastball isn’t a whole lot faster averaging about 91-91.5 his whole career.
Blue Jays’ Lineup
It’s nice to finally see the bats starting to come around a little bit. They’ve had double digit hits in 3 of the last 4 games, the only hiccup in there being the result of facing Gerrit Cole.
Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. have been exceptionally hot, while Cavan Biggio has quietly started turning the corner as well - he’s 4-17 with a home run and “triple”, drawing 4 walks over the last week. That all adds up to a 150 wRC+ over his last 21 plate appearances, although Judge’s misplay yesterday certainly helps that in such a small sample.
Randal Grichuk, meanwhile, has cooled off a bit after his hot start. Over the last week, he is 5-22 with 3 doubles, so very much still producing a bit, just nowhere near the level he was for the first week.
This is a fairly different lineup than when the Jays last saw the Royals in 2019. Salvador Perez, who just signed a 4 year, $82m contract extension, along with currently injured Adalberto Mondesi are the only two position players on still on the team that was there in 2015. Whit Merrifield, Jorge Soler and Hunter Dozier are the only other regular position players around since the Royals last saw the Jays.
Notable newcomers include former Red Sox left fielder Andrew Benintendi, former Nationals center fielder Michael A. Taylor, and former Cleveland first baseman Carlos Santana.
Overall this year, the Royals are hitting a bit below average as a team with a 94 wRC+. They have scored 4.90 runs per game, which is the 9th highest mark among the 30 Major League teams, so they are getting a bit better results than their batting lines suggest.
There are just 3 of them that are hitting above league average, albeit significantly - Whit Merrifield, Michael A. Taylor, and Salvador Perez. Outside of those 3, Carlos Santana is the only other one is even close. Everyone else is Joe Panik level or level.
Ronald Acuña Jr. went 3-5 with a pair of home runs and a double, scoring 3 times and driving in 4 to pick up the Monster Bat award. Acuña’s continuation of his amazing start to the year wasn’t enough though, as Atlanta fell to the Marlins 6-5 in 10 innings.
Yimi García finished that game in the 10th to pick up the save, getting a pair of strikeouts and stranding the tying run on base to pick up the WPA King title with his .442 mark on the day.
Carlos Rodón is the obvious answer for Pitcher of the Day. The lefty came 2 outs away from perfection, beaning Roberto Pérez in the foot. But he still held on for the no-hitter, Major League Baseball’s second in less than a week. The White Sox took the win in this one, 8-0 over Cleveland.
If you’re wondering if that was the worst way to lose a perfect game, the answer is no. Obviously Armando Gallaraga’s being stolen by the umpire on the last play stands out. But Max Scherzer’s no hitter in 2015 was just a little worse than Rodón’s here, as Jose Tabata stuck his elbow guard into a near-strike with 2 outs and 2 strikes in the 9th inning, keeping Scherzer away from perfection.
Find the Link
Find the link between Andrew Benintendi and Steven Matz.