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Game #18 Preview: Thornton/Kay vs Richards

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Blue Jays (7-10) vs Red Sox (12-6)

Toronto Blue Jays v Boston Red Sox Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

The Blue Jays will try once again to put an end to their losing ways, now sitting at 3 straight and 4 of their last 5, as they wrap up their two game series against the Red Sox in Boston. Gametime is set for 7:10 ET, 10 minutes later than it should be.

Blue Jays’ Starter

The Blue Jays are expected to go with a tandem tonight, starting with Trent Thornton for a couple innings, before skipping over to Anthony Kay for a few more. I like this strategy, and I hope to see it bear fruit. Thornton has a 2.35 ERA in 7.2 innings out of the bullpen this year, while Kay has a 10.80 ERA from a 3.1 inning start last week.

Thornton has experience as a starter, with 32 of his 35 appearances before this season coming out of the rotation (and the other 3 were following an Opener). However, due to his recovering from elbow surgery in September, he wasn’t stretched out and ready to go for the rotation, so he started this year in the bullpen, where he has been looking good.

Thornton isn’t quite stretched out enough to pitch more than a few innings, but that may not be a bad thing. One of the benefits that he’s seeing in the bullpen is that he doesn’t face a batter a second time through, which was really bad for him in 2019 (.299 wOBA against first time, .356 wOBA against second). So we’ll see if Montoyo will allow him to go more than 9 batters today, although I would expect at some point we will see Thornton fully stretched back out as a starter.

Kay has made just a single appearance so far this year, and had a rough go of it. Part of it was bad defense from his teammates, part of it was that Tanner Roark came in and quickly allowed a couple inherited runners to score. But part of it was that Kay got hit pretty hard, with the Royals’ batters attacking him early in the count, wrapping 3 doubles and a triple in 3.1 innings. He’s going to have to be better, but he may just need reps to get there - his FIP for his career (38.1 innings) is a fairly good 3.79.

Red Sox’ Starter

The Red Sox will go with longtime Angels’ pitcher Garrett Richards. Richards spent the last couple year with the Padres, and signed a 1 year, $10m deal with the Red Sox over the winter. His early returns in Red Sox red have not been good, as he is 0-1 with a 6.00 ERA over 12 innings. His biggest culprit is the walks, as the 32 year old has walked 7 in his short time.

Richards, who used to see his fastball sit 96-97, has watched as his velocity has decreased over the last few seasons, averaging 93.6 mph through his first 3 starts this year. That, coupled with his slider that just isn’t getting the whiffs it used to (19.2% this year, down from last year’s career low of 39.2%), helps to really explain his early season struggles.

Blue Jays’ Lineup

Vladimir Guerrero Jr saw his first action at 3B last night, but outside of a foul grounder that he played nicely, he didn’t make any plays. I feel like we might see more of him at 3B in the near future, perhaps once Teoscar Hernández and George Springer return (hopefully this weekend for both).

Lourdes Gurriel Jr. continued his struggles yesterday, both at the plate and in the field. He is definitely a lot better than his early results have shown, and needs to get things figured out quickly if he is going to maintain regular playing time in the outfield.

Red Sox’ Lineup

Rafael Devers (148 wRC+) and Alex Verdugo (140 wRC+) started the game on the bench yesterday against Ryu, but they’ll be back in the lineup tonight.

That’ll give the Red Sox a ridiculously deep lineup, with everyone but Hunter Renfroe off to a great start to the season (5 batters at least 140 wRC+, 5 others right around league average). This will eventually come back down to Earth, and I’m happy the Jays won’t see them again until May 18.

Yesterday’s Heroes

Jose Abreu and Buster Posey both went 3-4 with a pair of home runs, co-winners of the Monster Bat award. The reigning AL MVP helped his White Sox beat Cleveland 8-5, while the former NL MVP helped his Giants to the 10-7 win over the Phillies.

In that Giants - Phillies game, the big swing didn’t come from Posey, but rather it came from Alex Dickerson. Down 6-4 in the top of the 8th, Dickerson launched a 3-run home run to give the Giants the lead. That home run alone was worth .526 WPA, but given his o-fer before that, he takes home the WPA King title with a .489 mark.

Julio Urías was absolutely masterful last night, throwing 7 shutout innings to pick up the Pitcher of the Day award. He struck out 11 while allowing just a hit and a walk, as his Dodgers improved to 14-4 with a 1-0 win over the Mariners.

Find the Link

Find the link between Hunter Renfroe and Hyun Jin Ryu.

Stats retrieved from Fangraphs and Baseball Savant