The Jays looked a little shaky during yesterday’s double header, losing the first game and coming far closer than they would have liked to dropping the second as well. The pulled it out, though, and head into tonight’s game looking to take control of the series before the climactic showdown on Thursday night, in which newly acquired ace Jose Berrios will face off against Angels ace/slugger/space god Shohei Ohtani.
Blue Jays Starter
Alek Manoah arrived in the majors faster than most probably would have expected when he was drafted in 2019, even without knowing the 2020 minor league season would be scrapped due to COVID. The minors never really presented him much of a challenge, though, most nights it’s looked like the majors don’t, either. Through 10 starts and 52.1 innings, Manoah has struck out 60 while walking only 19, posting an ace-level 2.58 ERA and a less elite but still very solid 3.94 FIP.
Manoah’s last time out, on August 6th against Boston, was a bit of a struggle, as he only managed to strike out four against three walks and 4 hits over 5.0 innings, but he managed to get timely weak contact when he needed it and held a very good Red Sox lineup to only 2 runs. He didn’t have his best stuff, but it was encouraging that he demonstrated the ability to battle through that and get outs in other ways than just by blowing hitters away.
His fastball velocity has been ticking down over the course of the season, from 95 in his major league debut to just over 92 his last few outings, and he’s begun to emphasize his sinker over the four seamer. His slider has also slowed down a little, but it’s gained depth and even more horizontal sweep, and in three of his last four starts hitters have missed on more than 40% of their swings against it. His change-up is very much a fourth pitch right now, but it’s shown flashes of being a weapon when he can locate it down and away to lefties.
We’ll have to see how Manoah handles the ongoing grind of the season. As dominant as he’s been, it’s easy to forget that this is really his first ever attempt at taking the ball every fifth day for a sustained period of time. The early returns have been about as good as you could possibly hope for.
Dylan Bundy was once even more hyped than Manoah. Baseball America’s #2 overall prospect in 2013 has never quite been able to put it together, though. After four years of inconsistent but mostly pretty average performance with the Baltimore Orioles, Bundy was traded to the Angels before the 2020 season. The change of scenery seemed to revitalize him, and he turned in by far the best season of his career with a 3.29 ERA over 11 starts. Those gains have evaporated in 2021, though, as Bundy is missing fewer bats than at any point in his career to date and giving up tons of home runs. His underlying number suggest his 6.14 ERA is worse than he deserves, but he’s still been mediocre at best so far this season.
Blue Jays Lineup:
It was an uncharacteristic power outage for the Jays last night. Across two games, they managed only three doubles and a triple, although with 18 total hits and six walks in 14 innings they had no trouble getting on base.
Marcus Semien has been red hot, accounting for two of those four extra base hits plus a single and a pair of walks. Over the past week, he’s surpassed George Springer as the Blue Jays’ best everyday hitter, with a wRC+ of 167 to 165. The lineup has also been getting great contributions from Teoscar Hernandez (146) and from Alejandro Kirk, Breyvic Valera and Corey Dickerson (182, 156, and 163 respectively) in part time roles.
On the other side of the ledger, Vladimir Guerrero jr. is dealing with his first real slump of the season, posting a 53 wRC+ over the past week with 9 strikeouts. He’s looked anxious and out of sorts at the plate lately, but given how great he’s been for almost all of the last four months, I don’t think there’s anything to do except give him space to figure it out. A hitter as talented as he is will lock in an adjustment soon enough. Bo Bichette (93), Randal Grichuk (73) and Lourdes Gurriel jr. (49) have also all been in skids.
We might see some days off following the double header, and look for Dickerson to start given that Bundy’s a right hander.
We got a long look at them last night. Shohei Ohtani is incredible, although even with his triple last night he’s been mired in a pretty deep slump (33 wRC+ over the past week). Max Stassi has been having an incredible season, making it look like his apparent break out in 2020 was real. He’s posted a 142 wRC+ for the year. After that, it’s a lot of guys who are just alright in Jack Mayfield (89 wRC+ including his time in Seattle earlier in the season), Justin Upton (106), David Fletcher (99), Jose Iglesias (92), Jo Adell (98), and Phil Gosselin (94). Juan Lagares (69), Kurt Suzuki (67), and Adam Eaton (54) are weights on the lineup when they have to play. Overall, it isn’t an awful group, but it’s well below average.
No find the link today because I’m not as clever as Erik.
The game kicks off tonight at 9:38 Eastern, 6:38 Pacific.