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Game #120 Preview: Alexander vs Ray

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Tigers (58-65) vs Blue Jays (63-56)

MLB: AUG 18 Blue Jays at Nationals Photo by Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

After a bad road trip, the Blue Jays happily return home to Toronto, ready to welcome the Detroit Tigers into town for a three game weekend series. The first game of the series is set to get underway tonight at 7:07 ET.

Blue Jays’ Starter

Robbie Ray will go for the Jays, looking to get both himself and the Jays back in the win column. Ray is winless in 3 August starts, despite pitching quite well in that span. Through 19 August innings, Ray has allowed just 4 runs on 13 hits and 6 walks, striking out 17. But he hasn’t gotten run support, and the Jays have lost all 3 of those games by scores of 5-2, 3-2 and 2-1.

On the season, Rays’ numbers are excellent. Through 137.1 innings and 23 starts, he is 9-5 with a 2.88 ERA. His FIP isn’t quite that pretty, sitting at 3.85, thanks in large part to allowing a lot of home runs earlier in the season. However, since the beginning of June, his 1.05 HR/9 rate is much better than the league average of 1.31 over that span. And he’s still maintaining an excellent strikeout rate, and even more importantly, a fantastic walk rate.

Tigers’ Starter

The Blue Jays are lucking out a bit in this series, as they won’t face any of the three good young starters the Tigers have in their rotation right now. Instead, they get a trio of guys in the back half of the rotation, starting with today’s starter Tyler Alexander. Alexander will be making his 9th start and 33rd appearance of the season in this one. He brings a 2-2 record and 4.57 ERA into play, putting up a very similar 4.49 FIP.

The left handed Alexander is a soft tossing strike thrower, perhaps an era-adjusted left handed Josh Towers is a relevant comparison. Alexander doesn’t generate many strikeouts (just 53 in 65 innings), while not walking many at all (just 14 all year), but he does allow his fair share of home runs (1.52 per 9 innings, quite a bit higher than league average).

Blue Jays’ Lineup

Teoscar Hernández will look to bring that amazing road trip home with him. After winning player of the week for the first week of the road trip, Teo continued that hot streak into Washington, and ultimately ended up going 18-36 with 5 home runs and 3 doubles in the 9 games. If he can continue to hit like this, it will make the absence of George Springer a little more palatable.

On the topic of Springer’s absence, that leaves Randal Grichuk as pretty much the only one capable of playing CF. Teo has some experience there, and would presumably be the backup, although Otto Lopez does have 155 or so innings of work in CF in the Minors this year.

Perhaps happy to be home, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. probably wants to put that road trip behind him. He hit just .257 on the trip and didn’t record a single extra base hit. But that’s a troubling trend that extends back even further, as Guerrero also struggled on the previous homestand. Since July 30 when the Jays made it back to Canada, Guerrero is hitting just .240/.329/.333 (84 wRC+) in 85 plate appearances, lashing just 1 double and 2 home runs over 19 games.

Tigers’ Lineup

First and foremost, Miguel Cabrera enters this series sitting on 499 home runs, ready to break into the prestigious 500 home run club. If he does it in this series, he’ll be the first to enter the club on foreign soil (Frank Thomas did it as a Blue Jay, but they were in Minnesota at the time).

The excitement around Cabrera’s historic home run is adding a nice flare to his season, but his overall batting line continues to struggle. Once one of the greatest right handed hitters ever, he’s hitting just .252/.316/.384 (92 wRC+), and hasn’t posted a good Miggy season since 2016. Since the start of the 2017 season, he’s hitting just .264/.337/.401 (97 wRC+) and has 53 home runs in 1858 plate appearances.

There are players having good seasons in this lineup too, as Robbie Grossman (117 wRC+), Jonathan Schoop (113 wRC+) and Jeimer Candelario (117 wRC+) fill out the rest of the top of the order around Miggy. Behind those 4 veterans, you find a collection of young guys still trying to establish their footing in the Majors.

Yesterday’s Heroes

Canadian Tyler O’Neill went 2-3 with a home run and drove in 3 runs to pick up the Monster Bat award. He was instrumental in helping his Cardinals double up the Brewers 8-4.

Madison Bumgarner had a vintage MadBum night last night, throwing 8 dominant innings, allowing just 1 run on 3 hits while striking out 5 and picking up the Pitcher of the Day award. He also picked up the win as his Diamondbacks beat the Phillies 6-2. But it was a lot closer game than that when he was on the mound, and thanks to 8 strong innings, he gets the WPA King trophy as well with a .469 mark.

Find the Link

Find the link between Miguel Cabrera and Frank Thomas (as the first since Roger Maris).

Stats retrieved from Fangraphs and Baseball Savant