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Game #155 Preview: Ray vs Gant

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Blue Jays (85-68) vs Twins (68-85)

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Minnesota Twins Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports

As the Blue Jays continue to load up the loss column over the last week, the view of the postseason becomes further out of reach. With just 8 games left in the season, the Blue Jays are going to likely need to win at least 5, and they’re going to need to turn around the trend they’re on. They’ll play their third of four against the Twins today, desperately needing to earn a series split. That attempt starts tonight at 7:10 ET.

Don’t forget to tune into the broadcast early today, as Sportsnet is broadcasting the Twins’ ceremony retiring Canadian Justin Morneau’s #33.

On the topic of British Columbians getting their #33 retired by a Major League Baseball team in a ceremony later today, Larry Walker will be honoured by the Rockies prior to their game as well!

Blue Jays’ Starter

Cy Young hopeful Robbie Ray makes his penultimate start of the season, right when the Jays need an Ace on the mound. Ray’s season stats are now 12-6 with a 2.72 ERA. He is currently first in the AL with that ERA, 36 points ahead of Gerrit Cole. Lance Lynn has a lower ERA, but he is probably going to fall short on the number of innings required to qualify.

Ray also sits atop the American League in strikeouts, coming into play today with 238, one more than Gerrit Cole, who pitched yesterday. Zach Wheeler has the Major League lead at 240, a number that Ray should be able to surpass today as well. On the Blue Jays’ historical front, Ray now sits behind only the 1997-1998 steroid enhanced seasons of Roger Clemens, 33 and 54 strikeouts more than Ray has so far. So if Ray wants the club record, he’ going to have to sign an extension.

Twins’ Starter

Fresh off the Injured List recovering from a strained abdomen, John Gant will make the start for the Twins. It’ll be Gant’s 20th start, and 38th appearance overall on the season. In total, he has thrown 103 innings, starting the season as a starter, moving to the bullpen in June, then finding his way back to the rotation in August. As a starter this year, he has a 4.03 ERA over 82.2 innings, while he was much more effective as a reliever, pitching to a 2.66 ERA over 20.1 innings.

Gant’s biggest struggle this year, especially while starting, has been has inability to limit walks. His 5.85 BB/9 rate is easily the worst among pitchers with at least 100 innings. And he doesn’t balance it out well with strikeouts either, coming into play with an 88-67 K-BB ratio.

Blue Jays’ Lineup

The bats are going to need to get going in this one, and it’s going to have to start with patience. They’re also going to need to hit the mistake pitches, something they haven’t been able to do all week.

George Springer will likely continue, and finish the season, in the leadoff spot. If he can come around with the bat, it’ll be as big of a boost as this team can get. He’s seemingly close to full health now, isn’t in visible pain while running, and is back in the outfield. So hopefully the bat is primed for a breakout.

Catching Ray today will be Alejandro Kirk. With Springer in the OF and Kirk catching, the Jays will have something they haven’t had in a while - an opening for someone else to play DH. I would guess that we see Vladdy take the rest day, but the options to cover first base are limited. Lamb got the last non-Vladdy start there, but he’s gone. Gurriel is probably too hurt to play there. Maybe the Jays activate Cavan Biggio and give him the start there.

Twins’ Lineup

After coming out of the game halfway through on Thursday with an illness, Max Kepler was also out of the lineup last night. As a lefty batter, even if he’s on the mend a bit, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Kepler on the bench once again tonight against Ray. That’ll mean that Brent Rooker likely starts in the OF again.

Nick Gordon, who had a big game Thursday, collected another hit last night to run his hitting streak to 6 games. As a lefty though, there’s a chance that he’s on the bench today. If he is on the bench, I would imagine the Twins try to incorporate Willians Astudillo into the lineup. Astudillo vs Ray would be an interesting matchup, as Astudillo flat out refuses to walk or strikeout.

Mitch Garver got the night off last night, with Ryan Jeffers getting the start behind the plate instead. Look for Garver to be back to catching tonight.

Yesterday’s Heroes

Lars Nootbar and Tyler O’Neil can share the Monster Bat award. They both had a pair of home runs and a single, combining to drive in 8 runs as their Cardinals swept the Cubs in a double header 8-5 and 12-4.

Didi Gregorius had a couple big hits for his Phillies, including a go-ahead 3-run home run in the bottom of the 7th. His big night helped carry his Phillies to the 8-6 win over the Pirates, and he earned himself the WPA King trophy with a .659 mark.

Max Fried threw a complete game shutout, easily taking home the Pitcher of the Day award. He allowed just 3 hits while walking none and striking out 4, earning himself the “Maddux” with just 98 pitches in the shutout. He obviously also got the win, as the Braves beat the Padres 4-0.

Find the Link

Find the link between Mitch Garver and the group of Addison Reed, Nelson Cruz and Kenta Maeda.

Stats retrieved from Fangraphs and Baseball Savant