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Game #14 Preview: Stripling vs Verlander

Blue Jays (8-5) vs Astros (6-6)

Toronto Blue Jays v Boston Red Sox Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

The Blue Jays continue their road trip this evening, heading down to Houston to open up a three game weekend series against the Astros. Since the game is in Houston, it comes at an hour later start time, getting underway at 8:10 ET.

Blue Jays’ Starter

Ross Stripling will get to make another start for the Jays, this time in replacement of the injured Hyun Jin Ryu instead of just as a sixth starter. This will be his second start to go along with a pair of relief outings, and so far so good for Stripling. Through 6 innings, he has allowed 2 runs on 3 hits, walking 3 and striking out 3. His start against the Athletics was his standout performance, as he went 4 shutout innings, allowing just 2 hits and nothing else while getting his 3 strikeouts. I would imagine his pitch count will still be limited today, so 4-5 innings would be a good outing for him.

Astros’ Starter

Justin Verlander will make the start for the Astros, his third of the season after missing pretty much all of 2020 and the entirety of 2021 after blowing out his UCL and going for Tommy John Surgery. After facing long odds of even coming back to the Majors after getting TJS at 37, he had a healthy and normal-ish Spring Training, and is now pitching like normal into the regular season.

And normal Justin Verlander can still shove. Through his first 13 innings, he has allowed just 1 run on 6 hits and 3 walks, striking out 15. The lone run came on a solo home run.

Blue Jays’ Lineup

George Springer returning to his former home will likely be one of the big stories of this series, so prepare yourself accordingly. After taking a pitch to his right forearm on Wednesday and then struggling through a pair of plate appearances yesterday, there is certainly concern about his health heading into the weekend. If he’s healthy, he’ll be at the top of the lineup and in CF to open things up tonight though.

Alejandro Kirk will likely be back behind the plate tonight after getting the day off yesterday. Expect to see him get the start both tonight and tomorrow catching Manoah, before another rest day on Sunday.

Santiago Espinal enjoyed a rare off day yesterday as well, but expect to see him back at second base today. Since collecting some big hits to open the season, Espinal’s bat has cooled considerably, and he’s now mired in an 0-10 slump. Hopefully the day off will help restart the bat.

Astros’ Lineup

The Astros’ bats are off to a rough start to the season. They’ve scored just 3.42 runs per game, the 8th lowest mark in the Majors. They’re hitting a combined .199/.282/.355 (92 wRC+).

There are certainly some guys having a good start to their season though. Yordan Alvarez (163 wRC+) and Alex Bregman (133 wRC+) are their usual good hitting selves. Rookie Jeremy Peña, their replacement for the since departed Carlos Correa, is off to a phenomenal start, hitting .308/.364/.590 (182 wRC+) while playing some exceptional defense, leading the Majors in Outs Above Average.

But there are also disappointments. Jose Altuve is on the IL with a strained hamstring. Martin Maldonado (25 wRC+) and Jason Castro (63 wRC+) are giving them nothing from the catcher’s position. And two of their biggest bats from last year in Yuli Gurriel (25 wRC+) and Kyle Tucker (33 wRC+) have looked lost at the plate this year.

Yesterday’s Heroes

Sean Murphy went 3-4 with a home run and a double, knocking in 3 runs on his way to the Monster Bat award. His bat was a key part of the Athletics’ 6-4 win over the Orioles.

Kevin Gausman’s dominant outing, where he went 8+ innings allowing just 1 earned run (which was bequeathed upon Jordan Romano) on 7 hits and no walks, striking out 9, earned him the Pitcher of the Day award. But because the game was close throughout, he also gets the WPA King trophy with a .394 showing for the day in the Blue Jays’ 3-2 win over the Red Sox.

Find the Link

Find the link between Yordan Alvarez and Pete Fairbanks.

Stats retrieved from Fangraphs and Baseball Savant