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Game #97 Preview: Pallante vs Berríos

Cardinals (51-46) vs Blue Jays (53-43)

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Boston Red Sox Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

After a short road trip to open the second half, the Blue Jays return home to welcome the St. Louis Cardinals to Toronto for a short two game series. Tonight’s game is scheduled to get underway at the standard 7:07 start time. And as a special treat for viewers, Buck Martinez is expected to be back in the booth after a few months away going through cancer treatments.

Blue Jays’ Starter

José Berríos will make his first start of the second half tonight, looking to get this half going on the right foot. On the season Berríos has seen a lot of ups and downs thus far, coming into play with a 7-4 record and a 5.22 ERA. Remarkably, through his 19 starts, the team is 14-5, so his struggles really aren’t hurting the team as much as they could be, but there’s no way he or the team are happy with how his season has gone.

This will be Berríos’ second start against the Cardinals this year, with the second one going fairly well. Berríos made it through 6.1 innings, allowing 3 runs on 7 hits and no walks, striking out 7. His line looked even better before the 7th inning, where he came on, got the first out, then allowed a home run and a pair of singles before being removed from the game. One of his bequeathed runners scored, and he walked away with a no decision that the Jays’ eventually lost in extra innings. The home run was hit by Juan Yepez, who is currently on the IL.

Cardinals’ Starter

The Cardinals will go with rookie Andre Pallante (pronounced puh-lawn-tay), who will be making his 9th start of the season after starting the year in the bullpen. Overall across 70 innings, Pallante is 3-4 with a 3.34 ERA, although his FIP comes in nearly a full run higher at 4.24. Pallante is about league average when it comes to allowing walks (3.34 per 9 innings) and is a bit better on the home run front (0.90 per 9 innings). It’s in the strikeout department that he isn’t very good, with just 6.04 per 9 innings this year, the 8th fewest among 116 pitchers with at least 70 innings this year.

Pallante faced the Jays very briefly back in May, pitching the 7th inning of the Berríos’ start. He came on with 2 outs and the bases loaded, and promptly walked George Springer and Santiago Espinal to force in a pair of inherited runners before getting Vladimir Guerrero Jr. to hit into a 108.7 mph groundout to end the inning.

Blue Jays’ Lineup

Tom touched on it yesterday, but pretty much everyone in the lineup is hitting well right now, and it is a lot of fun. As a team, the Jays are now hitting .267/.331/.440 (115 wRC+). That .267 average is best in all of baseball, while the OBP, slugging and wRC+ are all third, as is the 4.88 runs scored per game. If you knock off the first five weeks of the season, the Jays are the leaders across the board.

The one change I’d like to start to see more of is a bit of a return to how the Jays were handling second base at the start of the season. Cavan Biggio should be getting more starts at second base against righties, while Santiago Espinal can be the late game replacement and starter against lefties. Biggio has a 115 wRC+ against righties this year, while Espinal is down at a 77 wRC+. It certainly doesn’t need to be every game, as Biggio can also get some starts elsewhere, but sitting Espinal against righties on occasion wouldn’t be a bad thing.

Cardinals’ Lineup

They’re down two of the best hitters in baseball for this series, as both Paul Goldschmidt (NL best 192 wRC+ and 5.1 fWAR) and Nolan Arenado (5th in the NL with a 150 wRC+, second in fWAR at 4.9) have opted to not get vaccinated and cannot travel and play with their team in Canada.

Even without their two biggest stars, the Cardinals will still have a pretty solid group of hitters. Rookie Brendan Donovan is hitting .280/.393/.378 (128 wRC+). Juan Yepez (currently on the IL), Dylan Carlson, Nolan Gorman and Tommy Edman round out the rest of the regulars with a 100 wRC+ or greater.

Albert Pujols could be in line to get a lot of playing time with Goldschmidt abandoning the team. However, without a lefty pitcher lining up for the series, Pujols will be in tough. Against righties this year Pujols is hitting just .151/.269/.269 (63 wRC+), but is hitting a robust .339/.366/.565 (152 wRC+) against lefties. He hasn’t even approached a league average line against righties since 2016, so his inability to hit against righties isn’t a 2022 aberration either. It’ll be interesting to see if they’ll go with Pujols, or just have Goldschmidt’s replacement get the playing time.

Yesterday’s Heroes

Jeimer Candelario went 3-4 with a pair of home runs yesterday, driving in 3 to take home the Monster Bat award. His big bat was just a small part of the Tigers’ overall offensive output, as they beat the Padres 12-4.

Bryson Stott was a one man wrecking crew last night against the Braves. In the bottom of the second he hit a 2-run double to bring the Phillies within 1 at 3-2, and in the bottom of the 8th he hit a 3-run home run to take the lead at 6-4. That wound up being the final score, and Stott takes home the WPA King trophy with an excellent .689 mark.

Merrill Kelly threw 8 shutout innings, allowing just 3 hits and nothing else as he takes home the Pitcher of the Day honours. Kelly struck out 7 on his way to picking up the win, as his Diamondbacks beat the Giants 7-0.

Find the Link

Find the link between Brendan Donovan and fellow rookie Phoenix Sanders.

Stats retrieved from Fangraphs and Baseball Savant