The Blue Jays head to Minneapolis to open a four game series against the first place Twins. The series kicks off with tonight’s game, scheduled for 7:40 ET.
Blue Jays’ Starter
Alek Manoah will make his career high 21st start today, pushing into uncharted territory for him on both the starts and innings pitched category with two months plus of the season still to go. He’s still looking strong, and the results this year have been fantastic, so hopefully he’s able to push hard right through the end of the season and playoffs.
Manoah is coming off one of his worst starts of the year his last time out against the Tigers. In that one, he allowed 4 runs in 5.1 innings, giving up a walk and a home run while striking out just 4. He also took home his 5th loss of the season in that one, and is now 11-5 with a 2.43 ERA on the season.
Veteran right hander Sonny Gray will get the ball for the Twins, making his 16th start of the season. He has already had a pair of Injured List stints this year, missing a couple weeks in April with a hamstring issue, and a couple weeks in June with a pectoral strain. In total, he has thrown 74 innings, pitching to a 6-3 record with a 3.41 ERA, and a matching 3.41 FIP. That FIP is one of the best of his career, and probably the biggest difference for him is a career best walk rate of 2.31 per 9 innings, almost a full walk per 9 innings below his career average.
Blue Jays’ Lineup
The Jays are expected to activate newly acquired Whit Merrifield for today’s game. Merrifield came over at the deadline from the Royals, and is hitting just .240/.290/.352 (80 wRC+) on the season. The 33 year old has certainly had some better seasons in the past, and there is a hope that he can bring some of that ability that saw him lead the league in many stats over the last few seasons, including hits, stolen bases and doubles. But at 33, and given his performance so far this year, there is understandably concern surrounding him.
George Springer was out of the lineup once again yesterday, and has now started just one of the team’s last five games, and that was a DH game. There is understandably concern with him, and given that someone will need to go out when Merrifield comes in today, there’s a realistic chance that the move is Springer to the IL.
The Twins didn’t do much at the deadline to bolster their lineup, only adding backup catcher Sandy León. Their focus on was on pitching, where they added a good starter (Tyler Mahle who we’ll see tomorrow) and a pair of relievers in Michael Fulmer and Jorge López. They really solidified the run prevention side of things, probably the right strategy for a team in first place that is hitting .251/.321/.417 (110 wRC+) and averaging the 10th most runs per game in all of baseball at 4.52 per game.
When the Jays played the Twins at the beginning of June, they were without star shortstop and prized offseason acquisition Carlos Correa. He is back and healthy now, although he’s hitting just .266/.343/.438 (123 wRC+). He’s also just 7-39 since the All Star break, coming out in the second half with some struggles. But he’s still one of the best shortstops in baseball, and is a key piece to this offense.
Joining Correa at the top of a strong lineup are Luis Arraez (141 wRC+), Byron Buxton (136 wRC+), Jorge Polanco (121 wRC+) and Jose Miranda (124 wRC+).
The Twins also have a few notable players on the IL, including Miguel Sanó, Alex Kiriloff, Max Kepler and top prospect Royce Lewis.
Bryan Reynolds went 3-4 with a home run, pair of singles and a walk, taking home the Monster Bat award. The home run was a walkoff to lead off the bottom of the 9th, also leading him to the WPA King trophy with a .539 mark. All in all, Reynolds’ was key in his Pirates 8-7 win over the Brewers.
Sandy Alcantara threw a complete shutout yesterday, allowing 6 hits and a walk along the way while earning the Pitcher of the Day award. He struck out just 3, but that didn’t matter on a night he was dominating with soft contact. He obviously got the win in the game as well, as his Marlins beat the Reds 3-0.
Find the Link
Find the link between Byron Buxton and Ian Kinsler. (This one should be obscure and fun)