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Game #109 Preview: Kikuchi vs Lyles

Blue Jays (60-48) vs Orioles (56-52)

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Minnesota Twins Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The Blue Jays head to Baltimore to take on a much improved Orioles team, while also getting their first look at the recently renovated Orioles Park at Camden Yards, including the new and deeper left field wall. We get to see it all starting at 7:05 ET tonight.

Blue Jays’ Starter

Yusei Kikuchi will head to the mound for the Jays, making his 19th start of the season and third since coming back from injury. He is 4-5 with a 4.86 ERA this year, but has a really gross 5.50 FIP. However, his biggest problems from earlier in the season, including a league-worst walk rate of 5.23 per 9 innings and a nearly-league worst home run rate of 1.82 per 9 innings, haven’t hurt him in his two starts since coming back from the IL. In those two starts, he has thrown a combined 9 innings, allowing 3 runs on 5 hits and 2 walks, surrendering a home run while striking out 10.

Kikuchi was one of the starters that faced the Orioles when they came to Toronto in the middle of June, and he had a forgettable outing. He lasted just 4 innings, surrendering 4 runs on 5 hits, walking 4 and striking out 4. He gave up 2 home runs in that one too, to Ryan Mountcastle and Austin Hays.

Orioles’ Starter

The Orioles will send out veteran right hander Jordan Lyles, who is having one of the best seasons of his career. Through 22 starts and 124.2 innings, Lyles is 8-8 with a 4.40 ERA. He has a stronger 4.24 FIP, thanks to below league average walk (2.96 per 9 innings) and home run (1.16 per 9 innings) rates. He has just 104 strikeouts in his 124.2 innings though, so he’s not going to rack up a bunch of outs that way.

Lyles matched up against Kikuchi back in the June 14th game as well, and despite similar results, Lyles did manage to walk away with the win in that one. He lasted 5.1 innings, allowing 4 runs on 5 hits and 2 walks, striking out 7. He gave up a home run to Matt Chapman.

Blue Jays’ Lineup

With George Springer now on the IL, it would appear that Lourdes Gurriel Jr. has taken the mantle of leadoff hitter, and given his season numbers, he has definitely earned it. He is now hitting .312/.365/.425, second on the team in OBP behind Alejandro Kirk.

On the topic of Kirk, he finally put an end to his 0-22 slide with a leadoff single in the 9th inning. Hopefully that hit will help get him back to where he was a couple weeks ago.

Whit Merrifield’s baserunning yesterday has helped endear him to his new team, and the fact that he is 5-14 since coming over probably helps too. Not to mention his confirmation that he’s vaccinated and will be able to go to Toronto when the team returns home later this week.

Orioles’ Lineup

As a group on the season, they’re hitting 236/.306/.390 (96 wRC+) but that number has risen a fair bit since the last time the Jays saw the Orioles. Since that series ended, the Orioles have gone 28-15, hitting .246/.313/.405 (102 wRC+).

Young phenom Adley Rutschman is probably the biggest catalyst of the team’s recent hot streak, as he is hitting .295/.414/.512 (164 wRC+) since the Jays last saw him. His 2.3 fWAR in that span is the 7th highest among all Major League position players, so he has certainly elevated himself to the hype that has surrounded him.

While Rutschman is certainly the star, it isn’t a one man show. The Orioles have been getting good contributions this year from Anthony Santander (122 wRC+), Austin Hays (110 wRC+) and Cedric Mullins (100 wRC+). Jorge Mateo has also turned it up since the Jays last saw the Orioles, as he had just a 60 wRC+ after the series against the Jays, but has put up a 121 wRC+ since.

Yesterday’s Heroes

Cody Bellinger went 3-3 with a pair of home runs, earning himself the Monster Bat award. He was a key offensive piece as his Dodgers finished up the sweep of the visiting Padres with a 4-0 win.

There were a lot of great pitching performances yesterday, as 4 pitchers outdid Kevin Gausman’s 6 shutout innings. The cream of the crop was Triston McKenzie, who went 8 innings against the Astros, holding them to 2 hits and a walk while striking out 8 to take home the Pitcher of the Day award. He also got the win in the 1-0 Guardians’ victory, and since it was so close the whole game, he gets the WPA King trophy as well with a .566 mark.

Find the Link

Find the link between Jorge Mateo and Shed Long Jr.

Stats retrieved from Fangraphs and Baseball Savant