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Game #30 Preview: Kikuchi vs Houck

Blue Jays (18-11) vs Red Sox (16-14)

Toronto Blue Jays v Boston Red Sox Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

The Blue Jays continue their four game set at Fenway Park, playing the second game of the series against the Red Sox this evening as they look to put an end to their little two game slide. First pitch tonight is at 7:10 ET.

Blue Jays’ Starter

Yusei Kikuchi goes for the Jays, making his sixth start of the season. He comes into play with a 4-0 record and the second lowest ERA among Jays’ starters at an even 3.00 over his 27 innings. His FIP sits all the way up at 4.87, thanks to the 6 home runs he has given up thus far. The good thing is that outside of the home runs, he is doing a fantastic job scattering the hits, limiting free baserunners and pitching out of jams.

Only 1 of the 9 runs he has allowed this year have come via a non-home run, and it came in on a 2-out pop up to left field that Daulton Varsho just couldn’t find in the sun when the team was down in Anaheim. Outside of that, all his other runs allowed came on home runs, whether it was that rough outing in Anaheim with 3 home runs allowed, or his other four starts where he allowed a solo home run or nothing at all.

Red Sox’ Starter

Young right hander Tanner Houck gets the start for the Red Sox, also making his sixth start of the year. After spending a good chunk of last year in the Sox’ bullpen before moving to the rotation, it would appear that the intention is for Houck to be a mainstay in the rotation for a while. He is pitching well enough to justify that at the moment too, coming into play today with a 3-1 record and 4.50 ERA. A bit of context is important when looking at ERAs as well, as last year the league average ERA was 3.98, while this year it up nearly .4 runs to 4.37 in the early going.

Blue Jays’ Lineup

George Springer was a late scratch prior to yesterday’s game with a virus of some kind. It stands to reason that he probably is out today as well, but he could be good enough for a DH role.

Bo Bichette had another 5 hits yesterday, the second time in less than a month and the third time in his career. That’s already more than any other Blue Jay in the history of the team. Bichette is back on top of the Major League hits leaderboard with 43 over Ronald Acuña Jr.’s 41, and 4 ahead of teammate Matt Chapman for the AL lead.

Danny Jansen is likely to be back behind the plate today catching Kikuchi. That opens the possibility of Alejandro Kirk getting the start at DH, despite the Jays’ facing another right hander and Brandon Belt lining up to start. But after a brief stretch where he had three multi-hit games in the span of 2 weeks, Belt is back in an 0-14 slump, and shouldn’t be pushing other people out of the lineup at this time.

Red Sox’ Lineup

The Red Sox flexed their muscles a bit yesterday, hitting a trio of home runs and a pair of doubles. They’re second in the Majors in extra base hits (obviously behind the Rays) thus far, and have a pretty solid hitting core.

With the left handed Kikuchi on the mound for the Jays, the Red Sox will undoubtedly swap out a few of their lefty bats from yesterday. After trotting out 7 lefties to face José Berríos, expect to see right handed bats Connor Wong, Christian Arroyo and Rob Refsnyder in the lineup tonight.

The rise of Alex Verdugo this year has to be a bright spot for Red Sox’ fans. He has already accumulated about as much WAR through 30 games (1.3) as he did in 152 games last year, and is finally showing the high ceiling they were hoping for when he came back as one of the key pieces in the trade that sent out Mookie Betts.

Former top prospect Jarren Duran is also off to a great start to the season, despite starting the season in AAA. After struggling through his first couple seasons, both at the plate and especially in the field (hello inside the park grand slam), Duran comes into play today with a 197 wRC+ and a +1 in each of DRS, UZR and OAA on defense over his 2 weeks on the roster.

Yesterday’s Heroes

The Braves and Mets played a double header yesterday, and Sean Murphy was the offensive standout. Over the two games, he went 4-7 with a pair of home runs, driving in 6 runs to take home the Monster Bat award. The two teams ultimately split the double header, with the Braves taking the first game 9-8 while the Mets bounced back in the night cap with a 5-3 win.

Both of Murphy’s home runs and all 6 RBI came in the first game, and were pretty consequential to the Braves’ win. As a result, he is also the WPA King, with a combined .495 mark on the day, including .425 in that first game.

Yankees’ domestic abuser Domingo Germán gets the Pitcher of the Day award, thanks to 8.1 strong innings where he ultimately surrendered 1 run on just 2 hits and a walk while striking out 6. He left after 81 pitches and giving up a 1 out single. After he was removed, the sequence went error, single, single with error (to tie the game), walk, strikeout, walk to force in a run, and then they finally got out of the inning. But the damage was done, the Guardians held on to beat the Yankees 3-2, and Germán’s strong start went for naught.

Find the Link

Find the link between Tanner Houck, Michael Papierski and Jake Latz.

Stats retrieved from Fangraphs and Baseball Savant