Let the games resume! The last time the Rays took on the Toronto Blue Jays the Jays had arrived in St. Pete winners of 11 games in a row and had charged back to 2-games over .500 at 38-36. The Rays snapped the win streak and proceeded to take 2 out of 3 and the Jays needed a spectacular performance by R.A. Dickey to avoid the sweep.
Since leaving St.Pete the Jays have struggled and have lost 10 of their final 16 games heading in to the break and as the second half becomes they have been one of the biggest disappointments in baseball with a record of 45-49. Whether the Jays see themselves as buyers or sellers may be clearly defined over the next 7 to 10 days. Their second half begins with a 10 game home stand with 3 against the Rays, 3 against the Dodgers and 4 against the Houston Astros. They enter the weekend 11.5 games out of first place in the AL East and 8.5 behind in the Wild Card.
This time it's the Rays who are the hot team as the series opens. They are winners of 10 of their last 11, 14 of 16, and 17 of their last 21. Since May 8th they are a major league best 40-23. The Rays will look to continue their winning ways on what is a very important 10-game 3-city road trip within the AL East. After the weekend series against the Jays the Rays will head to Fenway Park for a 4-game series with the Red Sox before finishing with a 3-game weekend series in New York against the Yankees.
The pitching matchups for the weekend are David Price (3-5, 3.94 ERA) vs Esmil Rogers (3-4, 3.64 ERA) on Friday at 7:07 p.m. Jeremy Hellickson (8-3, 4.67 ERA) vs Mark Buehrle (5-6, 4.89 ERA) on Saturday at 1:07 p.m. and Chris Archer (4-3, 2.96 ERA) vs R.A. Dickey (8-10, 4.69 ERA) Sunday at 1:07 p.m.
The Blue Jays offense has been in the middle of the road over the past 30 days:
Hot and Cold:
Over the past 30 days Colby Rasmus has been their best hitter, Edwin Encarnacion has been hitting home runs, and Rajai Davis has been stealing bases. Mark DeRosa and Emilio Bonifacio have both struggled and one has to wonder if Mark DeRosa is nearing the end of the line.
The Jays bullpen is comprised of 8 pitchers. Closer Casey Janssen, Steve Delabar, Aaron Loup, Darren Oliver (LHP), Neil Wagner, Juan Perez (LHP), Brett Cecil (LHP), and Dustin McGowan.
The Jays bullpen has been the best in baseball over the last month posting an ERA of 2.15 (FIP of 2.81) covering 83.2 innings of work.
Esmil Rogers began the season in the Blue Jays bullpen and has been stretched out to a starter with positive results. Overall as a starter he has made 8 starts and is 2-2 with a 3.27 ERA and has delivered 44 innings striking out 35, walking 14, and only allowing 4 home runs.
Over his last 5 starts he has faced Colorado, Tampa Bay, Boston, Detroit, and Cleveland and is 1-2 with a 4.25 ERA in those starts. He has worked 29.1 innings. He has struck out 24 batters while walking 10 and has given up 3 home runs (all to Rays).
Back on June 25th he faced the Rays and allowed 4R/ER on 7 hits walking 3 and striking out 2 in a 4-1 Rays victory. He allowed back to back to back home runs to James Loney, Wil Myers, and Sam Fuld in the 2nd inning and a single run in the 3rd before settling down and holding the Rays to just 2 hits over his final 3.2 innings of work.
Overall Mark Buehrle has made 19 starts and posted a 5-6 record with a 4.89 ERA. He has worked 116 innings and has been what we expected. He doesn't walk many (2.3 BB/9), strike out a lot (6 K/9), and is susceptible to the gopher ball already yielding 18 in his 116 innings of work.
Over his last 5 starts he has faced Colorado, Tampa Bay, Boston, Minnesota, and Baltimore and has posted a 2-2 record with a 5.59 ERA. He last faced the Rays on June 25th and went 5 innings allowing 4R/ER on 8 hits walking 4 and striking out 2.
This will be the fourth start against the Rays this season. In his previous 3 starts he 0-1 with a 6.50 ERA. He has worked 18 innings allowed 13R/12ER on 21 hits striking out 13 and walking 8 (one intentional).
Overall R.A. Dickey has had an inconsistent year posting a record of 8-10 with a 4.69 ERA. Control has been the big difference in comparing his Cy Young season from a year ago to 2013. His strike out rate has dropped from 8.9 K/9 in 2012 to 6.1 K/9 in 2013 and his walk rate has increased from 2.1 BB/9 in 2012 to 3.3 BB/9 in 2013. The other big issue he has had in 2013 is the home run ball. Last year he allowed 24 home runs while pitching a league leading 233.2 innings. This year in just 128.2 innings of work he has allowed 20 home runs.
Over his last 5 starts he has faced Baltimore, Tampa Bay, Detroit, Minnesota, and Cleveland and has posted a record of 2-2 with a 4.11 ERA. He has worked 35 innings allowing 17R/16ER on 28 hits (including 6 home runs) while striking out 25 and walking 9.
There is something about the Rays and Tropicana Field that brings out the best in Dickey. He last faced the Rays on June 26th and made quick work of the Rays working a complete game allowing just 2 hits striking out 6 and walking 1. He only needed 93 pitches to toss the complete game shutout as the Jays avoid a series sweep winning the final game 3-0.
This will be the 4th time he faces the Rays this season. In the previous 3 outings he has a 2-0 record with a 1.57 ERA. He has worked 23 innings allowing 6R/4ER on 11 hits while striking out 16 and walking 10.