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Series Preview: Rays head to Canada

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Toronto Blue Jays Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports

The Rays head north of the border to take on the Blue Jays. The Blue Jays are coming off a series loss to the Royals and the Rays have won seven of their last eleven. The Blue Jays are scuffling offensively in the second half, but could get back on track at any time.

Matchups:

Monday: Jake Odorizzi vs R.A. Dickey

Tuesday: Drew Smyly vs Marco Estrada

Wednesday: Blake Snell vs J.A. Happ

The Blue Jays strength has been their starting rotation.

Coming into the season who would have expected the strength of the Blue Jays to lie in their rotation. They lead the American League with a 3.64 ERA and fourth in the majors. The Blue Jays 4.07 FIP is fourth in the American League and twelfth in the majors. The Rays lead the American League with a 3.96 FIP.

R.A. Dickey has been a tick above replacement level with a 4.49 ERA and 5.30 FIP. FIP might not do a great job evaluating a knuckle baller, but his 0.9 RA9 WAR is below average. I’m really glad they aren’t throwing out Noah Syndergaard in his place. Dickey’s last start was strong as he threw seven innings of one run baseball. The three previous outings weren’t pretty as he allowed 5+ runs per outing. If his knuckle ball is on the Rays are likely to struggle, but if he’s not feeling it the Rays offense could look to launch.

Marco Estrada has been one of the best signings of the off season. His 2/$26MM pact is looking like a steal as he’s continuing to beat FIP estimators. He’s having a better season this year than during his breakout last year. He’s put up a 2.92 ERA and 3.81 FIP. If he continues to be a FIP beater he’ll be a strong front of the rotation arm for the Blue Jays.

J.A. Happ is making the Blue Jays front office look smart with their 3/$36MM deal they struck this off season. He’s posted a 3.09 ERA and 3.83 FIP. This year is a step forward from his 2015 breakout campaign. Happ doesn’t have a history of beating his FIP, but some of that can be attributed to a really good defense behind him that ranks second in UZR and sixth in DRS. Happ is a left handed pitcher that hasn’t shown much of a platoon split this year. Not having to face Brandon Guyer and Steve Pearce will definitely be a negative for the Rays who have continued to demolish left handed pitchers this season.

The Blue Jays bullpen has relied heavily on Roberto Osuna.

The Blue Jays bullpen reminds me a lot of the Rays where they rely on their closer to do the heavy lifting. They rank 20th in ERA at 3.98 and 14th with a 3.93 FIP. The big difference has been the front end of their bullpen hasn’t been quite as bad, but it’s close.

Roberto Osuna has posted a 1.79 ERA and 2.32 FIP. He’s put up a huge 31.3% strikeout rate and limited walks to just 5.6% of batters faced. Left handed batters have found much more success as they have put up a .213/.295/.403 line and .287 wOBA.

Joe Bagiani has been a big surprise in the bullpen. He was a rule 5 selection in December of 2015 out of the San Francisco Giants organization. Bagiani has thrown 44.2 innings with a 2.22 ERA and 2.28 FIP. He hasn’t allowed a homer yet, so his numbers should be less shiny. He’s struck out 20.4% of batters and walked 6.1% of batters faced. Left handed batters have hit him well. He’s given up a .270/.346/.333 line. He’s done a great job of limiting extra base hits as he’s allowed a .063 ISO.

Jason Grilli was picked up earlier in the season from the Atlanta Braves. He has been really good for the Blue Jays. He has allowed a 2.08 ERA and 3.22 FIP over 21.2 innings. He’s struck out 39.0% and walked 9.8% of batters faced. Left handers have given Grilli a problem this year as he has walked 19.7% of batters leading to a .380 OBP.

Blue Jays offense were expected to carry the team but that hasn’t played out.

The Blue Jays bats have really struggled since returning from the all-star break. They have only managed to put up a .216/.294/.386 line and 81 wRC+.

Devon Travis has been their best bat since the break as he’s hitting .351/.390/.584 and 162 wRC+. Josh Donaldson has been good, but not great as he’s hit .266/.363/.481 and 128 wRC+. Edwin Encarnacion has put up seven homers and hit .235/.326/.531 and 126 wRC+. Jose Bautista has struggled as he’s hitting .160/.300/.360 and 81 wRC+.

The Blue Jays have guys that have made a career off of demolishing left handed pitchers, but this year they have been rather lackluster. They’re hitting .253/.330/.427 and 102 wRC+.

Josh Donaldson has done his part as he’s crushed lefties to a 171 wRC+. Michael Saunders has really done well, especially against Drew Smyly, as he’s hit for a 163 wRC+ against lefties. Edwin Encarnacion is the only other major bat this year as he’s hit for 144 wRC+. Jose Bautista has been below average at 96 wRC+.

Josh Donaldson once against leads the team against right handers with a 159 wRC+. Devon Travis has raked since returning from injury with a 148 wRC+. Edwin Encarnacion (132 wRC+), Michael Saunders (120 wRC+), Jose Bautista (118 wRC+), and Troy Tulowtizki (104 wRC+) have been major contributors against right handers.

Even though they have struggled since returning from the all-star break they can break out at any moment and put a crooked number on the board.

Blake Snell faces his biggest challenge to date.

Blake Snell will face off against a lineup that has a history of punishing left handed pitchers. This will be his biggest test at the major league level. He’s pitched extremely well and he will go through some struggles, but if he’s able to shut down this lineup that would be great moving forward.

Blue Jays are currently one game behind the Orioles for the lead in the American League East. The Rays are looking to next year and should look to get some of the bottom of their roster more playing time to see who they can count on moving forward. While winning isn’t the number one priority right now it is still nice to see them put some wins on the board.