clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Series preview: Cleveland Indians vs. Toronto Blue Jays

New, 9 comments

After splitting a weird 2-game series with the White Sox, the Indians welcome their first non-AL Central opponent of the season to Progressive Field.

Baltimore Orioles v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

The last series was weird. On the one hand, the home opener saw a back and forth game ultimately end in favor of the Indians. The offense put together five runs (the same amount they had scored in the entire series against the Twins), but two of them crossed the plate because of bases loaded walks by the Sox pitching. On the other hand, in the second game of the series, Corey Kluber got blown out and the offense went back to be completely non-existent (with the exception of Carlos Santana and Hanley Ramirez at the very end). So which team will be in Cleveland this weekend? Who knows!

To help us find out, the Blue Jays come to town for a four-game series.

Team in a box

2019 Toronto Blue Jays

Record 3-4
Record 3-4
Runs Scored 23
Runs Allowed 17
Run Differential +6
Streak W1
AVG .202
OBP .266
SLG .350
OPS .616
wRC+ 84
K/9 10.91
BB/9 2.73

The Blue Jays are still struggling as an offense, though not nearly as much as the Indians. Since getting shutout on Opening Day, Toronto has averaged almost 4 runs a game (3.83) while their pitching is allowing fewer than 3 (2.5) in that same time frame. In short, the pitching has been picking up the slack for the hitting. On the other hand, they have scored 5+ runs three times already, so the offense does have the potential to get hot and put up some crooked numbers. The Blue Jays just got their first series win against the Orioles where they won the first and the last game in Toronto.

Projected starters

Thursday, April 4 6:10 p.m. ET: RHP Aaron Sanchez (v. Trevor Bauer)

It’s been a few years since Aaron Sanchez dazzled in 2016 with the ERA title (3.00) and his first All-Star appearance. He was absolutely dominant that season. Unfortunately, injuries hit him pretty hard in 2017, limiting him to just 8 games due to a recurring injury on his middle finger. Those injuries came up again in 2018, but he was able to throw over 100 innings despite the fact. Unfortunately for Sanchez, he hasn’t been the dominant force he once was. But at age 26, there’s still plenty of time for him to recapture some of that magic he saw in 2016. He looked good in his first start of the season against the Detroit Tigers; in that game, Sanchez went 5.0 innings and he allowed zero runs on 3 hits while walking 3 and striking out 6. He succeeds with his devastating sinker (95 mph) and his fourseam fastball (95 mph), but he also can pull out a good change (89 mph) or curve (80 mph) when needed.

Friday, April 5 7:10 p.m. ET: RHP Trent Thornton (v. Shane Bieber)

Trent Thornton, he fifth round pick by the Houston Astros in 2015, made his MLB debut against the Detroit Tigers and he looked fantastic. In fact, he struck out 8 Tigers hitters, which set a franchise record for most strikeouts by a pitcher in their debut. He, like Sanchez, went 5.0 clean innings and only gave up 2 hits and he walked no one. His curve (81 mph) and change (85 mph) are great at missing bats, whereas his fourseam (94 mph) leaves a bit to be desired. He primarily relies on his fastball and his curve (85% of his pitches from his first start).

Saturday, April 6 4:10 p.m. ET: TBD (projected RHP Sean Reid-Foley) (v. Carlos Carrasco)

No one is exactly sure who will pitch for the Blue Jays on Saturday. This rotation spot was meant for Clayton Richard, but he’s been on the IL since the beginning of the month with a right knee injury. Rookie Sean Reid-Foley Richard’s rotation spot the first time through, and it’s looking like he will make the start again on Saturday unless Clay Buchholz, who has been rehabbing an elbow injury, makes significant progress enough to get back with the big league club. At any rate, if Reid-Foley ends up starting, he’ll have to do better than his first game against the Baltimore Orioles. On April 1, Reid-Foley went just 2.0 innings and allowed 5 runs (3 earned) on 4 hits while walking 2 and striking out 3. He’s got a fourseam and a sinker (both 93 mph) along with a slider (84 mph) and curve (82 mph).

Sunday, April 7 1:10 p.m. ET: RHP Marcus Stroman (v. Mike Clevinger)

Marcus Stroman is another Toronto pitcher who has been excellent in the past only to be stalled by injuries. For Stroman, it was a shoulder injury in 2018 that caused his innings to drop to just over 100 (he eclipsed the 200-inning mark in both 2016 and 2017); in those innings, Stroman struggled. Across 102.1 innings, Stroman allowed 63 earned runs while walking 36 and striking out 77 (ERA+ 75). He’s come out of the gate firing this season in the two games he’s started. In his most recent start on April 2 against the Baltimore Orioles, Stroman went 5.2 innings and allowed 2 earned runs on 9 hits while walking 1 and striking out 5. His slider (85 mph) is great at fooling hitters with its two-plane movement, while his cutter (91 mph) can not only cut, but it can sink as well.

Lineup highlights

  • IF Richard Urena: Urena isn’t the every day starter for the Blue Jays at any position, but he’s made his limited at-bats count so far in 2019. He only has 13 PAs on the season to date, but he’s got 6 hits during that time, including a couple of doubles. He can play almost anywhere on the infield, so in addition to giving manager Charlie Montoyo defensive flexibility, he also has the ability to provide an offensive spark.
  • DH Rowdy Tellez: Tellez got a taste of the majors last season and he’s with the club to start the year in 2019. In his limited time with the Blue Jays, all he’s done is smash baseballs left and right. He ended 2018 with 4 home runs in 73 plate appearances; he has 2 already this year in just 17 plate appearances. Small sample size warning, but his .286/.412/.714 slash is looking great, especially since his BABIP is a paltry .200. Tellez can take the field at 1B if needed, but look for him to add some firepower to the Blue Jays lineup.
  • CF Randal Grichuk: Grichuk is an interesting player. He’s got the ability to play center field (although that is his “worst” outfield spot), but his bat plays more as a corner outfielder. The reason is because he can absolutely mash at the plate. He’s averaged 20+ home runs in the last 3 seasons, and he’s already off to a hot start in 2019 with 3 through 7 games.

Storylines

Will Carlos Santana have to carry the entire offense?

Carlos Santana is far and away the best hitter for the Tribe so far in 2019. After him, there’s a steep drop off in terms of offensive production. We knew this would be the case with the absence of Francisco Lindor, but I don’t know if anyone envisioned it being this bad. Hopefully Santana can maintain his .471/.526/.529 slash line (pay no attention to his .500 BABIP), but if he can’t, it sure would be nice to give him some help.

Will Roberto Perez get his first hit of the season?

I don’t know if it’s possible to have a worse offensive season than what Roberto Perez produced in 2018. But so far, Bebo is giving himself a run for his money. He has two walks so far in 2019, but that is the extent of his time spent on the bases. He’s 0-for-11 to start the year. And despite his defense still being fantastic, every at-bat that ends in a trip back to the dugout is fuel for the “why did we trade away Yan Gomes?” contingency of fans.

Can Carlos Carrasco bounce back after a lackluster season debut?

The first trip through the Cleveland rotation was about what we all expected (excellent) with the exception of Carlos Carrasco. Some pointed to Kevin Plawecki, the Tribe’s new backup catcher, as the issue since Cookie had been working with some combination of Yan Gomes and Roberto Perez over the past few seasons. I’d say it had more to do with his pitches finding the middle of the plate against a good Minnesota lineup, myself. But whatever the reason, Carrasco struggled, going just 4.1 innings and allowing 6 earned runs on 10 hits while walking 1 and striking out 4. This will be Carrasco’s first start at home this season, so hopefully the home crowd can give him a boost and we’ll see the Carlos Carrasco we’ve all become accustomed to.

Toronto Blue Jays roster

FanGraphs

Poll

How many games will the Indians win against the Blue Jays?

This poll is closed

  • 7%
    4
    (9 votes)
  • 22%
    3
    (27 votes)
  • 47%
    2
    (57 votes)
  • 17%
    1
    (21 votes)
  • 4%
    0
    (5 votes)
119 votes total Vote Now