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2019 Series Preview #44: Houston Astros @ Toronto Blue Jays

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The Astros (87-48, 1st in AL West) head to the frozen north for a weekend series against the Blue Jays (54-81, 4th in AL East)

MLB: SEP 25 Astros at Blue Jays Photo by Gerry Angus/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Recency Bias

Blue Jays

The Blue Jays will start this series after taking a bit of a beating in the last four, having dropped 8 of their last 11 games to the Dodgers (makes sense), the Braves (that too), and the Mariners (oh dear). That stretch also includes a 6-game losing streak, so there hasn’t been a whole lot to cheer about at the Rogers Centre. Of course it’s hard to get too worked up as this was always meant to be a rebuilding year for Toronto, but I’m sure it’s still pretty hard on a fanbase that was watching their team in the ALCS just three years ago.

Atlanta Braves v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

Of course, part of what makes it a little more bearable for them is the youth movement currently going on in Toronto, with not one, not two, but three pedigreed rookies with fathers who played the game. One of those is Cavan Biggio, son of Hall of Fame Astro Craig Biggio. Biggio the younger’s average and power aren’t quite where he would like them to be, but he has been getting on base at a decent .336 clip in his 76 games. He also has been gaining the reputation as something of a clubhouse leader during that time.

He’s joined by Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr as part of the new generation of players for the Blue Jays, both of whom have certainly been living up to their big-league names. Bichette has had a very good week, having slashed .370/.370/.556 in his past 6 games along with 2 doubles and a homer. He’s doing even better on the year with a 1.027 OPS, though he’s only seen action in 28 games for his entire career.

Guerrero Jr. is the biggest name of the three and he’s also been hot at the plate in recent play, though certainly not the hottest Blue Jay at the plate. Guerrero has gone 9-for-26 along with a double and a homer while driving in 5 during the past two series.

Toronto’s hottest hitter this week has definitely been old friend Teoscar Hernandez, who’s career has been up and down since he was traded to the Jays a few years back. His .250/.368/.563 slash line this week has hardly been indicative of his season, and a big chunk of that comes from back to back games against Seattle earlier in the week. Justin Smoak has also checked in this week as a player punching above his weight when compared to his season numbers, which are more on the average side.

After that the talent really thins out for the Blue Jays as they rank near the bottom of the heap in most categories. Their brightest spot in traditional stats is SLG% with a .425 mark, though that’s only good for 20th in the league.

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Toronto Blue Jays Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

The Blue Jays are currently featuring another former Astro as their closer: Ken Giles. While Giles struggled mightily on his way out of Houston, he has flourished since being sent to Canada, and is sporting a 1.71 ERA in 42 innings. He has also converted 17 of 18 save opportunities this season. Giles is coming back from a bout of elbow inflammation, so the Jays have been avoiding using him in back-to-back games coming into this series.

He’s backed up by Derek Law, who managed to snag 5 saves while Giles was convalescing from his elbow issues. Law hasn’t been anywhere near as good as Giles, as his 4.27 ERA would suggest, but most of that comes from a pretty terrible June. He’s stepped it up while filling in for Giles, except for a really awful outing against the Dodgers.

Unfortunately for Toronto, things don’t really improve all that much so far as the bullpen goes. Jason Adam is probably their best option and seems to be moving into a higher leverage roll, but he’s only seen 10.1 innings so far in 2019. No one else has an ERA below 4.00 for the Blue Jays.

Expect to see Tim Mayza and converted starter Zack Godley at some point as they easily see the most innings out of the pen for the Blue Jays. Sam Gaviglio is also a workhorse, having tossed over 80 innings, but his numbers don’t really strike fear in the hearts of men.

Special mention for former Astros farmhand Buddy Boshers, who has joined the Jays’ bullpen of JAG’s.

Astros

Houston comes to Toronto after riding pretty high all week, winning 6 of their last 7 games. Unfortunately the final one against the Rays featured a rather shaky bullpen performance in a see-saw game that ultimately saw the good guys go down 9-8. They’ll get a chance to shower it off and take it to another AL East team, this time on the much weaker side. The Astros currently sit 9 games over the A’s, but it would be nice to pad that lead a little more so they can wrap up the division and have time to prep for October.

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Houston Astros Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The offense has been ridiculously hot this week even with the loss yesterday, scoring 52 runs over the last 6 games that includes a 15-1 rout against the Rays. The team has also scored at least 5 runs in 9 of its last 10 games. Just like the last time I did one of these previews, almost everyone is producing at the plate.

Bregman is probably leading the team as he continues on one of his signature hot streaks. He’s slapped 14 doubles in the month of August alone, seemingly picking one of the better times to turn it on.

Gurriel is a close second behind A-Breg and is currently riding a 7 game hitting streak. He’s also beat his career total for home runs at 25, and is the third Astros player along with Bregman and Altuve to top their career totals. Alvarez has also continued to be hot even with an 0-for performance in the finale against the Rays. He’s just one homer away from tying Correa for the rookie record for homers.

Michael Brantley also had a good week by the numbers even though he had an 18-game hitting streak snapped. The last couple of games have seen him drop to second in the race for the AL batting crown, but Brantley certainly has the chops to make a run back at the lead.

Gotta have a shout out to both Reddick and Chirinos, both of whom have seen marked improvement at the plate in recent games. Things are looking up for the Astros when the bottom of the order can deliver for the top.

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Houston Astros Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

As for the bullpen, well, it hasn’t been great but it really hasn’t been as bad as some fans seem to think. The only pitchers who did not give up a run this week were Collin McHugh, Joe Biagini, and Will Harris. Harris continues to shine during the 2019 campaign and is probably the Astros’ best reliever at this point.

Osuna had been enjoying a rather successful stretch of games until his last outing. He surrendered two runs during that one, which was a non-save appearance, but still locked down the win for the club.

Rondon, Smith, Peacock, and Sneed all surrendered a single run this week as well, though none of them really looked terrible in their outings. Peacock did end up back on the IL with a shoulder issue after his last outing though, which is what opened the door once more for Sneed to rejoin the club

Unfortunately things were not great this week for Devo, who had a particularly rough outing against the Rays. He seems to go through stretches where he looks to be improving, but then falls apart.

Pitching Match Ups

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Houston Astros Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Game 1: Wade Miley, LHP (13-4, 3.13 ERA) vs Trent Thornton, RHP (4-8, 5.34 ERA)

Miley will make this start after a strong outing against the Angels where the only run he was tagged for was a homer across 5 innings against the Angels. This game allowed Miley to creep into the top five for ERA in the AL, which is also occupied by two other Astros. He continues to be one of the best signings of the offseason and a gritty number 4 starter who can get you through at least five quality innings most nights to give you a chance to win. This will be Miley’s first start against Toronto since 2017 when he was in their division as a member of the Orioles.

He’ll face off against Trent Thornton, who was in the Astros’ system until this past offseason when he was sent to Toronto in exchange for Aledmys Diaz. Thornton has had some ups and downs this season as he has worked on consistency during his time with the Blue Jays. He’s coming off an outing where he only made it 4 innings, giving up 4 runs, 3 earned, and only striking out 4. This was after a a couple of good outings, but Thornton has real issues stringing those together. He did face his old club earlier this year and had 6.2 dominant, shutout innings during that game.

Game 2: Framber Valdez, LHP (4-6, 5.14 ERA) vs Clay Buchholz, RHP (0-3, 5.87 ERA)

Valdez will get another crack at the rotation after a game where he looked like he was going to fall apart early against the Angels, but ultimately went 6 strong innings. Framber has bounced up and down from the minors a couple of times this season and always looks really good in AAA, but tends to wilt somewhat at the MLB level. Still, the Astros are hoping he can find some consistency of his own and help anchor the rotation for the rest of the season at least. This will be his second career start against Toronto, with his first coming in a 6 inning, 2-run affair back in June.

The Blue Jays will counter with Clay Buchholz, who is making his second start after some time on the IL with a shoulder injury. He did well in his first game back, tossing 6 innings of 2-run ball, but that did come against the Mariners, so there’s that. He was mostly awful to start the season before he was injured, only having 1 game where he went 6 innings while giving up less than 3 runs during that time. Buchholz had a successful 2018 with the Diamondbacks as he was trying to find his dominant form once again, but so far 2019 has mostly been a bust for him. This will be his first time facing the Astros since 2016 when he was still a member of the Red Sox, his original team.

Game 3: Justin Verlander, RHP (16-5, 2.69 ERA) vs TBD

Verlander had his string of double-digit strikeout games snapped at 7 after he was tossed from his last game due to arguing with an umpire. Even though he went 5.1 innings, he was still able to shutout the Rays and lower his ERA to keep a hold on the AL lead for that category. He also lowered his WHIP to a ridiculous 0.80 on the year. Verlander hasn’t walked a batter in his last three starts and s now sitting at 16 wins for the ninth time, which leads all active pitchers. At this point he’s easily the Cy Young front runner, though Cole continues to give him a run for his money. This will be his first start against Toronto since June of last year.

The Blue Jays have yet to announce who could get the start on Sunday. Seeing as it’s the first day of September, there’s a chance they may give the ball to one of their minor league pitchers once rosters expand. Unfortunately we probably won’t have an idea at least until Saturday, and may not even know their decision until the morning of the game.

Fun Fact

For Your Viewing and Listening Pleasure

Game 1: Friday, August 30th @ 6:07 pm CDT
Listen: Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM / Blue Jays - SN590
Watch: Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / Blue Jays - SNET, TVA Sports

Game 2: Saturday, August 31st @ 2:07 pm CDT
Listen: Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM / Blue Jays - SN590
Watch: Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / Blue Jays - SNET, TVA Sports

Game 3: Sunday, September 1st @ 12:07 pm CDT
Listen: Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM / Blue Jays - SN590
Watch: Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / Blue Jays - SNET, TVA Sports, OMNI

Poll

Who wins this series?

This poll is closed

  • 50%
    Astros Sweep 3-0
    (58 votes)
  • 47%
    Astros Win 2-1
    (55 votes)
  • 2%
    Blue Jays Win 2-1
    (3 votes)
  • 0%
    Blue Jays Sweep 3-0
    (0 votes)
116 votes total Vote Now