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2021 Series Preview: Toronto Blue Jays @ Houston Astros

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The Astros (16-15, 3rd in AL West) return home to take on the Blue Jays (16-14, 3rd in AL East) in a three game set

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Houston Astros Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

The Narrative

The Blue Jays arrive in town in kind of a weird spot. The team did a lot of work in the offseason to improve themselves and possibly compete in the AL East, which is not an easy feat considering the competition.

They made big splashes by picking up veteran names during the offseason, such as George Springer and Marcus Semien, and add to the bevy of young names in their clubhouse. The team also picked up Kirby Yates and Steven Matz to help improve the pitching. However, injuries have mounted for the team and blunted their momentum somewhat in the early goings.

At the same time, the Jays remain a team without a real home. Thanks to COVID restrictions they cannot freely travel between the US and Canada just yet, so have had to settle for playing in Tampa. Next month they’ll be moving back to Buffalo to play in the AAA stadium there so at least they’ll be closer to home, but the team hasn’t played in front of a Toronto crowd since 2019.

Even after all the upgrades and hoping for breakouts from their young stars, the Blue Jays have an offense that is mostly just hovering around league average right now. They can mash though and the Jays currently tied for 4th with 4 other teams at 41 homers. They also don’t strike out a whole lot, though they are nowhere near as proficient as the Astros in that regard.

Meanwhile, the Jays’ bullpen has been exactly what you want so far this season. They have a league best group ERA of 2.40 and and excellent WHIP (1.15) and BAA (.207). After that they land solidly in the top ten for most other pitching stats. However, while the relief arms have been steady in limiting damage so far, some of the underlying numbers suggest that they’re not quite as good as their ERA suggests. But I would still expect the Astros to have at least some trouble against this bullpen.

The Blue Jays are the definition of a young, hungry team. Though they’re not exactly expected to storm their division this season, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that they will be playing some October baseball this year. It would be quite the turnaround for the team, who went from division winners to cellar dwellers and then back to contenders in just 6 years.

Quick Notes

Spring(er) has not Sprung(er?): George Springer has struggled to stay healthy this season after signing a big boy contract with Toronto over the winter. He did get to play in a few games and already popped a couple of homers, but went back on the IL recently and will not be on the field for this series. I’m sure we’ll still get to see a nice little tribute video for George.

The Kid Cometh: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (.330.465.592) has been cash money in the early goings of 2021. In addition to leading the Jays in all stats on his slash line, he is also first or tied for it when it comes to walks (23), home runs (7), doubles (6), and hits (34).

Coming in hot(ish): The Blue Jays are 9-5 in their last 5 series and haven’t lost one since April 18th. They just split a 4-game series with the A’s, and slapped them around for 10 runs in yesterday’s game.

Out of the frying pan: This will be the second consecutive series that the Astros face a bullpen with the league’s best ERA at the start of the first game.

Camel Vibes: It’s a committee in the back end of the bullpen as the Blue Jays saw their presumptive closer, Kirby Yates, hit the IL in Spring Training before having TJS. Since then, four separate pitchers have split duties to garner the 7 saves tallied by the Jays so far. Rafael Dolis has been seen the most work with 3 saves on his ledger, but Julian Merryweather, Anthony Castro, and Tommy Milone have each tallied at least one as well.

Starters

Ross Stripling (RHP, 0-1, 6.39 ERA, 14 K’s) is the first on the mound for the Jays, and the former Dodger has struggled since coming to Toronto. Stripling has already been to the IL once this season so has only pitched 12.2 innings, during which he has given up 9 runs. Stripling has also talked in the past about how he wouldn’t mind plunking an Astro “in the right time and place” so we’ll see how that shakes out tonight.

Steven Matz (LHP, 4-2, 4.78 ERA, 33 K’s) got off to a rather impressive start this season, earning himself a 2.31 ERA through his first four starts. However, his last two starts have not gone nearly as well as he was hammered for 11 runs in 8.2 IP against the A’s and Nationals. Matz is a pitcher who has never quite lived up to his potential so we’ll have to see if he can make an adjustment in this game or continues to spiral.

The Jays have not announced who will be the starter for this game. Anthony Kay (LHP, 0-2, 9.82 ERA, 7 K’s) got the ball at this spot in the rotation the last time around, but he’s also been a dumpster fire to start the season. The Jays are looking for a young arm to step up and claim this spot in the rotation but, so far, it has yet to happen. Kay might make this start if they think he has potential, but I don’t see it and they may just as easily decide to audition someone else.

For Your Viewing and Listening Pleasure

Game 1: Friday, May 7th @ 7:10 pm CDT
Listen: Blue Jays - SN590 / Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, KLAT 1010, KTRH 740 AM/99.1 FM HD-2
Watch: Blue Jays - SNET, SNET-1 / Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW

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Game 2: Saturday, May 8th @ 6:10 pm CDT
Listen: Blue Jays - SN590 / Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, KLAT 1010
Watch: Blue Jays - SNET-1 / Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW+

Game 3: Sunday, May 9th @ 1:10 pm CDT
Listen: Blue Jays - SN590 / Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, KLAT 1010
Watch: Blue Jays - SNET / Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW

Poll

Who wins this series?

This poll is closed

  • 23%
    Astros Sweep 3-0
    (31 votes)
  • 63%
    Astros Win 2-1
    (85 votes)
  • 8%
    Blue Jays Win 2-1
    (12 votes)
  • 4%
    Blue Jays Sweep 3-0
    (6 votes)
134 votes total Vote Now