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2021 Series Preview: Houston Astros @ Toronto Blue Jays

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The Astros (31-25, 2nd in AL West) hit the road for nine games, starting with three against the Blue Jays (29-25, 4th in AL East)

MLB: Houston Astros at Toronto Blue Jays Gerry Angus-USA TODAY Sports

The Narrative

The Blue Jays are on schedule to become a force in what is looking more and more like the most competitive division in baseball. Though they are in 4th and currently sit five games back in the East, the team is still four games over .500 and one hot streak away from surging back to the top of the standings. Professional MLB prognosticators don’t really give them much of a shot at making that happen all the way to the finish line in 2021, but it’s hardly outside the realm of possibility.

But the fact of the matter is that Toronto does have the offensive tools to compete this season, as shown by their league-leading .769 team OPS. The Jays have actually risen to the top of a number of offensive categories in the league, partially thanks to the Astros shutting down Boston this week.

Toronto is currently slashing .259/.325/.444 as a team and are second in the league in homers with 81 bombs. Now, to be fair, a significant amount of those numbers comes from Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who is currently one of the best players in the league. Still, there’s enough talent in other parts of the lineup that it’s not all just him.

Pitching has probably been the biggest factor holding the Jays back so far this season. Toronto’s arms have been mediocre as a staff, featuring a 3.87 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, and .236 BAA in 467.1 IP so far this season. Those aren’t bottom feeder stats or anything, but they don’t crack the top ten in any of those categories.

While not exactly world beaters, the bullpen has been slightly better as a whole than the starters. Relievers for the Jays have an ERA almost half a run lower than the starters. They also have walked a ton of guys (101), but make up for it with a rather healthy strikeout total (225).

Toronto is a young team with an eye more towards the future rather than the present. While there are some veterans in the lineup (I miss you, George!), Toronto’s core is made up of young players with a surprising number of baseball pedigrees for a single team. Astros pitching will need to continue to step up if Houston is expecting to hold those youngsters down over the next three games.

Quick Notes

Upward Swing: The Blue Jays come into this series pretty hot, having won 6 of their last 8 games and three straight series. That did come on the heels of a 6 game losing streak though, which is the main reason they’re still just 4th the East at the moment.

Return of the Ma(r)c: Marcus Semien (.301/.372/.546) went on an absolute tear in the month of May, taking home AL Player of the Month honors thanks to a .368 average and 1.130 OPS across 28 games. This is exactly what Semien and the Jays were hoping for when they signed him to a one-year deal on a make-good contract.

Junior in Name Only: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (.335.440.665) has been an absolute monster at the plate so far this season. His 1.105 OPS and 17 home runs both currently lead or are tied for the lead in MLB among qualified players. He also has 33 walks (5 intentional) versus just 34 strikeouts in 232 PA, so an impressive amount of plate discipline for the young slugger.

Springer Dingerless: Astros fans will miss seeing George Springer again this series as he continues to recover from a quadriceps injury. Reports indicate that he does seem to be nearing a rehab assignment though, but there is no timetable for that.

Always be Closing: Toronto still doesn’t have a clear picture of the back end of its bullpen, with 9 separate pitchers taking a shot at saves this season. Rafael Dolis and Jordan Romano have each had 4 save opportunities, more than anyone else, so they would seem to be the favorites in the 9th. Romano in particular has been good for the Jays so far this season, turning in a 1.83 ERA in 19.2 IP.

Pitching Matchups

Game 1: Zack Greinke (RHP, 5-2, 3.67 ERA, 57 K’s) vs Hyun Jin Ryu (LHP, 5-2, 2.62 ERA, 58 K’s)

Hyun Jin Ryu has been the Ace of the Toronto staff in 2021 and has turned in quality starts in half of his 10 games so far. He’s only given up more than 2 runs twice this season and regularly pitches deep into games. Though he only went 5 innings in his last start, Ryu has been absolutely locked in during his last 4 games, giving up just 5 runs in 25.2 IP.

Game 2: Jose Urquidy (RHP, 4-2, 3.02 ERA, 42 K’s) vs Ross Stripling (RHP, 1-3, 5.11 ERA, 39 K’s)

Ross Stripling gets the ball in Game 2 and is in the midst of trying to claw his way back from an absolutely disastrous April. He has dropped his ERA more than two complete runs after beginning May with a 7.20 mark. That’s mostly thanks to his two most recent starts where he surrendered just one run across 12 IP. It remains to be seen if he can continue that success.

Game 3: Luis Garcia (RHP, 4-3, 2.89 ERA, 60 K’s) vs Steven Matz (LHP, 6-2, 4.22 ERA, 64 K’s)

Steven Matz keeps showing flashes of brilliance on the mound before regressing to a back-end starter. In his last 4 starts he has given up 1, 5, 0, and then 4 runs, respectively. He’ll usually go at least 5 innings, only failing to do so once in 11 starts, but has pitched more than 6 just twice.

For Your Viewing and Listening Pleasure

Game 1: Friday, June 4th @ 6:07 pm CDT
Listen: Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, KLAT 1010 / Blue Jays - SN590
Watch: Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / Blue Jays - SNET-1

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Game 2: Saturday, June 5th @ 2:07 pm CDT
Listen: Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, KLAT 1010 / Blue Jays - SN590
Watch: Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / Blue Jays - SNET

Game 3: Sunday, June 6th @ 12:07 pm CDT
Listen: Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, KLAT 1010 / Blue Jays - SN590
Watch: Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / Blue Jays - SNET

Poll

Who wins this series?

This poll is closed

  • 19%
    Astros Sweep 3-0
    (22 votes)
  • 51%
    Astros Win 2-1
    (57 votes)
  • 21%
    Blue Jays Win 2-1
    (24 votes)
  • 7%
    Blue Jays Sweep 3-0
    (8 votes)
111 votes total Vote Now