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2022 Series Preview 5: Toronto Blue Jays @ Houston Astros

The Astros (6-6, 4th in the AL West) host the Blue Jays (8-5, 1st in the AL East) to try to leave struggles behind.

Houston Astros v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Kevin Hoffman/Getty Images

The Narrative

The Blue Jays come to Minute Maid Park after winning four of their last six games, including two out of three in Boston as part of a good combination of pitching and hitting. They have an 8-5 record and are in first place in the tough AL West, above the Yankees and Rays. In their last four games, their pitching has allowed only eight runs (2.0 per game).

Even though they lost Cy Young winner Robbie Ray to the Mariners, the Blue Jays brought Kevin Gausman and Yusei Kikuchi aboard to their pitching staff. On the offensive side, Matt Chapman was added to an already powerful, dangerous lineup that should be the force of the team going forward in 2022. Toronto fell short last campaign and did not advance to the postseason despite going 91-71. This could be their year.


The Offense

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. led the team last year and it hasn’t been any different during the first weeks of the 2022 regular season. The 23-year-old phenom is slashing .304/.377/.674 with five homers and 11 runs batted in, carrying an offense that is tied in third place in the American League for hits (110) and is tied for most home runs in the MLB (16) along with the Braves and the Angels.

Even with Teoscar Hernández on the injured list, the Astros’ pitching will have to be very careful with Toronto’s lineup. The group formed by Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette –who’s off to a slow start—, Chapman, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., and former Astro George Springer is as dangerous as it gets.

At the same time, the Blue Jays are carrying hot bats, Houston owns the worst batting average in the American League, even under the infamous Mendoza Line (.199). Their OPS isn’t good either (.637) and they rank 29th in hits in the young circuit (78).


The Pitching

The Blue Jays have an interesting rotation with high upside and are led by Gausman, José Berríos, and youngster Alek Manoah, a trio that’s followed by Hyun Jin Ryu and Kikuchi. Of the four hurlers (Ryu’s on the injured list), all of them have promising starts to the season, even Berríos, who’s been better after a rough beginning against Texas on April 8.

Ironically, the Blue Jays are in a good position thanks primarily to their pitching as they haven’t allowed more than four runs in nine of their last 10 games. Even though they have only one shutout, their pitching has limited rivals to two or fewer runs in five games, including their last three against the Red Sox.

Toronto’s bullpen has been one of the best as well. Despite having surrendered six home runs, their relievers rank second in WHIP (0.97) and opponent batting average (.191) in the American League. All these numbers make me think that, with the Astros’ offense struggling, it could be a tough series for Houston.


The Starters

Game 1: Ross Stripling (RHP, 0-0, 3.00 ERA, 3 K’s) vs Justin Verlander (RHP, 1-1, 0.69 ERA, 15 K’s)

Basically, Stripling is in the rotation in place of Hyun Jin Ryu and will make his second start of the young campaign. The perennial swingman doesn’t usually go long in games, so this could be a short outing for him like the one he had against the Athletics on April 15, when he threw four scoreless innings. Regarding Verlander, the living legend stymied the Mariners on the 16th with eight zeroes, three hits, and eight strikeouts.

Game 2: Alek Manoah (RHP, 2-0, 1.50 ERA, 13 K’s) vs José Urquidy (RHP, 1-1, 7.00 ERA, 4 K’s)

Manoah has excelled since he came to the Big Leagues and he’s been great to start 2022 as well. In his two appearances so far, the 24-year-old threw six innings and both were quality starts (vs Yankees and Athletics). However, his 4.5 BB/9 might be a concerning aspect of his game and the Astros could take advantage of that. Urquidy had a nightmare outing against Seattle on April 17 with six earned runs over four frames.

Game 3: Yusei Kikuchi (LHP, 0-1, 3.24 ERA, 5 K’s) vs Luis García (RHP, 1-0, 2.79 ERA, 8 K’s)

Coming off his best season in the MLB, Kikuchi wasn’t sharp in his first start (Yankees) but did pitch well in his second time on the mound (Red Sox). Kikuchi’s always had struggles while facing the Astros, with a 1-5 career record and a 6.00 ERA in 11 starts. Those numbers include 10 home runs allowed. García’s been pretty good in his two outings so far and he went 5 2/3 innings four days ago to beat the Angels.


Poll

Who wins this series

This poll is closed

  • 6%
    Astros sweep
    (13 votes)
  • 32%
    Astros win 2-1
    (66 votes)
  • 40%
    Blue Jays win 2-1
    (82 votes)
  • 20%
    Blue Jays sweep
    (42 votes)
203 votes total Vote Now

For Your Viewing and Listening Pleasure

Game 1: Friday, April 22nd @ 7:10 pm CDT

Listen: Blue Jays – SN590 / Astros – KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, KTRH 740 AM/99.1 FM HD-2, TUDN 93.3 / KLAT 1010

Watch: Blue Jays – SNET, SNET-1 / Astros – ATT SportsNet-SW

Game 2: Saturday, April 23rd @ 3:10 pm CDT

Listen: Blue Jays – SN590 / Astros – KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, TUDN 93.3 / KLAT 1010

Watch: Blue Jays – SNET, SNET-1 / Astros – ATT SportsNet-SW

Game 3: Sunday, April 24th @ 1:10 pm CDT

Listen: Blue Jays – SN590 / Astros – KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, TUDN 93.3 / KLAT 1010

Watch: Blue Jays – SNET, SNET-1 / Astros – ATT SportsNet-SW