Blood In the Water (Series Preview: Toronto Blue Jays (77-62) vs. Baltimore Orioles (45-94))

I love it when a season finally comes together.

After last Thursday's game against the Orioles (coincidentally, this weekend’s opponents), the Jays were 5 back of Boston and 6.5 back of the Yankees. Seven days later, they are now 1.5 back of Boston and 0.5 back of the Yankees. Momentum is a difficult thing to quantify because it is literally not a material concept, but look at that graph above and try to tell me it doesn’t exist in some way, no matter how small.

Remember the last few posts when I’ve been saying that the Jays’ destiny isn’t entirely in their own hands anymore? I suppose in a certain way I’ve been proven so right that it doesn’t really apply anymore. The Jays have gone above and beyond what they had to do, winning eight straight, including a three-game sweep of the Oakland Athletics and a four-game sweep of the Yankees in the Bronx. I would go so far as to describe that series as “paradigm-shifting” within the American League Wild Card Race, as both the Yankees and the Boston Red Sox are in various stages of eating shit and dying.

I feel no desire to point out any negatives in the series because there really aren’t any real negatives. I mean sure, Bo Bichette didn’t have the best series, but his leadoff home run on Thursday off Néstor Cortes Jr. assuaged a lot of potential concerns. I’m not sure what Corey Dickerson was doing in the leadoff spot when Alejandro Kirk was RIGHT THERE, Nate Pearson had a shaky outing on Thursday, and looking at Brett Gardner for any extended amount of time is enough to send me into an incoherent rage and make me claw my eyes out. But all that is so, so minuscule compared to the immense joy that this eight-game streak has brought. After what’s been simultaneously one of the most exciting and frustrating seasons in Blue Jays history, everything finally seems to be falling into place. And of course, it helps that the Jays are rolling into Baltimore to crush the Orioles again.

That’s a bit of a terrifying thing to say, because hope terrifies me and because the margin of error is such that you can’t take any series for granted at this point, even one against the shitty, shitty Orioles. But with how well they’re playing (and equally important, how badly their rivals are playing) it’s almost impossible to imagine a future where the Blue Jays don’t snag a Wild Card spot and (probably?) host a do-or-die game in Toronto. It’s written in the stars, baby.

Before we get into the upcoming four-game, three-day series in Baltimore against the Orioles (who, it must be stressed, are SO bad), if you like what Jayslam is doing, please consider sharing this post with a pal who may be interested! Or an enemy! I’m happy with either.

Share

Likewise, if you’ve been enjoying Jayslam, want to see more of it, or want to support its continued existence, consider getting a paid subscription! Paid ones get you access to exclusive posts such as the podcast portions of my pre-season predictions (which are, as always, not looking so good), as well as to the comments section


SCOREBOARD WATCHING

Let’s try this again but remembering to include the Mariners this time.

The Yankees, now heading into the Subway Series against the crosstown New York Mets, are obviously not doing so hot (lol). Side note, but I’ve been listening to Mets podcasts a lot recently for reasons that probably don’t reflect well on me psychologically, and B O Y is the Brad Hand acquisition going about as well as anyone expected.

Nor are the Boston Plague Rats, who are only barely holding it together due to a COVID outbreak, InfoWars and J.D. Martinez’s latest gift to that organization. The Red Sox barely salvaged a series against the Rays by pulling off a late win on Thursday, but things are looking a bit grim, as they lost two of three against Tampa Bay and now begin a three-game series against the terrifying Chicago White Sox with ace Chris Sale going on the COVID IL.

The Oakland Athletics stemmed the bleeding a bit, eking out a series win against said White Sox, while the Mariners came one ninth-inning comeback away from being swept by the also-scary Houston Astros, instead only dropping two of three. They’ll get a pretty good chance to make up some ground, with another three-game series at home against the lowly Arizona Diamondbacks.

TRANSACTION NEWS

Old Friend A.J. Cole was activated from the 60-day IL, but with the big league bullpen more or less solidified, it would have been tough to justify making room on the 40-man for him. Cole ended up getting outrighted to Triple-A.

Cole’s 1.13 ERA in eight innings this season is sparkling, and it’s hard to argue with a 3.3 per cent walk rate (though it’s a tiny sample size) but it belies a pretty inflated hard-hit rate, indicating some good luck. Cole being in the bullpen wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, but it’s hard to argue at this point that he would be more useful than Nate Pearson or Tayler Saucedo.

Indy Ball-to-MLB success story Conner Overton has been claimed off waivers by the Pittsburgh Pirates after the Blue Jays had DFA’d him. He’s joined the Pirates’ Triple-A affiliate in Indianapolis.

The biggest transaction of the last few days has been the activation of Julian Merryweather to the 60-day IL. I don’t need to convince anybody of Merryweather’s stuff. Anybody who watched this season’s opening series in New York knows he’s absolutely electric. Most importantly, he’s the only reliever to win Best Bird twice. Scientists are still trying to figure out how the fuck he managed to pull that off.

It’s the injuries that have been the issue for him, and the fact that we’re seeing Merryweather again at all is an extremely pleasant surprise for me. There is a question over the amount of leverage that he’ll be stepping into right away, but you have to think it won’t be long before he steps into that high-leverage back end, along with Jordan Romano and Tim Mayza.

To make room for Merryweather, Anthony Kay was placed on the COVID IL, and Bryan Baker was optioned back to Triple-A after a perfectly fine relief appearance against Oakland.

BEST BIRDS

Hitter: Marcus Semien (7) 19 plate appearances, .467/.579/1.133, 16 total bases, 8 Weighted Runs Created, 0.52 Win Probability Added, 0.51 WPA/LI

With three dingers over the first couple games, Semien continued what would be an MVP-caliber year if not for the blessed existences of both Shohei Ohtani and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. The rest of the offence looked excellent too, taking advantage of the Yankees’ nauseatingly corporatized little league stadium (yes I recognize the hypocrisy in saying this and cheering for a team that plays in a ballpark literally called “Rogers Centre”. No I do not take it back).

Honourable Mentions: Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Teoscar Hernández

Pitcher: Hyun Jin Ryu (9) 6 innings, 20 batters faced, 3 hits, 0 earned runs, 6 strikeouts, 1.16 FIP, 0.37 Win Probability Added, 0.33 WPA/LI

Get that fried chicken, kings.

The starting pitching beyond our large king was stellar too, even with Robbie Ray not pitching. Steven Matz and José Berríos turned in great performances, and while Alek Manoah didn’t have his best outing, it was certainly enough.

Shoutout to the bullpen too, which combined for a 1.54 ERA, with those earned runs coming solely off a shaky Nate Pearson outing. The quintet of Jordan Romano, Tim Mayza, Adam Cimber, Trevor Richards, and Joakim Soria didn’t allow a single earned run, striking out 13 of 37 Yankee batters faced while only walking one.

Honourable Mentions: Steven Matz, José Berríos

BEST BIRD STANDINGS

Hitters:

  1. Vladimir Guerrero Jr.- 12

  2. Marcus Semien- 7

  3. Bo Bichette- 7

  4. George Springer- 7

  5. Lourdes Gurriel Jr.- 3

  6. Teoscar Hernández- 3

  7. Joe Panik- 2 (now on the Miami Marlins)

  8. Randal Grichuk- 2

  9. Santiago Espinal- 1

  10. Cavan Biggio- 1 (10-day IL)

Pitchers:

  1. Robbie Ray- 14

  2. Hyun Jin Ryu- 9

  3. Alek Manoah- 6

  4. Ross Stripling- 4 (10-day IL)

  5. Steven Matz- 4

  6. José Berríos- 2

  7. Julian Merryweather- 2

  8. Trevor Richards- 1

  9. Anthony Kay- 1 (Triple-A)

  10. Anthony Castro- 1 (Triple-A)

  11. Ryan Borucki- 1 (Triple-A)

SCHEDULE/PROBABLE PITCHERS

Friday, September 10 (7 p.m. EST/5 p.m. MST): Robbie Ray vs. Chris Ellis

Saturday, September 11 (4:30 p.m. EST/2:30 p.m. MST): Hyun Jin Ryu (presumptive) vs. Keegan Akin (presumptive)

Saturday, September 11 (After Game 1): Thomas Hatch (presumptive) vs. Zac Lowther (presumptive)

Sunday, September 12 (1:00 p.m. EST/11:00 a.m. MST): Steven Matz (presumptive vs. Alexander Wells (presumptive)

THE OPPOSITION

Pythagorean Record: 48-91

Run differential: -235 (575 runs scored, 810 runs allowed)

Season Series vs. Blue Jays: 4-8

Record since the last series vs. Blue Jays: 4-3

Last 10 games: 5-5

Lol nah, dude, we just did this. I guess the Orioles have played okay recently, beating the Yankees and the Royals, but come on. Manny Barreda’s a great story though.

Best Players:

  • Cedric Mullins, Center Field, .303/.369/.535, 146 wRC+

  • John Means, Starting Pitcher, 3.42 ERA/4.40 xFIP, 22.7 K%, 4.6 BB%

  • Ramón Urías, Utility Infield, .276/.358/.416, 117 wRC+

  • Austin Hays, Outfield, .251/.298/.438, 100 wRC+

  • Cole Sulser, Relief Pitcher, 3.27 ERA/3.56 xFIP, 30.9 K%, 9.7 BB%