Arizona Diamondbacks (33-39) @ Toronto Blue Jays (39-33)
A bit of different format for this series preview, as we did a little Q&A exchange with Tom Dakers from Bluebird Banter, the Jays SBnation site. Anyways, the D-Backs are on a bit of a run, coming off of a 4 game sweep against the Phillies. Yes, the quality of competition was a bit low, but a 4 game sweep is always impressive to some degree. The Diamondbacks pitching was phenomenal throughout the series, holding Philadelphia to a total of 5 runs. It’ll be tough to continue that level of pitching over the next two days against the high-powered Toronto offense.
Q&A with Blue Jays Banter
What is a player to watch that most D-Backs fans won't have heard of?
Hmmmm there is a good question. Second baseman Devon Travis is a favorite of mine. He’s just back from a long stint on the DL, he missed most of last season and the first 47 games of this season, with a rather weird shoulder injury. Well, not really injury, he had two small bones in his shoulder that didn’t fuse the way nature intend at birth. They didn’t find this out until he was 24 years old. He missed almost a full year of ball.
After he was activated, it took him a few games to get his timing down, but over his last 11 games, he’s hit .341/.349/.634 with 2 home runs. Last year, before the injury, he was hitting .304/.361/.498 and we thought we were watching the Rookie of the Year. He quickly became my favorite player, I have a jersey with his name on it (which might explain the injury problems). He also plays very nice defense at second and turns the double play as quickly as you’ll ever see.
Could you give me a preview of the starting pitching we can expect?
Tuesday, Marco Estrada is starting. We picked Estrada up in trade for Adam Lind, before the 2015 season, and most of us were upset with the trade. Shows what we know. He might have been our best starter last year, and this year he’s been better. Batters are hitting just .168 against him. He has perhaps the best changeup I’d ever seen from Jays pitcher (and we had Roy Halladay). He’s likely our ace, at least at the moment, and rarely does he hit 91 on the radar gun.
Wednesday it’s J.A. Happ. Happ was a Jay from 2012-2014, when we traded him to Seattle. In his first stint with the Jays, he would drive you crazy. He pitched extremely slowly, and he had this maddening thing where he had to pitch to a full count on nearly every batter. If he got up 0-2 on a batter, he would nibble his way to a full count. This time around he’s better. He pitches faster (at faster compared to his old self) and he’s willing to resolve an at bat before the 8th pitch. He’s been a lot more fun to watch and much more effective.
What has held the Jays back from taking hold of the AL East?
Amazingly enough, it’s been lack of offense. April came and went and we couldn’t hit, almost everyone in the batting order was slumping. May came and went with little improvement. Finally, now that it is June, the offense is coming around. Our starting pitching has been great. If you would have told me, before the season, that the starting pitching would be terrific and the hitting would be terrible, I would have laughed at you, but that’s the way the first couple of months went.
Being a Blue Jays fan, it was hard to deal with. I could handle losing 9-8 but losing 1-0 was a whole new experience for me. I tried to see the beauty in a low scoring game, but I was raised on the 3-run homer (and, generally, a couple of solo homers to fill in the inning). I know how to watch slug fests, I’m not sure how to watch a pitcher’s duel.
As well as the offense not being, well, offensive, the bullpen has been awful. We’ve had 10 blown saves (yeah, some of that is because our offense couldn’t build more than a 1-run lead for the first 2 months of the season) and 39% of runners inherited by the bullpen came around to score. The only arm we can trust, coming out of the pen is closer Roberto Osuna. Drew Storen (who we traded for with the idea he’d be a setup man) had an ERA over 10 at the end of April (he’s brought it all the way down to 5.33 now). Our other planned setup man, Brett Cecil, allowed 17 hits in 10 innings before going on the DL. Honestly, other than Osuna, whoever I see coming out of the bullpen makes my stomach churn.
Are there any prospects coming up we should be watching?
Not really, not for this season.
Well, outfielder Dalton Pompey will likely be up at some point, if nothing else, as a September call up, to pinch run and steal bases. He’s not truly a prospect anymore, as he’s played enough that he’s lost his rookie status, but, in real terms, he’s a top prospect. The Jays seem to be wanting him to have a full season at Triple-A, something he hasn’t had before.
Most of our other top prospects are a little further away. Outfielder Anthony Alford, shortstop Richard Urena, pitchers Conner Greene and Sean Reid-Foley are down in A-ball.
How should the D-Backs go about pitching to the murderer's row of Bautista, Encarnacion, and Donaldson?
Unfortunately Bautista is injured. He sprained a toe, running into the outfield wall, chasing a fly. He’s on the 15-day DL and I’m not sure if he’ll be back
As far was Encarnacion and Donaldson, when they are hot, there is no way to pitch them Thankfully, they have both, finally, gotten hot over the last couple of weeks.
Donaldson was the AL Player of the Week this past week. In his past 6 games, he’s hit .458/.552/1.083 with 3 home runs and 9 RBI. He is as intense as any player I’ve ever seen at the plate (or at least tied with Bautista).
Encarnacion had a very slow start to the season. That’s not unusual for him, but, this year, his slow start dragged on through May. I had people in my twitter feed telling me he got old, or that he didn’t care or that he couldn’t hit because he is a free agent at the end of the season. June came and suddenly he wasn’t old or any of those other things. In 17 June games, he’s hit .317/.447/.767 with 8 home runs. I love Edwin, when he’s going good, there is no one better.
Thank you to Tom for that insight, it’s nice to get info from a fan of the team for these interleague series. Now, a few other quick notes from me...
Chris Owings will probably return in late June or early July, not in time for this series. David Peralta will also be out, placed on the DL on Monday with a lower back strain.
As for Toronto, the only injury of note is Jose Bautista. As mentioned above, Bautista sprained his big toe June 17 running into a wall, and is currently on the DL.
Game 1: Patrick Corbin LHP (3-6, 4.76 ERA, 1.35 WHIP) vs Marco Estrada RHP (5-2, 2.58 ERA, 0.98 WHIP)
Advantage Blue Jays.
Game 2: Robbie Ray LHP (4-5, 4.44 ERA, 1.57 WHIP) vs J.A. Happ LHP (8-3, 3.41 ERA, 1.15 WHIP)
Advantage Blue Jays.
D-Backs split the 2 game series.