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Series Preview #21: Arizona Diamondbacks @ Toronto Blue Jays

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The most interesting sporting event currently involving a team from Toronto

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Toronto Blue Jays Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

More interleague play for the Diamondbacks, this time north of the border. The Blue Jays, in case you weren’t paying attention, are currently 23-39, only avoiding last place in their division because the Orioles haven’t been regulated to AAA yet and are still considered a Major League team. They’ve lost seven out of their last ten, but unlike the Diamondbacks, they just took two out of three against the team leading their division, the New York Yankes.

Closer to home, the Diamondbacks have been incredibly off and on. Over the past two and a half weeks or so, they’ve been swept by the Padres, swept the Giants, got swept again by the Rockies, took two from the Mets, and then gave up a couple of losses to the Dodgers. It all adds up to a not particularly great 3-7 over their past ten games, and one has to imagine they’re looking forward to facing a team that has struggled so far this season.

Game 1: Merrill Kelly (5-6, 4.41 ERA, 1.42 WHIP) vs Marcus Stroman (3-7, 2.84 ERA, 1.30 WHIP)

Marcus Stroman represents a perfect example of why pitcher wins are basically meaningless. Despite a pretty incredible regular ERA and an ERA+ of 156, he’s only picked up three wins on the season. In large part, this comes from the fact that he has taken the mound 13 times so far, and in five of those games has gotten two runs or less of support. Perfect example was his last start at Coors Field, where he went seven innings and only gave up four runs (again, at Coors), but the Blue Jays were only able to muster two runs, and he took the loss.

Merrill Kelly put together a dominating start against the Mets last time out. He went seven and two thirds innings of six hit, one run baseball, leading the Diamondbacks to an easy victory. Over the season, he’s been very up and down, which all balances out to a 102 ERA+, just two percent above average. However, it should be interesting to see what he does against the less than stellar offence that Toronto is running out there, also given that he has been moved up a day to give Greinke an extra day of rest.

Game 2: Zach Greinke (6-2, 3.09 ERA, 0.93 WHIP) vs Aaron Sanchez (3-6, 3.95 ERA, 1.53 WHIP)

Sanchez is coming off a decent start at Coors, with six innings pitched and four earned runs. The start before that, however, was cut short after he tore the nail on his right middle finger. He also has had to leave a couple other starts early due to various minor ailments. Beyond that, he’s been a solid, if not spectacular, starter for the Jays, averaging about five innings per start with an ERA+ of 112.

Greinke is Greinke, and the more he changes, the more he ultimately stays exactly the same. Something to watch for this start is to see how his neck is holding up. Last time out, he only went four innings and ended up leaving, in part, due to stiffness in his neck. Hence the extra day of rest. The team says that it shouldn’t be a problem, but we’ll only know for sure when we see how he does on Saturday.

Game 3: Robbie Ray (4-3, 3.62 ERA, 1.39WHIP) vs Clayton Richard (0-1, 3.55 ERA, 1.42 WHIP)

Richard is just now making his fourth start of the season after starting the season in the dugout due to a right knee stress reaction, which my 30 seconds of googling tells me is an adverse reaction such as swelling or inflammation to a stress you’re putting on your body. Think stress fracture, but for joints and ligaments. He’s still ramping up for the season, so look for him to be on a pitch count, probably in the 85-90 range.

Ray had by far his best start of the season against the Dodgers, with seven innings pitched, three runs and nine strike outs. The Diamondbacks desperately need him to string together a couple good outings to shore up a pitching staff that has next to no depth. Him actually doing so, however, seems unlikely given how his season has gone so far.

Conclusion

Heck if I know. I always feel confident when Greinke takes the mound, but the fact the team felt the need to give him an extra day of rest of his neck concerns me, as does the fact that Kelly is losing a day of rest. Add in the sheer unpredictability of Robbie Ray, and the entire series starts to look like a toss up.

I have a feeling game 1 will be a low scoring affair, something that has not been favorable to Arizona so far this season. I think Greinke will do better than his last outing, but probably not at his best either. Ray I just can’t count on him to do well consistently. As much as it pains me, I’m going to have to say the Diamondbacks lose one game to three. Prove me wrong, guys.