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Photo Credit: © Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Blue Jays @ Angels Series Preview: Expect Fireworks

With Aaron Sanchez and J.A. Happ on the shelf, the Blue Jays have had to dig deep for pitching help. Fortunately for them, the Angels rotation at the best of times is a blindfolded man riding a unicycle across a tightrope as Mike Trout watches helplessly. Maybe we’ll see some fireworks this weekend! Not just because the Angels do that on Fridays, ya know, but because the pitching is less than stellar. Also, hopefully that fireworks comes from a Blue Jays lineup that finally breaks out after a very limp start to the season rather than the lineup that features the GOAT, of course.

Friday at 10:07 ET

It’s the beginning of the Mat Latos Revenge Tour! After signing a minor league deal with the Blue Jays right before spring training, Latos failed to crack the team out of camp. He took the demotion to Triple-A, knowing that, based on the organization’s fairly thin starting pitching depth, he would be up soon enough. And so it begins! Latos was once a very good pitcher, but injuries have knocked his career off track. Over the past two seasons, Latos has an ERA just under 5.00 in split time with the Marlins, Dodgers, Angels, White Sox, and Nationals. So far with Buffalo, Latos has tossed nine innings, allowing just one run. I figured, based on his injuries and declined velocity, he could be a more valuable player for the Jays as a reliever, but as I said before, the starting depth is non-existent.

Going for the Angels will be Alex Meyer, a 27-year-old with just 28 innings of experience at the major league level. Meyer was once one of the Minnesota Twins’ top prospects. He’s 6’9″, and features a fastball that can reach triple digits, but the thing that’s held him back is poor command. So far this season in Triple-A, Meyer has tossed 15 innings, allowing eight runs on 19 hits and five walks. A guy who throws hard and has poor command is somebody that this Blue Jays lineup really, really should take for a ride. Remember in 2015 when this lineup would hammer a pitcher like this? Here’s an excellent opportunity for the bats to get rolling.

Saturday at 9:07 ET

Casey Lawrence, the non-prospect who rocketed up the depth chart after impressing in Venezuelan Winter League and spring training this year, will make his first major league start on Saturday afternoon. It’s easy to joke and make fun of the situation the Jays are in, where they’re having to dig very deep into the depths for starters with J.A. Happ and Aaron Sanchez on the DL, but this is one of those nice, feel good baseball stories. Lawrence wasn’t drafted. He signed with the organization as a free agent in 2010 and has spent seven years riding the bus, grinding his way through the system, and finally, he’ll make his first career start on Saturday.

His first appearance in the majors was unfortunate, as he was thrusted into an 11th inning tie game situation against the Rays. He allowed a double, prompting John Gibbons to call for two intentional walks. The winning run came in on a shrimp. Hopefully Lawrence can erase that memory with a good start against the Angels.

They’ll be starting Tyler Skaggs, who’s pitching this season after having Tommy John surgery and subsequently missing all of 2015 and most of 2016. Skaggs was once a highly-touted pitcher, but injuries have thrown him off track and stunted his possible development into a top-end starter. In thee starts (17 1/3 innings pitched) this season, Skaggs has allowed 10 earned runs on 17 hits and seven walks, with command clearly being his biggest issue.

Sunday at 3:37 ET

Marcus Stroman has been very good this season. He had a great spring, a great World Baseball Classic, and was great against Tampa Bay and Milwaukee. But he had a difficult time with the Red Sox lineup his last time out, getting tagged for six runs on 11 hits over four-and-two-thirds innings. Both the Brewers and Rays have mediocre lineups, so it’ll be interesting to see how Stroman performs against a stronger one that the Angels feature. The key for Stroman is painting the bottom of the zone. He’s going to allow a lot of contact, as it’s his style, but whether he gets rocked hard or cruises through a bunch of ground ball outs comes down to his command. In three games (two starts and one relief appearance) against Anaheim, Stroman has allowed an opponent slash line of .396/.429/.585, the worst of any team he’s faced in the majors.

Stroman will be going up against our old pal Jesse Chavez, who had a pretty forgettable second go in Toronto last season before being dealt to the Dodgers for Mike Bolsinger. Chavez didn’t make any starts last season for either Toronto or L.A., but was quite solid in that swing man, starter slash long reliever role for the Athletics in 2014 and 2015. So far this season, Chaves has made three starts, allowing seven runs on seven hits and two walks over 17 innings. He was great against the Mariners, got drilled by Texas, and was great again against the Astros. He’s faced the Jays three times before, each as a member of the A’s, and was rocked each time. But that was back when the Jays knew how to hit, though. Fuck, please don’t get shut down by Jesse Chavez, boys. Please!

Monday at 10:07 ET

The uncommon four-game-series-that-starts-on-a-Friday-and-ends-on-a-Monday will wrap up with Francisco Liriano and Ricky Nolasco, who, I bet many people have gotten mixed up at one point or another. I mean, one of them throws left, the other throws right, they both played for the Twins at different points in their career, and both have last names that end with ‘O’, and both enjoyed a resurgence with a new team last season.

Anyways, Liriano has been excellent in back-to-back starts after getting steamrolled by Tampa Bay in his debut. Over 12 innings in starts against Boston and Baltimore, Liriano has allowed only two runs, striking out 16 batters. This Angels lineup hits lefties well, but nobody on the team has had any success against Liriano in the past. Except, of course, for Mike Trout. But that’s expected. He hits everyone.

Nolasco, like I said, sort of rejuvenated his career after being traded from Minnesota to the Angels last season. So far this year, though, he’s taken a step back. Through four starts (22 2/3 innings), he’s has allowed 12 runs on 27 hits and three walks. The big issue? He can’t keep the ball in the park. Nolasco has allowed a league-leading seven home runs so far, wasn’t certainly hasn’t been the case otherwise in his career.

Thoughts…

I sense some home run droughts coming to an end this weekend! It’s definitely fortunate that the Jays are going up against a team who isn’t particularly strong in the starting pitching department as they’ve been forced to pull two enigmas from their Triple-A team to make spot starts. Even with Latos and Lawrence pitching, there really isn’t a game that the Angels have the clear edge in this weekend. Though, the way the Jays lineup has performed against randoms like Wily Peralta, Chase Anderson, and Alec Asher this season, it might not matter who the Angels trot out there.