Hey, look, it’s our good pals from Texas, the Rangers! This should be a good time.
Friday at 7:07 ET
The reality about having a decimated starting rotation is that you’re going to have to toss somebody like Mike Bolsinger out there every fifth day. I mean, you can do a lot worse than Bolsinger, who has been fair for a sixth or seventh starter through three appearances this season, but you know what I mean. Thankfully for the Jays, the stars aligned, and they’ll get their warm body out there against Texas’ worst starter, A.J. Griffin.
Through seven starts, Griffin has been, well, all over the grid. He’s had some excellent starts, like his complete game shutout of the San Diego Padres, but he’s also had an outing in which he allowed nine earned runs in three innings of work. All told, Griffin has a 5.02 earned run average and appears to be trending in the wrong direction. Since his strong start to the season, Griffin has allowed 13 runs in his last two starts, highlighted by seven home runs against. So with Bolsinger, who’s allowed 11 runs in 15 2/3 innings of work, going for the Jays, this game has the potential to be a barnburner.
Saturday at 1:07 ET
Immediately after watching a couple guys toss batting practice, we’ll be blessed with this pitcher’s duel as Marco Estrada will go up against Yu Darvish in a match of two guys who produce art from the mound.
Since coming back from Tommy John surgery, which forced him to miss all of 2015, Darvish has started to use his fastball more. Before that, he generally found success using a ridiculous array of breaking pitches, but since transforming to more of a fastball arsenal, his now less frequently used slider has become even more dominant than ever before. All told, Darvish has a 2.83 ERA through 1o starts, but isn’t striking as many batters as he has been in the past. Instead, he’s inducing soft contact and is ultimately holding opposing teams to just 6.5 hits per nine innings.
Going for the Jays will be Marco Estrada, who’s coming off likely his best start of the season so far in Baltimore. Last Sunday, Estrada carved up the Orioles’ lineup, allowing just five hits over seven-and-two-thirds innings while matching a career high with 12 strikeouts. As we know, Estrada has a great time against the Rangers, especially in the playoffs. Through four career starts against the Rangers in the regular season, Estrada has held Texas to a .577 OPS, and in his two playoff starts, he’s held them to two runs total over 15 2/3 innings.
This should be a damn good game.
Sunday at 1:07 ET
The series finale on Sunday will feature Joe Biagini, the reliever who’s stepped in admirably as a starter, and Andrew Cashner, who’s resurrected his career in Texas.
Cashner has posted a 3.18 ERA through eight starts with the Rangers so far this season, which is far and away the best he’s performed in years. That said, his peripheral numbers suggest that he’s on course for an implosion. He’s been limiting hitters to 7.7 hits per nine innings, his best since his breakout season in 2013, but is walking more batters than he is picking up strikeouts. That’s never a good sign. We saw this last weekend with Wade Miley, too. Miley owns a sparkling ERA, but he’s walking everyone and that batted ball luck isn’t going to last forever.
Biagini has made four starts now. The first two went very well. The next two, not so much. He got hammered in Atlanta after botching a double play ground ball that clearly rattled him, then, earlier this week against Milwaukee, Biagini got BABIP’d to death before getting pulled in the fifth inning. All in all, though, Biagini has performed better in the starting rotation than anybody could have expected, and is making a case to remain a starter long-term.
After a terrible start to the season, the Rangers capitalized on a period in the schedule in which they got to play the shitty Padres, Athletics, and Phillies, putting together a 10-game winning streak that brought them back to life.
With a slightly above average league offence, the Rangers have relied heavily on very good starting pitching to be successful, but a lot of their troubles have come from a surprisingly terrible bullpen. Sam Dyson, our old pal, has been complete trash this season, and not just in a massive pissbaby who gets mad after getting owned in important playoff situations kind of way, but in a holy shit he has an 11.93 ERA through 15 appearances kind of way.
With Josh Donaldson and Troy Tulowitzki returning to the lineup for this series, the Jays are finally starting to look like an actual major league team. That’s huge, because this is a very winnable series. Tensions will be high because it’s the Rangers, who tend to use up all their energy in the regular season rather than the playoffs, but as we know, they’ll wait until the teams meet again next month in Texas to do anything stupid.