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Series Preview: The Cold Astros

The Blue Jays earned a split with the American League-leading Houston Astros right before the All-Star break, though they did it in the most painful way possible. The Astros absolutely murdered Toronto on two separate occasions, stomping them 12-2 and 19-1, making that split feel a lot uglier than the two wins would indicate.

Friday at 8:10 ET

Cesar Valdez has made two starts for the Blue Jays. One of them was good, the other was, uh, not. He dominated the A’s in his redemption start, holding Oakland and their Triple-A lineup to one run over six innings. But he followed it up by getting pumped the Angels for seven runs over just two innings. That’s about what you can expect from a pitcher of Valdez’s ilk, who, at this point, is just a body filling in for the rotation decimated by Aaron Sanchez’s blister and the Francisco Liriano trade.

He’ll be opposed by Brad Peacock, the guy who got to go out there are casually toss the ball without worry as his offence kicked the living shit out of the Blue Jays. Yes, the 19-1 game. Peacock has been very good this season. He joined the rotation in mid-May and has managed a 2.62 ERA through 11 starts.

Saturday at 7:10 ET

Like Peacock, Charlie Morton got enjoy himself a casual evening in Toronto after Aaron Sanchez got lit up in the first two innings. The oft-injured, enigmatic Morton has enjoyed a solid season in Houston. He made one trip to the disabled list in June, but has been solid since returning to action. All told, in 15 starts, Morton has a 3.77 ERA and is striking out 9.9 batters per nine innings. He’s also made it through at least the fifth inning in every start he’s made this season.

Marco Estrada will look to build on his best start in a couple of months in opposition of Morton. Estrada tossed seven strong innings against the White Sox, which is a very good sign, considering he had only made a couple of quality starts through all of June and July. That said, it was the White Sox, who are terrible. If he can shut down Houston’s elite offence, there’ll be some serious reason for optimism that Estrada has worked past his mid-season issues.

Sunday at 2:10 ET

You know who didn’t get lit up in that Houston series? Marcus Stroman. He pitched seven excellent innings, scattering six hits, surrendering one earned run, and striking out six. The slider was filthy that day, making very good hitter look very bad. For the season, Stroman has a 3.19 ERA and has pretty easily been Toronto’s best and most consistent starter.

Mike Fiers will start Sunday’s game like he did against Stroman back in July. In that game, Fiers was largely excellent, until Josh Donaldson clubbed a three-run homer in the fifth inning, lifting the Jays to a win. For the season, Fiers has a solid 3.97 ERA, though command has been somewhat of an issue for him. Last time, the Jays lineup took four walks from Fiers, then one swing of the bat unraveled his start.

Thoughts…

After a 7-3 stretch against three awful teams, the Jays oddly find themselves just five-and-a-half games back of the second wild card. There’s a massive roadblock of teams to jump, but that’s certainly not insurmountable. A good series against Houston, who are 4-6 in their last 10 and don’t look quite as world-beating as they did in the first half of the season, could maybe kickstart a late-season run. Maybe?! MAAAAYYYBBEEEEEE???