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Photo Credit: coreman1017

Series Preview: Will Kawhi come to Fenway?

Not only did Kawhi Leonard bring an NBA Championship to Toronto, but is he now trying to save another Toronto sports team? The final game of the Blue Jays’ series against the Angels was quickly overshadowed as soon as people realized that “The Claw” had arrived at the stadium.

However, it seems like Leonard may have had something to do in helping the Blue Jays avoid getting swept by the city that threatens to steal him away. The Blue Jays are now heading into Boston for a three-game series, in hopes of avoiding another series-sweep. As the Red Sox have been the hottest team in the AL since the beginning of June.

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Friday at 7:10 ET

Trent Thornton’s rollercoaster season ascended upwards during his latest-start against the Astros. The 25-year-old recorded one of his best outings of the season against a battered and bruised Astros’ lineup. Thornton pitched six and 2/3 scoreless innings and recorded seven strikeouts.

While commanding the strike zone was an issue for Thornton once again, he was able to take advantage of an over-anxious Astros’ lineup through his 6.2 innings of work. Thornton will have to locate his pitches more effectively in this start against the Red Sox. As they currently rank 5th in the AL in walks and OPS so far this month.

It’s pretty safe to assume that the Blue Jays’ hitters will have a tough time at the plate in this game against Chris Sale. The man who is no longer allowed to play with scissors has been the best pitcher in the AL since May 1. Sale has created a combined 42 strikeouts over his last four starts, and has recorded ten or more strikeouts in eight of his nine starts since the beginning of May.

This Blue Jays’ lineup has struck out the 5th-most among teams in the AL so far this month. Opposing hitters are also hitting just .202 AVG off of Sale this season. Which means Thornton will likely receive very little run-support in the opener of this series.

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Saturday at 4:05 ET

This start would have likely gone to Edwin Jackson if he hadn’t pulled a muscle in his back. Furthermore, the Blue Jays are probably extremely happy that he sustained an injury that would keep him from producing another terrible performance. Depending on Thornton’s performance in game one of this series, the Blue Jays are planning to go with a bullpen-day for this game.

Derek Law is expected to open this game, followed by Sam Gaviglio for the bulk portion of the game. Law has been excellent in his two starts this season. The 28-year-old has allowed just a walk and a hit, while recording a pair of strikeouts through his two openings this season.

Brian Johnson will be making just his second-start of the season after missing nearly two months earlier this season due to an elbow injury. Johnson was primarily utilized out of the bullpen before his injury, but will be forced into making another start because of Nathan Eovaldi’s rehab being delayed for multiple weeks.

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The Florida-native hasn’t been fully stretched out as of yet, so he will likely throw somewhere around 70 to 80 pitches before exiting. The Red Sox bullpen has had their issues towards the back-end, but they have been very effective for the most part this season. Their bullpen currently owns the 2nd-lowest OPP AVG (.229) and the 4th-best ERA (3.88) throughout the AL this season.

Sunday at 1:05 ET

This will likely be Stro-Show’s final start as a Blue Jay in Fenway Park. Marcus Stroman opened up following his last start about all the trade rumors surrounding him. His comments are likely a clear sign that the Blue Jays have no interest in keeping the 28-year-old beyond the July 31 trade deadline.

Stroman has continued to increase his trade value through his latest-start. The face of this franchise received very little run support through his seven-innings of work in his last start against the Angels. Stroman held the Angels’ hitters to just three runs on four hits. If he receives just one run of support once again, who knows what Stroman will rant about after this game.

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Rick Porcello shut down the Blue Jays during his start against them last month. The first-round selection from 2007 held the Blue Jays to just one run on three hits through his six-innings of work against them. Porcello is also coming off one of his best-starts this season.

The former-Cy Young award winner pitched seven scoreless innings against the best offense in the AL in his latest-outing. He also recorded a season-high eight strikeouts against the Twins, which is very likely to happen again against these Blue Jays. Since they’re one of the most-impatient teams at the plate in the entire AL.