Blue Jays – An important series in Cleveland this weekend sets the stage for the rest of the season

Photo credit:© Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Tyson Shushkewich
21 days ago

The Toronto Blue Jays are in the middle of a tough season stretch. They started the month facing a pesky Pittsburgh Pirates squad and sprinkled in an easy Oakland A’s series while also facing the Baltimore Orioles, the Milwaukee Brewers, and the Cleveland Guardians. Factor in a sweep at the hands of the Boston Red Sox earlier this week and the Jays’ June schedule gets no easier – starting by facing Cleveland and Boston again before the New York Yankees come to town before Canada Day rolls around.
The underlying numbers aren’t too terrible record-wise so far, as the club has gone 8-10 amongst a good stretch of teams, although the results in these losses have been the main driver for fans’ frustrations as of late. Consistency has evaded the Blue Jays for most of the regular season – either the bats show up and the pitching falters or the pitching shows up and the bats struggle to put runs on the board. Winnable games get squandered away and overall, the Jays are playing boring baseball.
The feeling as of late is that the Jays starters pretty much have to be perfect to win, mostly because the bullpen isn’t dependable to get the job done or the bats aren’t putting together strong appearances and can’t put a crooked number on the board (and sometimes, it’s both bullpen and bats woes). This sentiment is noticed by the fans and also by the Jays’ pitching staff, most notably Kevin Gausman.
While the club isn’t likely at the ‘tear it down and rebuild all over again’ steps, these next couple of weeks should be very telling for the direction of the club moving forward this season, starting with this weekend in Cleveland.
For starters, the Blue Jays will be facing a tough Guardians squad that owns a 46-26 record and is 6-4 in their last ten games. On the season, Cleveland has been stellar at home, authoring a 23-9 record at Progressive Field and featuring tough at-bats throughout the lineup from Steven Kwan, Josh Naylor, and David Fry – who is having an excellent campaign in his second season with the Guardians.
The club’s pitching staff has also been lights out this season, amassing a collective 3.49 ERA (sixth-ranked) while their relief corps sits at the top of the charts with a 2.36 ERA and 298 strikeouts. The bullpen has numerous arms that can hold games such as Hunter Gaddis, Tim Herrin, Cade Smith, and closer Emmanuel Clase, who has been lights out for the Guardians with 22 saves on the season to the tune of a 0.76 ERA.
The two clubs recently faced each other and if recent history is any indicator, the Blue Jays may have a bit of an advantage heading into the series.
They faced and chased two of the three starters they are slated to face this weekend in Carlos Carrasco and Ben Lively and will be sending two of their top arms to the mound in José Berríos and Yusei Kikuchi, although the Japanese southpaw struggled mightily in his previous outing against the Red Sox – allowing four home runs in the contest. The Jays will benefit by getting to the Guardians starters early before the shutdown arms in the bullpen have to come in late but the problem has been the lineup being able to generate runs and capalitizing on scoring chances, especially in the first inning.
The Jays enter Cleveland on the heels of their first sweep of the season, with the Red Sox dismantling both the Jays pitchers and batters that had fans booing at the end of the finale on Wednesday. Failing to score runs and letting games slip away will do that and while the Jays took two of three last weekend against Cleveland, there is no guarantee a positive fate awaits Toronto on the road.
This weekend series will be a perfect test to see how the club bounces back after an embarrassing series against a winnable Boston squad. Should the team struggle here and on the road against Boston, it will likely be a bit more telling what the club will be doing once the trade deadline rolls around in late July. Struggling to win games against tough teams and falling further below .500 screams a sell-off, especially with tradeable assets in Danny Jansen, Yusei Kikuchi, Yimi Garcia, Justin Turner and others that could net some prospective talent that would benefit the longevity of this club.
On the contrary, if the Blue Jays can find a spark on the road and come back to the Rogers Centre next week with a positive record, which translates into a strong series against the Yankees, the organization could pivot towards being potential buyers with the trade deadline coming into focus. The Jays will need to find a groove in order for that to happen and a lot of optimism, but it is possible – although many fans are not holding their breath for that to happen.
Looking ahead, this weekend is the start of an important road trip that will have a pretty significant impact on the outcome of the rest of the campaign. It starts in Cleveland and whether this team can bounce back after struggling in the Boston series. Secure some wins and the postseason dreams remain in focus. Losing on the road and trading players becomes more of a reality with every passing day.

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