Up Next: Blue Jays start six-game road trip in Cleveland against first place Guardians

Photo credit:Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Chris Georges
26 days ago
It’s been just one week since these two teams matched up last, with the Blue Jays taking two of three against these Guardians in last weekend’s series in Toronto.
After getting swept against Boston, the club heads to Cleveland this time to face a team that has the best home record in the Major Leagues (23-9, .719%). After taking two of three from the Mariners earlier in the week, the Guardians now have a 6.0 game cushion over the Kansas City Royals in the AL Central. The team’s 46-26 record trails only the New York Yankees and the Baltimore Orioles in the American League.
Nuts and Bolts
Friday, June 21, 7:10 EST: Yariel Rodríguez (0-1, 4.11 ERA) vs Carlos Carrasco (2-6, 5.80 ERA)
Saturday, June 22, 4:10 EST: José Berríos (6-5, 3.13 ERA) vs Ben Lively (6-3, 3.02 ERA)
Sunday June 23, 1:40 EST: Yusei Kikuchi (4-6, 3.65 ERA) vs Triston McKenzie (3-4, 4.48 ERA)
Starting Pitching
The Blue Jays will match up with Carlos Carrasco and Ben Lively again, two starters that the Jays were able to beat last week in Toronto. The 37-year old Carrasco is back with Cleveland after spending 11 seasons with the club from 2009-2020. The Blue Jays were able to tag him for five earned runs in five innings last Saturday, as his record fell to 2-6 on the year.
Lively has been one of the best pitchers for the club this season, but his last start against Toronto did not go so well. The Bluebirds were able to collect six hits and three walks across four innings against the righthander, who will look for better results this time around.
Triston McKenzie makes his 15th start of the season on Sunday. The 6’5″ 165 pounder will look to stay around the plate, as his 42 walks in 70.1 innings is the most on the team. The righthander known as “sticks” last pitched against the Blue Jays in August of 2022, twirling 6.2 innings of two run ball while striking out three.
As discussed in last week‘s series preview, the Guardians boast the best bullpen in the Major Leagues this year. The club’s 2.36 bullpen ERA is by far the best mark in the league, with several key contributors having career seasons.
It all starts with closer Emmanuel Clase, who was able to collect his 21st save in the lid lifter in Toronto last week, before closing out one more in the team’s series with Seattle on Thursday. An easy argument can be made that Clase is the very best reliever in all of baseball, as he sports an 0.76 ERA and 0.62 WHIP on the year. His fWAR of 1.2 is 4th among all Major League relievers.
Coming in at number eight on the Fangraphs reliever WAR leaderboards is Abbotsford, British Columbia’s Cade Smith (1.82 ERA, 0.87 WHIP), with fellow righthander Hunter Gaddis (1.56, 0.78) ranked 12th. Outside of these outstanding three relievers, the Guardians have also received strong seasons from the likes of Tim Herrin (1.20, 1.00), Sam Hentges (2.93, 0.72), Nick Sandlin (3.49, 0.99), and Pedro Avila (2.60, 1.08).
The biggest story out of Cleveland over the last few weeks has been centered around the insanely productive season that Steven Kwan is having. Despite coming up to the plate 95 less times, Kwan has just one fewer hit than superstar José Ramírez for the team lead, while walking more than he’s struck out. Since he missed four weeks due to a hamstring injury in May, Kwan’s .396 batting average does not currently qualify for the batting title. Providing he can stay healthy the rest of the way, he will likely reach the 3.1 plate appearances per team game mark needed to qualify, and be in the driver’s seat to finish with the circuit’s top average.
Ramírez and Toronto-born slugger Josh Naylor have provided most of the power for this Guardians team, with 18 and 19 home runs on the year, respectively. Catcher/first basemen/outfielder David Fry has been a feel good story this season, coming out of nowhere to sport a .949 OPS through 54 games.
Besides Kwan, Ramirez, Naylor and Fry, production has been hard to come by for the rest of the Guardians offense. Andrés Giménez (.667 OPS), Bo Baylor (.526), and Tyler Freeman (.658) have all been mediocre offensively in every day roles. Will Brennan is a guy to watch going forward, as the 3rd year outfielder is coming off a two-homer game against Seattle on Thursday.
Bottom Line
After being swept by the Red Sox earlier in the week, the Blue Jays certainly need a strong showing this weekend against one of the best teams in the league. Toronto has only one sweep on the year, which came against the White Sox (does that even count?) at the end of May. Winning another series with Cleveland would be an encouraging sign for the team’s ability to compete for a Wild Card spot this season.

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