The Blue Jays opened their road trip splitting a two-game series with the Tampa Bay Rays and are now in Minnesota for the next four. Back in June, the Twins took two of three from the Jays in Toronto. Starting pitchers Yusei Kikuchi and Kevin Gausman both struggled while former Twin Jose Berrios had one his best starts of the year recording a career high 13 strikeouts.
These are big games for both teams. At 55-49, the Twins hold a narrow lead in the AL Central. They are just one game up on the Cleveland Guardians and two on the Chicago White Sox. The Jays still hold the top wild card spot with a record of 58-46 but trail the New York Yankees by 11 games in the AL East. With plenty of regular season baseball still to play, the standings will shuffle and there is a possibility this series could be a playoff preview.
Things Worth Mentioning…
Trade deadline acquisitions Whit Merrifield, Anthony Bass and Zach Pop will all be active tonight.
Mitch White is still optioned to Triple-A Buffalo but will be called up and join the rotation in Ross Stripling’s spot. He is expected to make his Blue Jays debut on Saturday.
With Merrifield joining the lineup, we have a new look in tonight’s game.
Springer returns but will DH as they continue to be cautious with his elbow. The versatile Merrifield will start in center and Bo Bichette has moved from clean up to the five. In 20 games since manager John Schneider put Bichette clean up he has an OPS of just .560, 0 home runs and 23 strikeouts.
Concerns of Merrifield not being vaccinated and potentially having miss games in Toronto due to the timelines regarding doses and travel restrictions are all for not.
In an interview earlier today he confirmed that he understood the possibility of being traded to a team that will have to play meaningful games in Canada and has been vaccinated since missing the Jays/Royals series from July 15-17.
The Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association gave out their annual Heart and Hustle awards today.
The award is given to an active player from each team who demonstrates a passion for the game of baseball and best embodies the values, spirit and traditions of the game.
Sonny Gray vs. Alek Manoah
A two-time all star, Gray leads all Twins’ pitchers who have double digit starts with an ERA of 3.41 and FIP of 3.41. While Gray has been a reliable pitcher this season, one thing he struggles with is going deep into ball games. He has just 74 innings pitched in 15 starts (4.93/game).
In his last two starts Gray has pitched a total of 11 innings and allowed just two runs of seven hits and two walks.
Manoah exited his last start early after being struck in his pitching elbow by comebacker but he is ready to go tonight. He will be looking to bounce back from one of his worst performances of the year where he allowed four runs in 5.1 innings against a weak Detroit lineup. That was just the third time all season Manoah has allowed more than three runs.
Despite the poor start versus Detroit, Manoah still ranks fourth in the American League in ERA with 2.43. With just three wins in his last seven starts, he will be motivated to get back into his winning ways and try to chase down Justin Verlander for the Major League lead. Manoah is currently fifth in the majors with 11 wins. Verlander has 14.
TBA vs. Jose Berrios
The Twins started for tomorrow’s game is yet to be announced but is expected to be the newly acquired Tyler Mahle. Picked up from the Cincinnati Reds for three prospects, Mahle immediately becomes one of the top arms on a Minnesota team that has struggled with pitching this year.
In 19 starts this season Mahle has an ERA of 4.40 but a FIP of just 3.61. His strikeout percentage of 25.9 is higher than any Twins starter. He regularly goes deep into games and has thrown at least six innings in eight of his last nine starts including a complete game shutout on June 14th in Arizona.
Berrios’ season has been disappointing as a whole but he turned it around in the month of July. He ended June with an ERA of 5.86 and is starting August with an ERA of 4.96. In six starts during July, his ERA was 3.00 and he didn’t record a loss.
In his one start against his former team this season he went seven innings, struck out 13 and got the win.
Dylan Bundy vs. Mitch White
A fourth overall pick in the 2011 draft, Bundy was expected to be one of the game’s elite arms by this stage in his career but it just hasn’t worked out. Now on his third team, he has struggled yet again this season with an ERA of 5.04.
He was the opposing pitcher in the Berrios 13 strike out game back on June 4th and he did not fare well. He was removed after only 2.1 innings and gave up five runs on eight hits. Bo Bichette and Alejandro Kirk both homered off of him.
Mitch White will be making his Blue Jays debut on Saturday stepping in for the injured Ross Stripling. Since being traded to the Blue Jays there have been constant comparisons between White and Stripling. Both pitchers were acquired by the Jays from the Los Angeles Dodgers in deadline trades and both started this season in the bullpen but were forced into the rotation by injuries. In 15 appearances including ten starts White has an ERA of 3.70.
Chris Archer vs. Kevin Gausman
A two-time all star the 33-year-old Archer is having his best season since 2017. HIs ERA of 4.05 is his lowest since 2016 with his original team the Tampa Bay Rays. He’s not the strike out pitcher he once was as he has just 7.6 strikeouts per nine this season but he has managed to pitch effectively without swing and miss stuff.
Unfortunately for Archer and the Twins, his improved performance hasn’t resulted in wins. He is just 2-5 in 18 starts this year.
Gausman is coming off his best start of the season where he flirted with a no-hitter until the sixth inning. He ended the night going eight innings for the second time this season, striking out 10 and allowing only three baserunners. His 2.02 FIP and 4.1 WAR according to FanGraphs lead all Blue Jays players.