The AL East leading Toronto Blue Jays (41-33) will travel to Cincinnati for a three game series with the Reds (35-36) this weekend. This will be the two teams first meeting since 2011, when the Blue Jays took two of three in Cincinnati. The Reds are just 4-8 all-time against the Blue Jays, and have never won a series (lost all four series 2 games to 1).
The Blue Jays are off to a terrific start, as they hold a 1.5 game lead in the AL East. They are looking to reach the postseason for the first time since 1993, when they won the World Series for a second consecutive season. The Jays have a run differential of +31, and have a 70.5% chance of reaching the postseason (63.7% chance of winning the division) according to Fangraphs.
The Blue Jays have really struggled recently though. They come in having lost 9 of their last 12 games. The Jays offense, which had been outstanding all year, has only scored 55 runs in June (tied for the 3rd fewest in the MLB). The Reds just might be playing them at the best time of the year.
The Jays offense has been one of the best in baseball this season. The Jays 334 runs scored are the 3rd most in the MLB, while their team .760 OPS is the 2nd best in the MLB, and their 93 home runs are the most in the MLB. They have been lead by Jose Bautista, who is having an MVP caliber season. Bautista is 2nd in the AL in wRC+ (170), 4th in WAR (3.2), and 1st in OBP (.432). The Jays offense has also been helped by former Red, Edwin Encarnacion, who is tied for 2nd in the MLB in HR (20). Something that will hurt them in this series in Cincinnati is not being able to use the DH. Adam Lind and Edwin Encarnacion shared the duties between DH and 1B (with Lind getting more starts as DH). Lind is having a terrific season, hitting .331/.409/.507 with a 154 wRC+. This will however give them a huge weapon off the bench.
- SS – Jose Reyes (S) .263/.325/.405, 5 HR, 15 SB, 103 wRC+, 1.3 WAR
- LF – Melky Cabrera (S) .296/.338/.462, 10 HR, 121 wRC+, 1.1 WAR
- RF – Jose Bautista (R) .312/.432/.540, 15 HR, 170 wRC+, 3.2 WAR
- 1B – Edwin Encarnacion (R) .260/.344/.564, 20 HR, 148 wRC+, 2.1 WAR
- 2B – Brett Lawrie (R) .237/.292/.406, 11 HR, 92 wRC+, 1.3 WAR
- C – Dioner Navarro (S) .261/.307/.338, 3 HR, 78 wRC+, 0.0 WAR
- 3B – Juan Francisco (L) .245/.324/.543, 11 HR, 137 wRC+, 1.1 WAR
- CF – Anthony Goose (L) .233/.347/.291, 0 HR, 85 wRC+, 1.0 WAR
If you believe in standard fielding statistics, the Blue Jays are great defensively. Their team .987 fielding percentage is the third best in baseball (the Reds are 1st at .990). If you believe in advanced defensive statistics, the Jays are below average. They rank 21st in defensive runs saved with -11 (the Reds are 2nd with 33 DRS).
Starting Pitching Matchups
[Update: Late reports indicate that R.A. Dickey’s start has been moved to Sunday and RHP Liam Hendriks has been called up from the Blue Jays AAA team to face the Reds tonight.]
Latos looked great in his first start of the season for the Reds. If that is any indication as to how he will pitch for the remainder of the season, the Reds will be in great shape. R.A. Dickey started off the season with a rough April, positing a 5.09 ERA. He has been much better since then, positing a 3.55 ERA in May, and a 3.18 ERA through three starts in June. Dickey is throwing his knuckelball 85% of the time this season, which is right around the last two seasons of 87% ad 85%. The last time the Reds faced Dickey was in 2012, and they did pretty well against him. In two starts, the Reds collected 15 hits and scored 8 earned runs in 12.0 IP (6.00 ERA).
Mike Leake was terrific through his first 11 starts of this season, positing a 2.92 ERA. He has really struggled since then, as he has a 8.22 ERA and 2.02 WHIP over his last 3 starts. J.A. Happ is coming off a nice start in Baltimore, where he allowed just 1 run in 6.0 innings, while striking out 6, and not allowing a walk. Happ has a 5.64 career ERA in five starts against the Reds, but hasn’t faced them since 2012.
Johnny Cueto leads the MLB in ERA (1.92) and WHIP (0.83), and is tied for 5th in strikeouts (111). His opponent on Sunday, Marcus Stroman will be making his 5th career start (10th overall appearance). Prior to the 2014 season, Stroman was rated the 55th top prospect by Baseball America and MLB.com, and the 27th best prospect by Baseball Prospectus. He features a fastball (94 MPH), slider (85 MPH), cutter (90 MPH), curveball (82 MPH), and a changeup (85 MPH). He throws his fastball 53% of the time, and his cutter and curveball about 18% of the time each. There was a cool story about Stroman in Newsday about his first game at Yankee Stadium being a dream come true.
The Reds are playing their best baseball of the season, winners in 6 of their last 8 games. Meanwhile, the Blue Jays have lost 9 of their last 12 games. The pitching matchups all look fairly favorable for the Redlegs, and the Reds are certainly lucky they get to miss Mark Buehrle (2.32 ERA). The Reds start a 10-game road trip following this series, so this would be a great weekend to get another series win. The Reds have won 3 of their last 4 series, with the only non-series win being a 4-game split against the Dodgers.
Nick is a lifelong Reds fan who was born and raised in Cincinnati. He acquired his love of baseball from his late grandfather. Nick moved to the Cleveland area in 2014 with his wife, and his currently fighting to convert his beautiful baby daughter Emma to Reds fandom. Nick has been writing for Redleg Nation since 2013. Follow Nick on Twitter @nicholaspkirby.