After taking two of three from the Atlanta Braves and closing out the interleague portion of the season schedule, the Boston Red Sox (38-34) welcome the Toronto Blue Jays (37-35) to Fenway Park for a three-game skein. Toronto’s starting pitching has been devastated by injuries but their bats are heating up. Everybody knows that a cornered, wounded animal is very dangerous, and so could the Jays be if they keep hitting.
Henderson Alvarez (against Felix Doubront in Monday night’s opener) is the polar opposite of young pitchers I rail against who try to strike everybody out, but Alvarez takes it too far. Way too far. Sure, his ground ball rate is an excellent 57.3% but he’s only striking out 2.70 batters per 9 innings pitched (and walking 2.00 per 9). His defense is saving him over a run per nine innings (an ERA of 4.30 and an FIP of 5.53), and he may have been lucky (a BABIP of .275 but an actual batting average against of .287). At least he isn’t hurt.
Aaron Laffey (versus Daisuke Matsuzaka on Tuesday night) hadn’t been a starting pitcher since 2010 but with all Toronto’s pitching injuries, anyone can start for the Blue Jays! Laffey’s fast ball, never his strong point, is down to 86 MPH this year. Laffey did add a sinker to his repertoire last year, so he’s got that going for him, which is nice. So far in 2012 Laffey has pitched 9 innings in the majors, all in relief, so his sample size is too small to be significant, but he does have a 3.00 ERA against a 5.72 FIP and a 4.11 SIERA. Your guess is as good as mine.
Ricky Romero (facing Jon Lester in Wednesday afternoon’s finale) has an 8-1 record. That’s pretty good. The rest of his numbers? Not so much. 6.51 K/9 against an ugly 4.34 BB/9. 4.34 ERA/5.02 FIP/4.39 xFIP? Meh. Eight wins but a 0.3 fWAR? Not good. A .251 BABIP and a 1.34 WHIP? Ew. Ricky Romero has eight wins this season because he is second in all of baseball in run support average with 10.29 runs scored for him per nine innings pitched (of note, Felix Doubront’s 10.89 is first and Clay Buchholz‘s 9.69 is third).
WHO’S HOT/WHO’S NOT
In the past fortnight, Jose Bautista is kicking butt and taking names, hitting 6 homers with a .282/.472/.769 triple slash line, a .502 wOBA, and a 224 wRC. Also hitting well in the last two weeks have been Colby Rasmus (5 homers, .320/.370/.680, .433 wOBA, 178 wRC) and Brett Lawrie (.333/.418/.604, .417 wOBA, 167 wRC). However, Kelly Johnson (.222/.229/.222, .198 wOBA, 16 wRC), J.P. Arencibia (.219/.265/.313, .242 wOBA, 47 wRC) and Yunel Escobar (.214/.244/.286, .239 wOBA, 44 wRC) need to take off, eh.
In the bullpen this season, Casey Janssen (2.60 ERA/3.88 FIP/3.25 xFIP, 8.13 K/9, 1.63 BB/9, 7 saves) has been a decent option at closer, while the 137-year-old Darren Oliver (1.42 ERA/2.50 FIP/2.90 xFIP) continues to defy time. However, Francisco Cordero (4.91 ERA/5.20 FIP/4.70 xFIP) stinks on ice.
RHP Kyle Drabek (Tommy John surgery) and RHP Jesse Litsch (right shoulder, biceps) are out for the season. RHP Dustin McGowan (right shoulder inflammation) and RHP Sergio Santos (right shoulder inflammation) are on the 60-day DL. RHP Drew Hutchison (sprained right elbow) and RHP Brandon Morrow (left oblique strain) are on the 15-day DL.
AND WHAT ABOUT THE RED SOX?
Yesterday Red Sox Nation had an emotional goodbye to long-time servant of the club Kevin Youkilis, who was traded to the White Sox after the game. But let us not forget: in 2004, a 24-year-old Kevin Youkilis showed up at Fenway and eventually took the job of then 33-year-old Bill Mueller. In 2012, the 24-year-old Will Middlebrooks showed up at Fenway and took the job of the now 33-year-old Kevin Youkilis. Cue Elton John with “The Circle of Life.”
In the last two weeks, Daniel Nava (.500/.556/.625, .521 wOBA, 233 wRC), Will Middlebrooks (.429/.455/.857, .526 wOBA, 237 wRC) and Cody Ross (.318/.348/.864, .502 wOBA, 221 wRC) lead the way for the Red Sox, while Dustin Pedroia (.222/.286/.311, .257 wOBA, 52 wRC) Adrian Gonzalez (.250/.347/.325, .303 wOBA, 84 wRC) and Ryan Kalish (.190/.261/.190, .213 wOBA, 23 wRC) make up the cold list, although Pedroia and Gonzalez showed signs of life in the last two games against the Braves.
On the mound, Franklin Morales is pitching his heart out, pitching well, and has been unlucky. In two starts with one win, Morales has 13.91 K/9 against 0.82 BB/9, a spectacular 0.24 FIP, an excellent 1.28 xFIP, but “only” a 3.27 ERA and an ugly .423 BABIP. In the pen, only Vicente Padilla (0.00 ERA/1.05 FIP/2.85 xFIP) retains the Blutarsky ERA Award, while Clayton Mortensen (3.86 ERA/8.62 FIP/6.76 xFIP) was the only Red Sox reliever in the past two weeks to post an ERA over 3.00.
The Toronto Blue Jays have hitters like Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Colby Rasmus and the emerging Brett Lawrie, but with injuries to many starting pitchers, they may have to settle for the role of spoiler in the American League East. However, it’s a role at which they can excel. Beware.