After returning home from a 1-8 West Coast trip, the Boston Red Sox (63-75, 14.5 games back in the AL East) return to Fenway Park to host the Toronto Blue Jays (61-75, 15.5 games back in the AL East). The Blue Jays are 5-5 in their last 10 games and won their last game. The Red Sox are a dismal 2-8 in their last 10 games and lost their last game.
STARTING PITCHERS: Henderson Alvarez, J.A. Happ and Carlos Villanueva
Henderson Alvarez (versus Felix Doubront in the opener) is having a very difficult first full season with the Blue Jays. The promise Alvarez showed in 10 starts in 2011 has largely disappeared. Alvarez’s K/9 dropped by over 2 strikeouts per nine innings (5.65 to 3.42) and his BB/9 rose over 1.5 walks per nine (1.13 to 2.67). Add that to a very ugly .298 batting average against and you get a 1.50 WHIP. Throw in 25 homers in 26 starts, mix well, and you have the recipe for a bad pitcher. If he’s not careful, Alvarez could get chopped from the rotation next season.
J.A. Happ (facing Daisuke Matsuzaka) has pitched much better for Toronto than he did for Houston. Although Happ has posted a 4.46 ERA for Toronto since being traded (8 percent worse than league average), Happ’s FIP is an excellent 2.81 (33 percent better than league average) and his xFIP is 3.77 (9 percent better than league average). Happ’s 10.26 K/9 is tempered by his 3.79 BB/9. With a 35.6% ground ball rate you (and xFIP) would expect Happ to give up more homers but he’s only surrendered two in 40 innings for the Blue Jays (a 4.5% HR/FB rate). That’s good eats.
Carlos Villanueva (against Clay Buchholz in Sunday afternoon’s finale) has been a bright spot in an otherwise dismal pitching season for the Blue Jays, just as a little lemon zest will brighten up any dish. Villanueva’s 3.42 ERA is not entirely out of balance with his 4.00 FIP and 3.87 xFIP. Villanueva’s 14 homers surrendered in 104 innings pitched and his 3.33 BB/9 aren’t great, but he balances the bitter with the sweetness of 9.14 K/9 and a .224 batting average against. How bad can that be?
1. Rajai Davis, LF
2. Colby Rasmus, CF
3. Edwin Encarnacion, 1B
4. Adam Lind, DH
5. Yunel Escobar, SS
6. Kelly Johnson, 2B
7. J.P. Arencibia, C
8. Moises Sierra, RF
9. Adeiny Hechavarria, 3B
WHO’S HOT/WHO’S NOT
The only really hot hitter in the past two weeks for the Blue Jays has been Yunel Escobar (.316/.350/.553, .383 wOBA, 143 wRC). Honorable mention must go to Edwin Encarnacion (.200/.340/.525, .345 wOBA, 118 wRC), whose low batting average is outweighed by many walks and four homers. The cold hitters for the Jays in the last two weeks were Rajai Davis (.191/.269/.277, .234 wOBA, 41 wRC), Moises Sierra (.158/.179/.263, .192 wOBA, 13 wRC), Jeff Mathis (.091/.167/.227, .179 wOBA, 4 wRC) and Colby Rasmus (.114/.188/.182, .164 wOBA, -7 wRC).
In the Jays’ bullpen, Darren Oliver (1.68 ERA/2.96 FIP/3.31 xFIP) is pitching like a fine aged balsamic vinegar, while Brandon Lyon (2.08 ERA/1.44 FIP/2.13 xFIP) has been a perfect ingredient since his addition from Houston. I guess that would make him cumin. For dessert, Casey Janssen (2.52 ERA/3.35 FIP/2.94 xFIP) has been a reliable closer when the Jays get to him, with 19 saves and only 3 blown saves.
RF Jose Bautista (recovery from September 2012 left wrist surgery), RHP Robert Coello (right elbow), 1B David Cooper (mid-back), RHP Kyle Drabek (recovery from June 2012 Tommy John surgery), RHP Drew Hutchison (recovery from August 2012 Tommy John surgery), RHP Jesse Litsch (right shoulder, biceps), RHP Dustin McGowan (right shoulder), LHP Luis Perez (recovery from July 2012 Tommy John surgery) and RHP Sergio Santos (recovery from July 2012 right shoulder surgery) are out for the season. 3B Brett Lawrie (strained oblique) is on the 15-day DL. C J.P. Arencibia (fractured right hand) is expected to be activated on Friday night.
AND WHAT ABOUT THE RED SOX?
Someone left the cake out in the rain…
One thing is for certain: Dustin Pedroia has not checked out for the season. In the last two weeks Pedroia is hitting .367/.446/.551, .424 wOBA, 167 wRC. Also hitting well is Cody Ross (.313/.353/.417, .337 wOBA, 107 wRC). However, on the cold side these past two weeks have been Pedro Ciriaco (.235/.250/.314, .255 wOBA, 52 wRC), Ryan Lavarnway (.200/.250/.300, .242 wOBA, 42 wRC), Scott Podsednik (.229/.224/.229, .203 wOBA, 15 wRC) and Jose Iglesias (.053/.143/.105, .127 wOBA, -37 wRC, but he finally got a hit!).
As for the Red Sox starters, they are pitching like bad takeout that makes you violently sick. I’ll just give you the numbers for the last two weeks, as analyzing them would make me gag: Aaron Cook (6.75 ERA/4.13 FIP/5.05 xFIP), Clay Buchholz (4.50 ERA/4.18 FIP/4.01 xFIP), Jon Lester (4.71 ERA/5.11 FIP/4.72 xFIP), Felix Doubront (10.13 ERA/4.61 FIP/2.46 xFIP) and Daisuke Matsuzaka (5.06 ERA/5.36 FIP/5.40 xFIP).
In the bullpen over the last two weeks, Andrew Bailey (0.00 ERA/3.32 FIP/6.79 xFIP) has to share the Blutarsky ERA Award with short-timers Clayton Mortensen (0.00 ERA/-2.89 FIP/-2.89 xFIP, yes negative – he struck out both batters he faced), “The Other” Chris Carpenter (0.00 ERA/12.11 FIP/12.11 xFIP) and Rich Hill (0.00 ERA/6.86 FIP/6.86 xFIP). On the other side of the coin, Mark Melancon (20.25 ERA/7.61 FIP/4.94 xFIP) and Daniel Bard (9.00 ERA/14.11 FIP/4.05) smell like spoiled meat.
The Battle for Fourth Place in the AL East. Bon appetit!