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Preview: Blue Jays Host Orioles to Open Homestand

It’s a Battle of the Birds tonight, as the Toronto Blue Jays (10-9) return to the Dome to host the Baltimore Orioles (9-9) in the opener of a six-game intra-division homestand (7:07 ET, Sportsnet).

Stock_Dickey02It’ll be the knuckler, Robert Allen Dickey (1-3, 6.26) going to the hill for the Blue Jays, looking to reverse what’s been a pretty crummy April so far. Outside of his six-inning shutout against the Yankees, Dickey has been dreadful thus far. That was evident last Thursday when he failed to get through the fifth inning in an eventual 7-0 loss in Minnesota.

Uh, unfortunately, it might be a tough task against the Orioles. Last season, in three starts against the black-and-orange crew from Maryland, The Dickler pitched 18.2 innings (which is a decent 6.1 per start), but allowed 22 hits and 10 walks (1.71 WHIP), contributing to SIXTEEN earned runs (7.71 ERA). Oh, and he also allowed five home runs, and the team collectively hit .301 off him. So colour me unenthused about his chances of righting the ship tonight. He’s walked 15 batters already, which is tops in the American League. His 18.3 pitches per inning are 8th in the MLB.  His 1.65 WHIP is 9th (all stats listed among qualified starters).

In defence of his 1-3 record, his run support average per start (2.50) is 12th worst in baseball. But he himself has not gotten the job done. Our Peter Houston hopes to have an expanded piece on the struggles of Toronto’s “ace” later this week.

On the other side of the ball, the offense continues to sit in stop-and-go traffic. They’ve put together a combination of solid and unspectacular efforts over the first 19 games, with some duds mixed in as well.  Now that they’ve returned home to their comfy confines (both at home and at work), the expectation level for these guys HAS to be raised. Jose Reyes will play his first home game of the season, and is being counted on to be a catalyst for Melky Cabrera and Jose Bautista. And eventually EE has to come out of this power funk, right? I feel bad for the guy, because had Cleveland not been shifting hard against him in the 9th on Sunday, he would have had a game-tying single up the gut, and we probably wouldn’t be talking about this. But, he can avoid that talk by putting a few balls in the left field seats over the next six days. That’ll shut us all up.

Here’s the lineup, which is actually identical to Sunday’s (and by my count, just the second time all season the Jays have used identical lineups on back-to-back days).

Blue Jays 04/21 (10-9)
OBP HR RBI
SS 7 Jose Reyes .273 0 2
LF 53 Melky Cabrera .367 4 5
RF 19 Jose Bautista .459 6 13
1B 10 Edwin Encarnacion .313 0 5
DH 47 Juan Francisco .500 0 1
CF 28 Colby Rasmus .243 3 5
3B 13 Brett Lawrie .182 3 12
C 22 Josh Thole .467 0 1
2B 17 Ryan Goins .196 0 0
ERA W L
P 43 R.A. Dickey 6.26 1 3

Tonight’s opponent is Miguel Gonzalez (1-1, 6.28). In his last start he threw five shutout innings against Tampa Bay, allowing just three hits and three walks, while striking out three.

In five starts against Toronto last year: 3-1, 2.30 ERA, .179 OPP AVG.

Over 31.1 innings pitched, he surrendered just 8 earned runs. He allowed 20 hits, 10 walks (a dazzling 0.95 WHIP), and just three dingers.

So let’s just say the Jays have their work cut out for themselves tonight.

You have to be happy with the 5-4 road trip, but considering it could/should have been a 7-2 stint, these are games you HAVE to have. I think anything less than 4-2 on the homestand is fair to be labelled a disappointment. And with Baltimore ace Chris Tillman on the hill tomorrow, it has to start tonight.

We know the bullpen had a bit of a rough week. The day off and return home needs to be the elixer as they turn the page.

I’ll be doing some live tweeting tonight as I flip back and forth with the Raptors and NHL playoff games, so don’t forget to give us a follow.

@jaysbalk
@di_nic

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