Preview: Blue Jays Look to Get Over the Hump

Dustin McGowan looks to rebound from a shaky outing, and send the Blue Jays above the .500 mark on Wednesday night against the Cleveland Clevelanders (18-21) at 7:07 on Sportsnet. Tigers Indians BaseballAs the Jays look to go above .500 for the first time since … last Thursday (18-18), let’s go Around the Diamond for tonight’s game with four burning questions as the Blue Jays take on the second most racist team in the MLB. (Also note, the Jays haven’t been more than two games over since 2012.)

1. Will McGowan Bounce Back? McGowan failed to reach the sixth inning for the first time in three starts on Friday against the Angels. Over his five frames, he gave up just two runs on seven hits, one of which was a towering Mike Trout home run ball. That’s just going to happen. He walked two, and struck out two, but had a lot of deep counts, and the seven hits didn’t help his pitch count in the no-decision. Prior to that, he had been quite good, with 13 innings spread out over two starts, allowing just three earned runs on six hits. He also walked six, but the .167 BABIP is very impressive.

Cleveland is certainly not a team of thumpers, and their record has them last in the AL Central right now. Their .239 batting average is 13th in the AL; however they are fifth in walks, and third best at avoiding the strikeout. If nothing else, it is a winnable game for Dustin if he has his good stuff.

2. Is this the Real Jose Reyes? Rumours of Reye’s demise may have been slightly exagerrated. His numbers might not completely bear it yet, but he’s been en fuego over the last week and a half. After going 0-for-5 in Kansas City on May 1, he’s reached base safely in eleven consecutive games. He’s hitting .256, with a .395 OBP, seven extra-base hits (four doubles, his first Blue Jays triple, and two home runs). He’s scored 13 runs. Yes, you read that correctly, 13 times in 11 games. That’s the kind of guy they need Reyes to be to have an extended run of success. Now for the love of God, just please stay healthy.

3. The Legend of Johnny McFrank? Stock_Francisco01Is this the best month of Juan Francisco’s career? In 22 games as a Blue Jay, his slash line reads .293/.386/.600, with a .986 OPS. Some of those are just absurd. He has six home runs and 16 RBI. Extrapolated over a 162-game season, that’s 44 HR, 118 RBI. Obviously we don’t expect this kind of production all season, and he’s prone to the slump (as we saw over the weekend when he went 0-for-10 with 8 strikeouts.) But for right now, he’s got a tremendously hot bat, and you have to keep him in the lineup every day. If that means Lawrie at second base, it means Lawrie at second base. Which leads me to …

4. Should Brett Lawrie be playing second base? Yes. Asher wrote last night about this, and we discussed it on the podcast. (Note: at time of Asher’s writing, the play Lawrie booted had been scored a base hit. It was later changed to an E4.) That’s just his first error of the season at second base, which is much better than he fared in limited time last season.

I think it’s easier this time around because he’s in the groove of playing every day. When they experimented last year, he was coming off the DL for the second time in the season, and off an ankle injury no less. He wasn’t hitting well, either. There was just so much going on, that it was a recipe for disaster. He’s looked smoother there this season. It’s a dynamite double play combination with Reyes that is assuredly tempting to maintain for years. But they’re just as tempting, if not more so, as a left-side tandem. For as long as Johnny McFrank is swinging it, though, you’ve got to sacrifice a bit of defence for offense, at least early in the game. You always have the option of bringing Tolleson off the bench for defence in the later innings.

Tonight’s lineup!

Blue Jays 05/14 (20-20)
SS 7 Jose Reyes .288 3 9
LF 53 Melky Cabrera .365 6 17
RF 19 Jose Bautista .433 10 28
1B 10 Edwin Encarnacion .328 6 27
DH 26 Adam Lind .429 2 11
3B 47 Juan Francisco .386 6 16
2B 13 Brett Lawrie .289 7 23
C 22 Josh Thole .432 0 3
CF 11 Kevin Pillar .000 0 0
P 29 Dustin McGowan 1.49 2 – 1 22/15

It is essentially the same as last night, just with Lind and EE switched back to their normal spots. Nobody on the roster has more than four ABs against Cleveland starter Corey Kluber. For the season, he’s 3-3, 3.48 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, which just screams mediocre to me. Last time out, he was roughed up in Oakland: 5 ER, 8 H, 3 BB over 3.1 innings. More of that, please!

Dionner Navarro has been placed on the Bereavement List, which means he can be gone for anywhere from 3-7 days. It’s being reported as an unspecified family emergency, but not a death. Hopefully everything is alright with the Navarros. To take his place, Erik Kratz has been recalled, which is great for him. He’s been good in limited action and will likely start a game or two, depending on the length of the absence. And in the bullpen, Neil Wagner back up (FANTASTIC), and Chad Jenkins back down. I feel for JenkNutz. It feels like he’s been transferred 70 times already this season. He’s racking up the Air Miles and Avis Rental Car points, that’s for sure. This is a good move, though. One less long guy in the pen, and Wagner is a great arm who has good stuff and gets results.

Colby Rasmus remains day-to-day with his hammy problem. Gibbons said hopefully tomorrow, but if not maybe Friday. So as always, my expectation is to not see him until Sunday. Once again it’s Two and a Half Men on the bench, tonight starring Erik Kratz and Steve Tolleson.

To steal from Pete, here’s your bonus for reaching the end of the article. It has nothing to do with baseball, but how can you not love this?

Don’t forget to follow on @JaysBalk.

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