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Preview: Jays Look to Put Foot on Throat of Ailing Rangers.

(Cheers TorStar)

This has been an odd season, hasn’t it (No, that pic isn’t from this season..)? The off-season brought nothing but anxiety from the lack of (relevant) transactions, spring training featured a bunch of guys under-performing in a battle for the 5th spot in the rotation, and Casey Janssen began the season on the DL.

A couple weeks ago, we were all bitching about the bullpen. Is it over-worked? Are the starters for real? Should Brett Lawrie be changing positions? Should management be saying one thing and consistently doing the exact opposite within hours?

The truth is that these questions are all still perfectly valid, but looking at some of the teams the Jays have faced so far this season, how many teams are so better off?

The Phillies, a model franchise just a couple years ago, looks old, outdated, and unprepared for the future with a core of several players that are 34-35 years old. The Yankees are essentially the exact same story, except with a core even older than that.

That’s their #4 pitcher in the middle, and starting catcher Yogi Berra on the left.

Why is Cleveland in last? Think moving your third baseman to second is bad? Try moving your catcher (Carlos Santana) to third base so that a guy with offensive upside but very limited experience as a catcher (Yan Gomes) can play every day. The result? A playoff team from last year now leads the league in errors.

And now Texas, an unstoppable team the last few years, is riddled with injuries. They’ve used NINE different starting pitchers this season (sound familiar?), none of which strike fear in anyone (except Mr. Darvish). They let Nelson Cruz and AJ Pierzynski walk and traded Ian Kinsler for Prince Fielder, who now has a herniated disc in his neck. They’re three games under .500.

Which brings us to this afternoon:

“Yes I can (reach the 8th inning)!”

The Blue Jays are looking to win their sixth straight on the road, and after their emerging young ace picked up his first career shutout on Friday, and their statistical-ace continued his dominant stretch in a no-decision, you’ve gotta like the chances of their ace-on-paper this afternoon.

First of all, the Dickster has been red-hot over his last five outings. Thanks to the late score-keeping change after his last start, he’s had five quality starts in a row (unearned runs don’t count!). 9 earned runs (5 unearned) on 27 hits over 30+ innings with 12 walks and 29 strikeouts. Opposing hitters have a .227 BA against him and he’s only allowed one home run for a 2.64 ERA over the stretch. He also hasn’t made it out of the 7th inning in any of those starts, so… you know, that’d be nice and all.

Second, don’t underestimate Dickey’s passion for revenge against the team that drafted him. Recall that the Rangers low-balled him, forcing him to accept a 10th the amount for his signing bonus because he had no ulnar collateral ligament. He’s gonna want blood.

TODAY’S LINEUP (thanks MLB.com!)

Blue Jays 2014 stats
AVG HR RBI SB
Reyes, J, SS .215 3 10 5
Cabrera, M, LF .311 6 20 4
Bautista, J, RF .299 11 30 1
Lind, A, 1B .313 2 11 0
Encarnacion, E, DH .243 8 30 2
Francisco, J, 3B .282 7 18 0
Lawrie, B, 2B .243 7 24 0
Thole, J, C .372 0 4 0
Gose, A, CF .286 0 2 2
SP- R.A. Dickey
43, 4.19 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 47 Ks
vs. Rangers last 5 years
10, 3.18 ERA, 1.94 WHIP, 3 Ks
Rangers 2014 stats
AVG HR RBI SB
Choice, M, LF .220 2 14 1
Andrus, E, SS .247 1 9 11
Choo, S, DH .303 4 11 3
Beltre, A, 3B .250 3 13 0
Rios, A, RF .299 3 21 7
Moreland, M, 1B .274 1 13 0
Chirinos, R, C .220 2 8 0
Martin, L, CF .290 2 14 9
Sardinas, L, 2B .400 0 1 0
SP- Nick Martinez
01, 2.38 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 13 Ks

The lefty-righty lineup returns!

To me, this is a completely winnable game for two reasons. First, Nick Martinez has nice numbers, but this is his first start since April 22nd with 4 bullpen appearances since. He’s not stretched out, and after Robbie Ross’ short start last night, the Rangers’ bullpen is taxed already.

The second reason? Just looking at those lineups side-by-side, this should be a breeze for them. Look at that Jays lineup even without Colby Rasmus! And who the heck is Michael Choice? And Rougned Odor (No, he’s not playing today)?

The game starts at 3, and I’ll be live tweeting for the most part. But first, two quick bullets:

1. JP ARENCIBIA

If you haven’t read his comments about the Blue Jays, check them out here.

According to JP, the media is to blame for his being shipped out of town. Nothing like a guy who talks a bunch of junk with no facts to back it up.

I know that I’m not a professional athlete, but I don’t believe that inhibits me from commenting on a player based on his performance. For Arencibia to go after guys like Gregg Zaun and Dirk Hayhurst, who actually DID play the game, is just plain silly.

Grow up, kid. And start hitting.

To the media: Lay off him already. I know it makes for great drama and all, but why not let the baseball tell the story, and stop beating the dead horse already.

He’s hitting .133 with 8 hits in 60 ABs. He’s emotional and he’s bitter, and he’s gonna be out of a job soon. Leave him alone.

2. ANTHONY GOSE

This kid’s been good, and he gets a section here after being left out of last night’s post when he deserved some credit.

Last night, he doubled, stole third, and scored what was, at the time, the go-ahead run. He’s also played solid defence since he’s been called up, and, with his speed, is the perfect #9 hitter.

Follow us on Twitter @JaysBalk. The Jays are just a half-game out of first place…

For Jays Balk, I’m @TheAsherRoth

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