Toronto Blue Jays (31-28) at Detroit Tigers(29-28)
Time/Place: 7:10 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation blog: Bluebird Banter
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Aaron Sanchez (5-1, 2.99 ERA) vs. LHP Matt Boyd (0-1, 3.94 ERA)
The Blue Jays gutted their farm system last July, trading away some of their best prospects for Troy Tulowitzki and David Price. One of those prospects, Matt Boyd, will start opposite them tonight. However, one of the keys to the Jays' excellent deadline maneuvering was not trading promising young righthander Aaron Sanchez. A 23-year-old former first round pick, Sanchez was ranked among the top 25-30 prospects in baseball three years running from 2013 to 2015. He sports a mid-90s fastball that gets as high as 99 miles per hour, and a lethal curveball around 80 mph.
The Jays tried to use the young Sanchez in the rotation last season, and things were going well. He had a 3.55 ERA through his first 11 starts, though his peripherals were quite ugly. However, Sanchez was sidelined in early June with a lat injury, an ailment that may have spurred the Jays' last-minute trade for Price. Sanchez was moved to the bullpen when he came back and dominated in a setup role, allowing a 2.39 ERA in 30 appearances down the stretch.
While he impressed as a reliever, the Jays were willing to give Sanchez another shot in the rotation, and the move seems to have paid off. Sanchez has a 2.99 ERA and 3.15 FIP through 11 starts, and his strikeout and walk rates are both trending in the right directions. Tom Dakers of Bluebird Banter offered more in our series preview.
Sanchez has been my favorite starter to watch. He’s throwing a mid-90’s fastball, and has the prettiest curve you will ever see. And he’s turned his changeup into a pitch we don’t dread to see him throw. In previous seasons, he’s had big troubles with left-handed batters. This year lefties are hitting just .232/.308/.355 against him. He’s getting tons of ground balls, and has only allowed 4 home runs in 11 starts.
Meanwhile, righties are hitting .231/.286/.308 against him, and have a .463 OPS against him in his young career. The 2.93 strikeout-to-walk ratio against right-handed batters doesn't bode well either.
The Blue Jays offense hasn't gotten up to speed so far this season, but they feel like a sleeping giant. Once the bats wake up, look out. Last season, the Blue Jays destroyed left-handed pitching, batting .278/.354/.463 as a team. This year, that sparkling .818 OPS has fallen all the way down to .732, just barely above their numbers against righties. While Boyd has looked solid in his first two outings, I don't like these odds, especially given his past history of homer troubles.
Couple that with Sanchez holding right-handed hitters to a .463 OPS in his career, and this seems like a clear advantage for Toronto.
A late Tigers comeback attempt falls short and the Blue Jays even the series.
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