Red Sox Series Preview: Blue Skies Turn Red In Toronto


Red sky at morning, sailors take warning. Red sky at night, sailors’ delight.

Those are two lines that have been spoken by sea mariners for centuries. Versions of them have even been found in the Bible and in William Shakespeare’s writings. However, this time, they are being implied to the series opener between the Boston Red Sox and the Toronto Blue Jays, tonight. For the series, the red sky of the Red Sox bats will delight their starting pitcher, as he guides his team’s ship through the waters of Lake Ontario, while Red Sox sluggers should redden the sky the next two mornings (or at least the early afternoons) to the warning of the Blue Jays’ fans.

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The Red Sox (69-76) are coming off of a series loss against division opponents the Baltimore Orioles, although they won the last game by nine runs. Boston has won six out of their last 10 games, playing inspired baseball, despite losing one of their hottest starting pitchers, Joe Kelly, to a shoulder injury.

The Blue Jays (84-62) won their last two games in Atlanta against the Braves, but also went 6-4 in their last 10 games. The Blue Jays are hoping that a home stand in Toronto is exactly what they need to shake off the New York Yankees, whom are 3.5 games back of them for the American League East division lead.

In these two teams’ last encounter a week ago in Boston, the Red Sox took the series two games to one, combining for 22 runs in three games. The Blue Jays scored a combined 13 runs, but only won the second game of the series by four runs while the Red Sox won each of their games by seven runs and six runs, respectively.

The tale of the tape in this series matchup leads to more of the same, in the baseball launching pad known as the Rogers Centre in Toronto.

Pitching Matchups @ Rogers Centre:

Friday, September 18th @ 7:07 PM ET

Saturday, September 19th @ 4:07 PM ET

Sunday, September 20th @ 1:07 PM ET

Series Notes:

  • The aforementioned injury to Kelly is why Sunday’s starting pitcher for the Red Sox has yet to be announced. Sean Penney of BoSox Injection reported that “Interim manager Torey Lovullo indicated that one solution they are considering is having at least one game down the stretch where they use the bullpen for the entire game.” It’s highly unlikely that Henry Owens or Eduardo Rodriguez would have their starts pushed up to fill in the game in the series, as they are still considered young prospects who’ve only been starters this season out of necessity. Their arms have never thrown this many innings before, and the Red Sox would not want to burn them out before the season is officially over.
  • The Blue Jays have a key injury of their own. Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki is out with a crack in his left shoulder blade and upper body bruising from a collision with center fielder Kevin Pillar. Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet in Toronto reported that Tulowitzki “will be assessed by a specialist in Boston” to see how much damage has been done and what sort of steps will be needed to remedy the situation. However, they are expecting him to be out another two to three weeks. “In the meantime, Ryan Goins and Cliff Pennington are providing excellent defence up the middle, but there’s no replacing Tulowitzki’s career .877 OPS.”
  • Ian Browne of reported that the Red Sox are going to be moving center fielder Mookie Betts to right field for the series. This move would be the first time Betts has played a different position since winning the job in center at the start of the season. According to Browne, “the Red Sox are trying to determine how they want to align their outfield for 2016. Jackie Bradley Jr. is a top-notch defender in center, and he will play that position while Betts plays right.”
  • Tonight’s starter for the Blue Jays, Stroman has owned the Red Sox since last season, winning all three games with a combined ERA of 1.25. However, that was before his torn ligament in his left knee kept him out of the first five months of the season. His first start was in Yankee Stadium, in front of his family and friends from New York, where he allowed three runs in five innings. Granted, the runs came at the end of his night, but it wasn’t that dominating as he has been in the past. The Red Sox will have to avoid Stroman’s deathly slider, which looks more like a combination of slider and curveball, as it either finds the strikezone to catch batters looking or makes them hit it poorly like a knuckleball.
  • The Red Sox have hit really well against Dickey, with five of Boston’s usual starters hitting .300 or better. Designated hitter David Ortiz has seven RBIs against Dickey, while Xander Bogaerts and Pablo Sandoval each have five RBIs. However, this is a different R.A. Dickey from before the All-Star Break. Dickey is 7-1 with a 2.98 ERA since that time.
  • Buehrle had a cortisone shot in his left shoulder, his pitching shoulder, recently. The aging pitcher has been fantastic for the Blue Jays, but he has been worn down by the long season and a long career of pitching at least 200 innings a year. The mileage may have finally caught up to him. In his last outing, he gave up one earned run but he only lasted five innings before getting the hook. In 36 at-bats, Ortiz has had the better of Buehrle for two home runs and eight RBIs for a .306 batting average. Dustin Pedroia has a .367 average and two RBIs in 30 at-bats.

Key Hitters:

Sep 16, 2015; Baltimore, MD, USA; Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia (15) at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Red Sox – Dustin Pedroia

  • The Red Sox veteran second baseman has been on fire at the plate, especially in the last seven games. Against the Orioles, Pedroia hit two home runs in the same night to help the team win big in Oriole Park. He’s hitting a slash line of .450/.500/1.000 with three home runs and eight RBIs in 20 at-bats. The Red Sox need him to get on base to set the table for Big Papi and the others to drive him home, as well as drill in the bottom of the batting order into home, himself.

Sep 16, 2015; Atlanta, GA, USA; Toronto Blue Jays catcher

Russell Martin

(55) hits a two-run home run at Turner Field. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Blue Jays – Russell Martin

  • The Blue Jays catcher may only be the second best hitter for the team in the last seven games, hitting .333 to Edwin Encarnacion‘s .421, but Martin’s defensive position makes him the most important hitter to watch for, in this series. The Blue Jays have had Josh Thole catch for Dickey lately, while Martin was allowed to rest or play DH when the knuckler was on the mound. Martin’s bat seemed to suffer greatly when he was catching for Dickey, as if the knuckleball worried him so much that doubts crept into the rest of his game. Now, with the Blue Jays close to the postseason, the team needs Martin to practice catching Dickey again, before there are any mixups in important playoff games. Martin has led Toronto with three home runs and 11 RBIs in the last few games, but will that be a different story once the Jedi Master of the knuckleball must help his Padiwan how to receive his teachings?


Game One Winner – Toronto Blue Jays

Game Two Winner – Boston Red Sox

Game Three Winner – Boston Red Sox

Even with the rehabbed knee injury, Stroman is still the StroShow compared to Porcello. The Red Sox starter has definitely played better in his last four starts, earning a 3-1 record and a 2.15 ERA; however, even in his win against the same Blue Jays in Fenway Park, Porcello gave up three runs. Luckily, it was posted after 7.1 innings at home. Tonight, Porcello will be the visiting pitcher, a situation when he has a record of 3-6 and a 5.82 ERA. In the Rogers Centre, Porcello is 1-4, with a 7.36 ERA and an opposing batting average of .308 in five games. In that span, Porcello has given up six home runs, making Blue Jays fans salivating at what Mount Crushmore can do to him in their return to Canada.

That being said, Miley and Dickey could pitch to a dead-even affair. If Miley’s Jekyll appears, instead of his Hyde persona, the Red Sox bats should get to Dickey early and, possibly, big enough to take the lead and run with it. If not, then Dickey will last almost the whole game, with Blue Jays closer Roberto Osuna to shut the door.

Even though the Red Sox have not named a starter to counter Buehrle, the Red Sox should feel that the game is very winnable. The likelihood that Blue Jays manager John Gibbons will push Buehrle deep into the game, if he’s having long innings with Red Sox baserunners, is very doubtful. Toronto will want a healthy, refreshed Buehrle for the playoffs. How can that happen with Buehrle acting like a workhorse? If Buehrle comes out in the fifth or sixth inning, the Red Sox have a good shot at taking the victory.

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