Manager: John Gibbons (11th season)
Last 10 games: 3-7
Who to watch: 1B Justin Smoak (16 HR, 52 RBIs), 3B Yangervis Solarte (16 HR, 48 RBIs), LF Teoscar Hernández (15 HR), LHP J.A. Happ (4.29 ERA, 121 Ks), RHP Ryan Tepera (6 saves)
Season series vs. Orioles: 6-1
Inside the Blue Jays:
They’ve taken care of business against the Orioles this season, winning all but one of the seven matchups with Baltimore so far, and the Blue Jays are looking down at the O’s in the standings from a pretty safe distance. But the Jays are looking up at the rest of the American League East as regular season play resumes tonight, and their general outlook seems pretty bleak. Ranking 14th in hits and 13th in RBIs among the American League’s 15 teams, the Blue Jays offense has yet to take flight, and injuries have decimated their lineup. Three-time All-Star third baseman Josh Donaldson has been on the disabled list since late May with a calf injury and speedy center fielder Kevin Pillar went down Saturday with a shoulder strain that will keep him out of action for four to six weeks. Five-time All-Star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, recovering from surgery to remove bone spurs in both feet, hasn’t played at all this season. The Jays pitching staff is hurting too, with two starters currently on the disabled list. Righty Marco Estrada is expected to come off the 10-day DL and reclaim his place in the rotation in time for his next scheduled start when the Jays host the Twins the day after the Orioles go from Toronto to Boston. Aaron Sanchez, out since late June with a contusion to his pitching hand, should be back at the end of this month. Meanwhile, the team has been without closer Roberto Osuna, who was suspended for 75 games following his May 8 arrest on an assault charge. His court case is pending, and his attorney has said the pitcher intends to plead not guilty. In his first mound appearance since his arrest, Osuna pitched on Saturday for Toronto’s Rookie-level Gulf Coast League team and has now moved on to Single-A Dunedin.
While his batting average is nothing to write home about, switch-hitting first baseman Justin Smoak (.245/.364/.480) poses the greatest all-around offensive threat the Jays have on hand. But he’s susceptible to the strikeout, and took at least one K in each of the last six games heading into the All-Star break. Third baseman Yangervis Solarte, who also hits from both sides of the plate, is tied with Smoak for the team lead in homers with 16, and is the Jays’ second-place RBI man. He’s slumped in the first half of July, though, going 8-for 52 (.154) with just three RBIs. Left fielder Teoscar Hernández has made up ground on Smoak and Solarte in the home run department, hitting two in his last three games. And while their best years as big leaguers are likely behind them, veterans Kendrys Morales and Curtis Granderson can still do damage.
Having made 13 starts in 16 appearances for the Mariners and Royals in his rookie year of 2017, right-hander Sam Gaviglio (4.58 ERA) tonight makes his 12th start since he joined Toronto’s rotation in May after a couple of relief appearances. Gaviglio’s ERA has been climbing since he pitched seven scoreless innings against the Yankees on June 6. A June 11 start went particularly badly, as Gaviglio surrendered six runs on six hits to the Braves in just 1 1/3 innings. Just three days later, manager John Gibbons called on Gaviglio to start again, at Boston. In 3 1/3 innings, he gave up just one run, on a solo homer by J.D. Martinez. Righty Marcus Stroman (5.86 ERA) starts Saturday afternoon. He’s been up and down in his last four outings, winning two and losing two. Stroman has been able to give Gibbons some innings, failing to go at least five in just two of his 12 starts this year. However, he has allowed a home run in eight of those starts. Southpaw J.A. Happ (4.29 ERA),who starts Sunday’s series finale, has anchored the Blue Jays staff this season. Assuming he stays healthy (hardly a safe bet, given the Jays’ fortunes in 2018), Happ should easily pass his personal best strikeout total (151 in 2015). However, he’s lost all three starts he’s made in July, and in his last two went 2 2/3 and 3 2/3 innings, respectively.
With Osuna out of the picture, Gibbons has had to go to the closer-by-committee route, with right-handers Ryan Tepera (2.90 ERA) and Tyler Clippard (3.15 ERA) notching six saves apiece. Also figuring in the late-innings mix is Seunghwan Oh (2.82 ERA), a veteran of the Korean and Japanese leagues who was with the Cardinals in 2016 and 2017.