Toronto Blue Jays vs. Kansas City Royals Series: 5 Keys for the Blue Jays
At this point, the Toronto Blue Jays are playing exactly how their record says: Average
The Jays are treading water at the moment at just a game over .500 (40-39) and 5-5 in their last 10 games.
The good (and somewhat surprising) news is that their not really losing any distance in the AL East. Sure the Yankees are running away with the division, but I don't think anyone really expected Toronto to win the division anyway. Baltimore and Tampa are stifling right now and Boston is still close. All-in-all the Blue Jays find themselves only two wins behind the second-place Orioles.
Chances were lost in their four-game split with the Los Angeles Angels. It felt like the series was theirs for the taking. But again, bad pitching was their undoing.
Toronto will head into the Kansas City Royals series feeling like they can, and should, win it. Here are some things to keep an eye on in this four game set.
Ricky Romero's Command
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Ricky Romero is the unquestioned ace of this staff. And with the rotation in such disarray, it's become even more important for Toronto to win the games he starts.
Ricky got shelled in his last outing (7 H, 8 ER, 3 IP) against the Red Sox. Even more concerning are the six walks he allowed in those three innings. His command hasn't been there all year. Romero is on pace to walk 107 batters this season compared to 80 last year and 82 in 2010.
Romero and the Jays success seems to rely on his walks allowed. When Ricky has allowed four walks or less, Toronto wins (11-1). Conversely, when he walks five or more, the Blue Jays lose (0-4)
Romero has seemed to be just a little off all season. But despite his minor struggles, he's amassed an 8-2 record this season.
RickyRo is starting off the series for the Jays tonight. And if Toronto wants to get at least three out of the four games, they're going to need a good outing and a win from Romero.
Adam Lind's Progression
Since being recalled from Las Vegas June 25th, Adam Lind has been "meh."
In the Angels' series, Lind followed an 0-3 performance on Thursday with a 2 HR display on Friday. But then failed to find a hit throughout the weekend.
It's doubtful that we are ever going to see the '09 Silver Slugger Adam Lind again. He has had a hard time getting comfortable at the plate. But if Lind can find a way to regain his confidence, it would be a huge boost for the already potent Blue Jay lineup.
Lind has has only been back for a week, and it's too early to judge whether he's improved from earlier in the season. But it will be interesting to see how he swings the bat in this series.
Can the Blue Jay's Offense Stay Hot?
Jose Bautista hit 14 HRs in the month of June
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Toronto's offense has been on fire.
They scored more runs in June than any other team in AL. And they've had to. The pitching has been that bad. Last series, they scored six or more runs in every game and still only went 2-2.
The move to put Brett Lawrie and Colby Rasmus at the top of the order seems to be manager John Farrell's smartest all season.
Can the offense keep this break-neck pace up?
It doesn't seem like they have a choice. The pitching doesn't look to be getting better any time soon. So it will be up to the bats to continue to carry the team.
Henderson Alvarez's Sinker
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With all the injuries this season, Henderson Alvarez has gone from the number five to the number two guy in the rotation. The Jays are asking a lot out of this 22-year-old kid, but they don't have any other choice at the moment.
Alvarez has been up and down all season and has struggled to get guys out when he gets to two strikes in the count. Toronto moved the righty to the third base side of the rubber in his last two outings and it has seemed to have helped his sinker tremendously. In his last start Alvarez went seven innings, allowing just one run against a hot Angels offense.
Alvarez starts the series finale on Thursday against the Royals. If he can keep his sinker down in the zone, look for him to have another strong outing.
The Fossil That Is Called Jamie Moyer
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Desperate times call for desperate measures.
But hey, if you can pitch, I guess it doesn't really matter how old you are.
And the Blue Jays are going to find out this week whether or not the old man can actually still get the job done.
In his first start with Las Vegas he gave up three runs on seven hits in five innings. Not terrible, especially in comparison to what the Blue Jays have been throwing out there every night.
He's got one more start for the Jays to make up their minds. But Toronto is such a mess pitching-wise, that if it's a close call, look for him to debut with the club after the All-Star break.