Saturday marks the middle game of a three-game weekend set between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Houston Astros, two teams seemingly going in opposite directions. After a series-opening loss, the Blue Jays have a record of 25-44, which is 12 games out of a playoff spot. Trade rumors have been swirling in regards to Marcus Stroman, Justin Smoak, and Ken Giles among others as the Jays are set to rebuild. Houston, on the other hand, is 47-23, in first place in their division and have their sights set on another championship run. Seems like forever ago that these teams’ roles were reversed, and Toronto was trading for David Price gearing up for that run.
For the Blue Jays, Clayton Richard will take the hill for his fifth start of the season. His first three starts, while unspectacular, were solid. He didn’t reach five innings in any of them but gave up two earned runs or less each time. However, in his last start against the Diamondbacks, he didn’t make it out of the third inning. He was torched for seven earned runs, more than his other three starts combined.
Richard is just a placeholder in the rotation for this season as the Jays rebuild, and that is a relief to Jays fan. Richard has had some serious trouble with his strikeout and walk numbers thus far. In his four starts total, he has only 11 strikeouts and has dished out 11 walks as well. Only one game has he had more strikeouts than walks, hardly what you want to see from a starting pitcher.
Frambler Valdez takes the mound for the Astros, making his second start of the season after 14 appearances out of the bullpen. His first start, albeit against the Orioles, was dazzling. He went seven innings, gave up one run on a solo home run, and struck out seven. The biggest bugaboo for Valdez in his career is his walks. He is simply giving up way too many. In 2018, his BB/9 was a disastrous 5.84.
While there is still room for improvement with his 3.55 BB/9 in 2019, it is definitely a drastic improvement, especially after his first start where he went seven innings and gave up no walks. Valdez is terrific at home as well which does not bode well for the Blue Jays. He has a 2.41 ERA with 15 strikeouts to just four walks.
Batters To Watch
The curious case of Lourdes Gurriel Jr continues. After a terrible first month of the season, he was sent back to Triple-A Buffalo. Since being called up on May 24, he has had a hit in 14 of 18 games including all six of his home runs on the season. And, on the road against lefties, he’s hitting .357 in a small sample size. He could be a problem for Valdez.
Speaking of problems, Michael Brantley is sure to be one for Richard. He is having another terrific season batting over .300 with double-digit home runs. At home against lefties, he’s absolutely murdering the ball with a .414 batting average.
This is easy. Don’t overthink it. Richard isn’t good, and the Astros have the second-best batting average in the league. Take Houston.
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