Series Preview – Toronto Blue Jays at Pittsburgh Pirates

5-5-23 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter

Christian Wolf normally mans these pieces but I grabbed this one so he could enjoy some time with his family. It’s fitting since Craig and I will be at the game tonight anyway.

Both these teams are reeling a bit and looking for a recovery series. Each team is 5-5 in their last ten. The Blue Jays coming off 5 straight losses, including a 4 game sweep at the hands of the Boston Red Sox, the Pirates on a 4 game losing streak and suffered their own sweep to the Tampa Bay Rays.

When & Who:

Toronto Blue Jays (18-14) at Pittsburgh Pirates (20-12)

Game 1 – (5/5, 6:35 EST)

Probable Pitchers:

For the Blue Jays – Chris Bassitt (3-2, 5.18 ERA)

For the Pirates –  Rich Hill (3-2, 4.18 ERA)

Game 2 – (5/6, 6:35 EST)

Probable Pitchers:

For the Blue Jays – Jose Berrios (2-3, 5.29 ERA)

For the Pirates –  Johan Oviedo (2-2, 4.78 ERA)

Game 3 – (5/7, 1:35 EST)

Probable Pitchers:

For the Blue Jays – Yusei Kikuchi (4-0, 4.02 ERA)

For the Pirates –  Roansy Contreras (3-2, 4.09 ERA)

Team Trends

The Blue Jays are a talented team, but starting pitching has not been as strong as they’d like. Just in their recent series with Boston they were out-hit 58-32, and outscored 32-19. The Blue Jays have been susceptible to the stolen base allowing 9 in their last series alone to go along with 6 fielding errors and a bullpen that is absolutely gassed. I’d be shocked if they didn’t make a move or two either before this series or during to reinforce the staff a bit.

The Pirates, well, they had very similar issues didn’t they? Errors, next to no timely hitting including a robust 1-20 with RISP. The bullpen remains fairly fresh for the Pirates, but lacking a long man wears on this staff when a to this point rare short start crops up. Overall, the starters have continued to hold their own, even overcoming some of the disarray happening behind them, but it’s certainly been a stressful stretch.

Who’s Hot

For the Blue Jays – Matt Chapman: He’s been incredible. On the season he’s hitting .351 and has 31.35 Runs Created. The Red Sox managed to cool him off a little, but not enough for me to insinuate he’s less than on a tear.

For the Pirates – Connor Joe: Joe just continues to take quality at bats, one after the other. 3-12 isn’t usually something to brag about, but in that Tampa series and considering he got robbed a couple times smoking the baseball, he deserves this mark more than most.

Who’s Not

For the Rays – Brandon Belt: The Jays Designated Hitter has been anything but. in 70 plate appearances he’s only managed 11 hits. Batting .172 with a .243 OBP and an OPS of only .524, he’s easily been the most disappointing offensive player for Toronto.

For the Pirates – Ke’Bryan Hayes: In his last 27 at bats, Ke’ has come up with 4 hits, 1 a double. He was moved down in the lineup in yesterday’s contest from leadoff to 7th. We’ll have to see if that is a one game adjustment for an opponent or something we’ll see Derek Shelton continue. He’s simply not getting it done.

Series Overview & Prediction

As I said at the top, two struggling teams, both with good records. One will jump back on the horse, one won’t. I very much so doubt this is a sweep in either direction but you’d like to think the Pirates at home would have the edge.

Toronto fans travel well to Pittsburgh so I expect quite a bit of blue mixed in with black and gold for this series, but with the Pirates record, it shouldn’t be as overwhelming as it’s been in recent years.

As ever, it’s all about the pitching, and I like the Pirates chances to stay out of trouble against a very offensively gifted team and get to their staff.

I’ll say the Bucs take 2 of 3 from the Jays, but it won’t feel in any way like a roll over series.

Published by Gary Morgan

Former contributor for Inside the Pirates an SI Team Channel

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