Going In, In Brief
Did you know the Blue Jays (70-66) were over .500? I didn't. Not that it's Toronto's fault. Not only do they play in Canada (where mainstream North American sports not called Ice Hockey go to die), but they're in the same division as baseball darlings Tampa Bay. It's a shame that a franchse that once won the AL East five times between 1985 and 1993 is now relegated to perma-third place...or worse. In 2006 they managed a shocking second-place finish with just 87 wins, but that's more of an indictment on the strength of the division that season than a bright spot in Toronto's baseball history. This year the Jays are competetive, but when you start the season filling out the roster with veteran place-holders, it's pretty clear your franchise is still struggling to find its identity. Strangely enough though, their pythagorean record is 76-70...or, just one half game worse than Minnesota...thanks in part to their MLB-best 3.60 team ERA.
The Twins (77-60) are looking to salvage what's been a disappointing road trip. In spite of what's already in the books, taking two of three games would give the Twins a 7-7 record on their extended away mission, and considering how they've done on the road this season that wouldn't be the worst that could happen. Starting pitching has been stellar the last few days, but to stay in the race for the Central the offense will need to find some consistency. It might help if that the Twins will finally face a right-handed starter in this series; Wednesday's game will be their first against a righty since August 25.
David Purcey VS Glen Perkins
A.J. Burnett VS Nick Blackburn
Jesse Litsch VS Kevin Slowey
David Purcey: In eight starts and just over 42 innings, this 26-year old left hander's middle name is "Luck Sack". Sure, his ERA is a blossoming 5.53 and he's walking 4.46 batters per nine innings and more than 16% of the fly-balls he gives up are homers, but yes...he's still lucky. Opponents are scorching him, scathing line drives around the diamond on 28.2% of balls in play, yet his BABIP is a fantastic .258. Their line reflects a bit of that luck, but still is far from comforting for Blue Jays fans: .239/.337/.439. Purcey throws a fastball (low 90's), curve, slider and changeup.
A.J. Burnett: Even having lost some velocity on his fastball, averaging 94.2 mph still makes it one of the fastest fastballs in the majors. Unlike Purcey, Burnett is pitching better than his numbers indicate, pulling down a 3.65 xFIP. As much as I hate to see the Twins face a good pitcher, as a baseball fan it's nice to see Burnett having a decent season. His strikeout rates are still high, and his walk rates are relatively static. It's interesting to see his ground-ball rates on the south side of 50%, but they're still so close that one or two games could easily put that ratio back to where it's been for most of Burnett's career. In addition to a good fastball, the 31-year old Burnett throws a changeup, curveball and an occasional slider.
Jesse Litsch: He's not the moderate strikeout threat he was in the minors, but the 23-year old ginger righty still does well to limit his free passes. Litsch has a wide arsenal, including the traditional fastball(s), along with a slider, curveball, changeup and cutter. A ground-ball pitcher who still manages about six innings a start, Litsch is young but may see a quick career arch where he peaks around 25-26, and then starts an early decline.
Scott Rolen: Is he really just 33? He plays a lot older than that. Two stints on the disabled list, Rolen's just recently returned to the Jays' lineup. He hit a homer on Sunday in New York, but since the end of June (when he was hitting .288/.377/.474) has managed a meager .171/.293/.267.
Alex Rios: You have to wonder if he's been feeling the pressure at the plate this season, being surrounded by what's largely been a supporting cast of light-weights. In spite of a weak offense he's notched an .800 OPS or better every month his season except May--the main difference in Rios' production has been a dip in his power and his patience. Because in spite of having a decent overall line (.288/.335/.441), his strikeout rates are up, walk rates are down, ISO is down, ground balls are up, and he's swinging at 13% more balls outside of the strike zone compared to last year.
Travis Snider: In spite of looking like he just fell out of the stupid tree and hit every stick on the way down, the thick, no-necked 1st-round draft pick from '06 is getting a cup of coffee. In just 1045 minor league at-bats, the 20-year old stout outfielder has put together a .296/.373/.513 line, including most recently a .901 OPS in 64 triple-A at-bats. In spite of these promising numbers, it will be interesting to see how well he progresses. He hasn't hit a lot of line drives in his two years in the Toronto system, and posting regular strikeout rates higher than 20% and some inconsistent walk rates he may find that his aggression will catch up with him. Hopefull we'll get a look at him this week, because he has the potential to be an exciting hitter. If he fails, he'll probably get a job with WWE.