MLB Postseason Preview: Toronto Blue Jays vs. Tampa Bay Rays

MLB Postseason Preview: Toronto Blue Jays vs. Tampa Bay Rays

by September 29, 2020 0 comments

Saddle up, everyone. The most unusual regular season in history is about to pass the baton to the most unique playoff format the league has ever seen. There are 16 teams in the mix in eight best-of-three series that begin Tuesday. In this particular showdown, it will be the eighth-seeded Toronto Blue Jays matching up with the number one seed in the American League, the Tampa Bay Rays. Here are three keys to victory for each club with a final prediction thrown in for good measure.

Three keys to victory for the Toronto Blue Jays

Someone other than Hyun Jin Ryu must step up

The Blue Jays’ starting rotation pales in comparison to most teams in this tournament. Just compare them to their opponent. After Ryu, it’s likely the ball will go to Taijuan Walker and Robbie Ray. During the regular season, only once did any of the Jays starters go into the seventh inning. You can bet that the leash will be incredibly short for any starter not named Ryu. Not only will Ray and Walker have to bring it, but the plethora of relievers will also have to be on as well. The best candidates out of the bullpen include Ryan Borucki, Rafael Dolis, flamethrower Nate Pearson, and Jordan Romano. Health is a concern for Romano as he is currently dealing with a finger strain. Having him available could be huge in this series.

Top of the order must produce

Offensive production in this series against this pitching staff is going to be difficult. The Jays leaned heavily on the top of the order during the regular season, and will need to again in this short series. Cavan Biggio is an underrated threat at the very top. His patience and eye at the plate is second to none. If he can get on, the table will be set for the likes of Bo Bichette, Teoscar Hernandez, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and Randal Grichuk. These guys have all been good to great throughout the year. Can they produce against these arms? It will be a tough task but necessary if Toronto is to move on.

Put up runs early 

Tampa is loaded in all facets of pitching, including the arms out of the pen. The Jays will want to get runs in the early going to avoid having to battle the Rays’ bullpen. Tampa is number one in the league in many categories for relief pitching, including 25 wins and a tidy 3.41 ERA.

Toronto’s best chance at offense may be against Game 2 projected starter Charlie Morton with an eye at scoring early. He has been beatable this year. The 36-year old pitched to a 4.74 ERA and a 1.39 WHIP in nine starts.

Three keys to victory for the Tampa Bay Rays

Be aggressive in the batter’s box

As mentioned earlier, the Jays are thin at starting pitcher. The Rays will want to be taking healthy hacks at the dish to put the pressure on this inexperienced staff. The Blue Jays will be happy if they can get four to five innings out of their number two and three starters. Tampa knows this and will want to make them feel uncomfortable early and often. They will also want to test the Blue Jays defense as they have looked out of place on many occasions this year.

Limit Bo and Teoscar

Bo Bichette is going to be a special player, he is already showing signs of being an elite presence at the dish. You can bet manager Kevin Cash has a gameplan to stop Bichette. In five games this season versus Tampa, he went 7-for-23(.304) with a homer and five RBI.

Another game-breaker, who just broke out this season, is 27-year-old outfielder Hernandez. The Rays will need to limit him and his power. Hernandez socked 16 HRs and drove in 34 in 50 games this season. He did serious damage against Tampa this season. 13-for-37 (.351), four HRs, and eight RBI.

Next man up

The Rays put together the most unusual lineups on any given day. They have a ton of guys that can beat you, without any superstars featured in the batting order. Outfielder Austin Meadows has the highest pedigree for any of the starters but he is out for likely the whole postseason. Yandy Diaz and Ji-Man Choi are also banged up and are questionable. This will sit just fine with the Rays, they have other guys that can step in and be counted on.

Two players to keep an eye on are Randy Arozarena and Nate Lowe. Both have game-breaking ability and will likely carry significant roles for the entirety of the playoffs.

Analysis

If the season contests between these two are any indication, this has the makings of a close series. Tampa got the best of Toronto over 10 games, winning six. However, the overall run scoring during those games favored Toronto, 48-44. The big question is whether the Jays scrounge up runs against this top-notch pitching staff. Blake Snell appears to be channeling some of his Cy Young self. Tyler Glasnow can be overpowering, and the group of relievers is as good as any in the league. The Blue Jays very young lineup will be tested more than any other team in the postseason.

Prediction

Because of the advantage the Tampa Bay Rays have at pitching, it’s difficult to go against them in this matchup. The Toronto Blue Jays are exciting and are going to be doing damage for a long time, but this is not the year. Tampa makes quick work of their division mates with back-to-back victories.

Rays 2, Blue Jays 0

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Main Image Credit:  Embed from Getty Images

 

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