The Toronto Blue Jays begin their first extended west coast trip of the season with a three-game series against the worst team in MLB — the Oakland A’s.
The atmosphere in the park figures to be much different than it was at Rogers Centre for the past eight games against the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays.
Regardless of opponent, the games remain important for the Blue Jays, who are in the middle of a tight wild-card race. The A’s, conversely, are in full rebuild mode after trading away several of their best players during the off-season.
The Blue Jays will hit the halfway mark of the season after Monday’s game.
Here’s a look at the series against Oakland.
Monday, 9:07 p.m. ET / 6:07 p.m. PT: Toronto RHP Alek Manoah (9-2, 2.09 ERA) vs. Oakland LHP Cole Irvin (2-6, 3.58 ERA)
Tuesday, 9:07 p.m. ET / 6:07 p.m. PT: Toronto LHP Yusei Kikuchi (3-4, 4.74 ERA) vs. Oakland RHP Adrian Martinez (1-1, 6.30 ERA)
Wednsdsay, 3:37 p.m. ET / 12:37 p.m. PT: Toronto RHP Jose Berrios (6-4, 5.72 ERA) vs. Oakland RHP James Kaprielian (1-5, 5.43 ERA)
— All games on Sportsnet
Latest on the Blue Jays
A key homestand that started with promise ended in disappointment as Toronto (44-36) lost the final three games against the Rays to go 4-4 over eight games in seven days at Rogers Centre.
Pitching has been the big problem for the Blue Jays with their lack of depth looming large during the three losses to Tampa.
The bullpen simply is lacking swing-and-miss arms and guys are getting pushed into leverage roles because of overuse and injuries.
The struggling Trent Thornton is a perfect example of that as he gave up two home runs in the fifth inning after replacing Ross Stripling on Sunday, turning a 4-1 deficit into a 7-1 hole.
The Blue Jays sit in second in the wild-card race — three teams get wild cards this year. The Red Sox are a half game ahead of the Blue Jays and Toronto is a half game up on Tampa.
Latest on the A’s
While it might seem nice for the A’s (26-55) to be coming home after a 10-game road trip, it’s worth noting that the team is actually worse in Oakland (8-28) than it is on the road (18-27) this season.
The A’s went 3-7 on their road swing, capping it by losing three of four to the Seattle Mariners.
The final two games both were 2-1 losses as the A’s continued to struggle offensively (they are last in the majors with a team average of .211).
Former Blue Jays ace Robbie Ray, the Cy Young winner last year, struck out a season-high 12 on Sunday as Oakland lost for a 25th time in 31 games.
A’s starter Frankie Montas gave up a home run to Julio Rodriguez on the first pitch and exited after 13 pitches with shoulder tightness.
Homecoming for Chapman
Blue Jays third baseman Matt Chapman will play in Oakland for the first time since the A’s traded him to Toronto for four prospects in March.
A first-round pick of the A’s in 2014 (25th overall), Chapman won three Gold Glove Awards and was an all-star with Oakland in 2019.
After a slow start with the bat this year, Chapman picked things up. But he’s currently on an 0-for-13 skid.
Even though his offence has been up and down, Chapman has provided great defence for Toronto.
Jays miss A’s ace
The Jays catch a break in not facing A’s right-hander Paul Blackburn (6-3, 2.90 ERA).
Blackburn is a strong candidate to be Oakland’s representative at the All-Star Game.
In his most recent start on Saturday in Seattle, he gave up no runs on four hits in 6.1 innings.
The Blue Jays get their ace, Manoah, for Monday’s series opener in a favourable pitching matchup against Irvin, who is 0-5 in eight starts since returning from the injured list in May.
Oakland follows with a guy who has made just two starts in the majors – Martinez — and a pitcher who picked up his first win of the season on Friday – Kaprielian.
The Blue Jays won two of three against the A’s in Toronto in April.
Manoah gave up two runs on four hits in six innings to notch the win in the series finale.
Toronto’s other starters that weekend – Hyun Jin Ryu (out for the season) and Ross Stripling – won’t pitch in Oakland.
Actual good news for A’s
Off the field, the A’s received a boost last week when a California agency voted to approve a plan for the team to continue planning a $12 billion waterfront ballpark project.
The A’s need a new stadium with the lease at aging RingCentral Coliseum expiring after the 2024 season.
Oakland has lost the NFL Raiders and NBA Warriors to Las Vegas and San Francisco, respectively, in recent years.
The A’s had said they would explore a move to Las Vegas, home of their triple-A team, if they didn’t get approval for their stadium plan.
Thousands of Canadians are expected to cheer on the Blue Jays in Seattle during a four-game series that starts Thursday.
It’s the first chance for most west-coast Canadians to see the Jays in Seattle since 2019 — before the pandemic.
It also appears likely Ray will face the Blue Jays for the first time since signing with the Mariners in the off-season after curiously not making the trip to Toronto in May. The Mariners provided no reason for his absence, leaving fans to wonder if it had to do with his vaccination status.
— with files from AP