Blue Jays vs. Brewers series preview: Manoah, Tellez among players to watch

Arden Zwelling joins Danielle Michaud on Sportsnet Central to discuss whether the Toronto Blue Jays should consider trading one of their catchers to bolster the team in other spots, what high leverage relievers the team should target, and more.

The Toronto Blue Jays return to interleague action when they play a three-game series against the host Milwaukee Brewers this weekend.

Toronto needs its pitching to improve as it has given up an average of 7.9 runs per game in its past seven outings.

Here’s a look at the series.

PROBABLE PITCHERS

Friday, 8:10 p.m. ET / 5:10 p.m. PT (Sportsnet ONE): Toronto RHP Alek Manoah (8-2, 2.00 ERA) vs. Milwaukee RHP Adrian Houser (4-7, 4.24 ERA)

Saturday, 4:10 p.m. ET / 1:10 p.m. PT (Sportsnet): Toronto LHP Yusei Kikuchi (2-3, 4.94 ERA) vs. Milwaukee RHP Corbin Burnes (5-4, 2:31 ERA)

Sunday, 2:10 p.m. ET / 11:10 a.m. PT (Sportsnet): Toronto RHP Jose Berrios (5-3, 5.11 ERA) vs. Milwaukee TBD

LATEST ON THE BLUE JAYS

[brightcove videoID=6308349830112 playerID=JCdte3tMv height=360 width=640]

The Blue Jays (39-30) have lost two series in a row (2-4), trimming their edge on third-place Boston to just a half game in the American League East.

Shaky pitching — from starters and relievers — has been the biggest problem. All three starters in the Milwaukee series are coming off below-average outings based on their season at large — though Manoah (four runs in 5.1 innings in a loss against the league-leading New York Yankees last weekend) can’t be faulted as he’s been excellent all season.

Toronto is coming off a 9-5 win over the White Sox in Wednesday’s series finale in Chicago. Bo Bichette had a grand slam and Ross Stripling gave up one run and five hits over six innings.

The Toronto bullpen did make it interesting with some struggles, but the Blue Jays held on to salvage one game in a closely contested series (their first two losses were each by one run).

The Blue Jays now turn to their ace in Manoah as they aim to win two in a row for the first time since June 11-12.

LATEST ON THE BREWERS

[brightcove videoID=6308426031112 playerID=JCdte3tMv height=360 width=640]

The Brewers (40-32) are coming off a split of a four-game series with the St. Louis Cardinals, leaving the two clubs tied for the top spot in the NL Central.

The teams appear to be evenly matched with the clubs each having a 6-6 record against each other this season — seven games remain in the season series.

Tyrone Taylor hit a three-run homer for Milwaukee in the series finale on Thursday, while Willy Adames had a solo shot.

ROWDY WEEKEND

Former Blue Jays first baseman Rowdy Tellez will play Toronto for the first time since he was traded to Milwaukee last July for pitchers Trevor Richards and Bowden Francis.

With Vladmir Guerrero Jr. showing his star power and becoming a first baseman, there simply was no room for Tellez — and he was appreciative of the deal.

“They could easily have just said, ‘Hey we’re gonna put you in the minor leagues,’” Tellez told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “I had options at that point and they could have done that. But we talked about it and we both wanted something that was going to benefit both of us and we were able to work it out and they sent me here. I couldn’t be more appreciative of that.”

Tellez told the newspaper he was in the weddings of the Blue Jays catcher Danny Janssen and former Toronto reliever Ryan Borucki and lived down the street from Bichette.

“The teammates, I loved my time in Toronto,” he said. “Everybody wants to spend their whole career in one place but, unfortunately, they have a guy who’s arguably the best first baseman in baseball and it was my time so I can’t thank them enough. They allowed me to debut there.”

Tellez also got to play in the playoffs for the first time last year as the Brewers lost to the eventual World Series champion Atlanta Braves in the NLDS.

It was Milwaukee’s fourth consecutive post-season appearance.

CLOSING TIME

The series features two of the top closers in baseball.

Milwaukee’s Josh Hader is tied for the MLB lead with 21 saves, while Jordan Romano is tied for fourth with 17.

Romano is coming off a rare blown save on Tuesday night.

Hader, a three-time all-star, has been perfect in his past three outings since taking a loss on June 7 vs. Philadelphia.

RECORD SETTER

Brewers manager Craig Counsell set a franchise record for wins last week when he notched victory No. 564.

Counsell is the longest-tenured manager in the National League. He got the job in May 2015.

INTERLEAGUE PLAY

The Blue Jays are 3-2 against the NL this year, winning two of three against the Cincinnati Reds and splitting a two-game series with St. Louis.

Milwaukee is 2-1 after a series victory against the Baltimore Orioles.

After this series, the Brewers have another series against an AL East playoff contender: the Tampa Bay Rays.

UP NEXT

The Blue Jays return to the Rogers Centre for a key homestand with three games against Boston and then a rare five-gamer against Tampa Bay, highlighted by the Canada Day game on Friday and a doubleheader on Saturday.

Tampa is fourth in the AL East, two games behind Toronto.

When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.