Blue Jays vs. Rangers preview: Not the same kind of year for Semien

Texas Rangers second baseman Marcus Semien throws out Minnesota Twins' Luis Arraez on a grounder during the third inning of a baseball game. (Craig Lassig/AP)

The Toronto Blue Jays look to make more gains in the playoff race this weekend when they conclude a 10-game road swing with a series against the out-of-contention Texas Rangers

Toronto enters the weekend in the third and final wild-card spot in the American League, 4.5 games ahead of the Baltimore Orioles. 

The Blue Jays are a half game behind the Seattle Mariners and 1.5 games back of the Tampa Bay Rays. 

Here is a look at the Blue Jays-Rangers series. 

Probable pitchers 

Friday, 8:05 p.m. ET / 5:05 p.m. PT: Toronto RHP Ross Stripling (7-4, 3.03 ERA) vs. Texas RHP Dane Dunning (3-8, 4.37 ERA)

Saturday, 7:05 p.m. ET / 4:05 p.m. PT: Toronto RHP Kevin Gausman (11-9, 3.12 ERA) vs. Texas RHP Kohei Arihara (1-2, 5.29 ERA)

Sunday, 2:35 p.m. ET / 11:35 a.m. PT: Toronto TBD vs. Texas LHP Martin Perez (10-6, 2.82 ERA) 

(All games on Sportsnet) 

Latest on the Blue Jays

The Blue Jays (76-60) gave themselves a cushion in the playoff race by winning three of four in Baltimore earlier this week. 

Toronto is now 6-1 on this road swing and 8-2 in its past 10. 

Alek Manoah threw a gem in the series finale in Baltimore, pitching eight innings of one-hit ball 24 hours after the benches cleared in an intense loss on Tuesday. 

Bo Bichette was the star of the series, belting four home runs. 

There should be an update on outfielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr. before the game. He exited with left hamstring discomfort on Wednesday after running hard to first base to beat out a double play. 

Latest on the Rangers 

The Rangers (59-77) cleaned house last month, firing manager Chris Woodward (a former Blue Jay) and president of baseball operations Jon Daniels. 

The Rangers have been a major disappointment this year after shelling out big bucks for free agents Corey Seager and Marcus Semien, who had a huge year last season for Toronto at second base. 

Texas, which has lost 10 of its last 11 games, is destined to finish the season with a losing record for the sixth year in a row. 

Still, the Rangers have been competitive — their run differential is only minus-12. 

The Rangers are coming off a 2-1 series loss to the American-League leading Houston Astros. Each game was decided by one run. 

Pitching plans 

It would not be a surprise to see the Blue Jays go with a bullpen day on Sunday, saving Jose Berrios for next week’s key five-game series against the Rays. 

Toronto adopted a similar strategy last weekend in Pittsburgh against the lowly Pirates, saving some of its better arms for the series in Baltimore. 

The Blue Jays have plenty of pitching decisions to make as Friday’s game begins a stretch of 11 games in 10 days. 

Also, Toronto optioned struggling fifth starter Mitch White to triple-A Buffalo on Wednesday. 

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Semien spotlight 

Semien, who finished third in the AL MVP race last year with the Blue Jays, has posted his first season with 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases. 

But the second baseman’s offensive numbers are well down from last season. He is slashing .242/.300/.415 with 21 homers and 68 RBI. 

Welcome to the show 

Rangers top prospect Josh Jung will make his major-league debut on Friday. 

The third baseman’s season started late after he had to undergo shoulder surgery. 

Jung was picked eighth overall in the 2019 MLB Draft. 

Last month, Jung slashed .311/.363/.635 with six home runs and 23 RBI with triple-A Round Rock. 

Wild-card watch 

The Rays are in New York to face the AL East-leading Yankees this weekend, the Mariners entertain the reigning World Series champion Atlanta Braves, while the Orioles host the Red Sox. 

Season series 

The Blue Jays won two of three against the visiting Rangers in the first series of the season. 

Gausman made his Toronto debut in the second game, giving up three runs in five innings and getting a no-decision in a 4-3 Blue Jays win. 

The Blue Jays rallied from a 7-0 deficit to win the opener 10-8 before losing 12-6 in the finale when Hyun-Jin Ryu coughed up a 6-1 lead. 

Up next 

The Blue Jays start a five-game series against the Rays on Monday at Rogers Centre. It includes a doubleheader on Tuesday. The Orioles then come to Toronto for a three-game weekend set.

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