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Southern comfort: Phillies vs. Blue Jays series preview

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The Phillies will head to the familiar land of Dunedin to play the Blue Jays

MLB: Philadelphia Phillies at Toronto Blue Jays
Just like Spring Training, but it will count in the standings
Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the Blue Jays have been unable to play in Toronto for the past two seasons. While they’ll be moving to Buffalo starting in June, for the time being, they’re using their Spring Training home in Dunedin, Florida as their home park. This is a place that the Phillies are quite familiar with since their own Spring site is in the neighboring town of Clearwater, and they play multiple exhibition games there each year.

Rogers Centre in Toronto is the site of one of the darkest moments in Phillies history, so it’s probably beneficial for the Phillies to avoid playing there, and dredging up bad memories. And when they went to Buffalo in 2020, they not only got swept in a doubleheader - the bullpen unsurprisingly blew leads in both games - but one of their players got his testicle destroyed in the process. So missing out on Buffalo isn’t too bad either.

Their recent series victory over the Nationals notwithstanding, the road hasn’t been a hospitable place for the Phillies lately. Perhaps a trip to a familiar Florida town will help them cure their woes.

Toronto Blue Jays

Record: 20-16 (Second place in American League East)

The manager

Charlie Montoyo is in his third season as Blue Jays manager. After a poor first season with a rebuilding team, Montoyo led the Jays to a third place finish and wild card spot in the expanded playoffs last year. That earned him a third place finish in the AL Manager of the Year voting.

You’d think that a good second season would earn him a lot of good will among Blue Jays fans, the majority of whom are presumably Canadian, and presumably as polite as their reputation suggests. But one of the (few) good things about Twitter is no matter how good a manager is, or how supportive the fans are in general, you’ll always be able to find some tweets that say he sucks and should be fired immediately.

The last time they met

The Blue Jays came to Philadelphia in September 2020, and the Phillies got a small measure of revenge for Jose Alvarez’s testicle by winning three out of the four games. The series featured the first - and so far only - home run by backup catcher Rafael Marchan.

Considering the questionable status of J.T. Realmuto (Is it his knee? Does he have COVID? Is he even alive at this point?), Marchan could see some playing time this weekend, and it would be swell if he could do that again.

Thanks, guys

The Blue Jays have helped the Phillies out by beating the Braves all six times they’ve played this season. If the Phillies finish ahead of the Braves in the standings, they should send a thank you note to the Jays. (Unless of course they similarly sweep the Phillies. In that case, they do not get thanked AT ALL.)

The legacy squad

The Blue Jays have apparently decided that “sons of former All-Stars” is the new market inequality, and have three of them on their roster. This is actually one fewer than 2020 when Travis Shaw also suited up for them.

They might be on to something since Bo Bichette (son of Dante), Cavan Biggio (son of Craig), and Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. (I really shouldn’t need to specify who his father was) have all had some measure of success.

Many people consider Vlad Jr. to be somewhat of a disappointment in his career to this point. I suppose that’s what happens when you were once rated the top prospect in baseball and have the same name as a Hall of Famer. But he’s only 22 and hasn’t even gone through a non-shortened season yet. Give the kid a break, especially since he’s got an OPS of .976 in 2021!

Quick look at the Jays’ scheduled starters

The Jays have yet to announce a starter for Saturday’s game, but the Phillies are very familiar with the guys going on Friday and Sunday.

Steven Matz spent the first six years of his career with the Mets, and it generally hasn’t gone very well for him when he faces the Phillies. His career lowlight came in April 2019 when he faced eight batters and didn’t retire any of them.

It feels like longtime Diamondback Robbie Ray is perpetually on the trade block, and the Phillies are perpetually one of the teams in talks to acquire him. He was finally sent away in 2020 (not to the Phillies obvi), and is now a part of the Blue Jays’ rotation. He’s due to be a free agent at season’s end, and if the Jays drop out of contention, there’s a good chance he’ll find himself in trade rumors once again.

On the mound, Ray has carved out a nice career as a good mid-rotation pitcher, and I really wish the Phillies had a guy like him in the fourth spot of their rotation. That said, he’s never had much success against the Phillies (5.51 career ERA), and his lone start against them in 2020 went poorly for him (Five runs in four innings).

Trivia

Last series answer: The last Phillie to homer against the Montreal Expos was Mike Lieberthal who took Scott Downs deep in a 7-2 Phillies win on September 19, 2004. HardRock2Day came up with the correct answer.

This series’ question: Charlie Montoyo’s major league playing career was brief - just four games - but in one of them, he faced the Phillies. He appeared as a pinch hitter in the 11th inning of Phillies vs. Expos game on September 17, 1993. What Phillies pitcher did he face?

What to expect

  • Aaron Nola will pitch a gem on Saturday, leading to another round of the always fun ace/not an ace debate.
  • After a couple of encouraging starts, Vince Velasquez will remind us why you should never get your hopes up about him.
  • Lets go nuts and say that Marchan will hit his second home run off of Blue Jays pitching.

Closing thought that may or may not be relevant to the series

Blue Jays fans remain my favorite non-Phillies fanbase (and maybe I don’t even need to qualify that, since I’m not sure I actually like most Phillies fans), and I don’t envision that changing anytime soon. Jays fans just seem to really like baseball and their team, and for their sake, I hope the fans in Toronto get to watch games in person again soon.