Much was said about the Blue Jays’ decision to part with long-time 1B/DH Edwin Encarnacion, who ended up signing with the Indians. Encarnacion averaged nearly 40 home runs per season from 2012-16 with the Jays, so how would they replace that power?
The Jays rather quickly signed Kendrys Morales to a three-year, $33 million contract in mid-November, before the free agent market had really taken shape. Morales isn’t exactly Encarnacion’s peer at the plate, as he hit a relatively pedestrian .263/.327/.468 with 30 home runs and 93 RBI last year. Comparatively, Encarnacion hit .263/.357/.529 with 42 homers and 127 RBI.
Morales made his presence felt in a big way on Thursday evening against the Rays, homering for the first time as a Blue Jay. It came with the bases loaded in a scoreless game in the third inning, and it was a no-doubter off of Blake Snell.
I hope you don’t have any plans tonight at around 10PM Eastern time, because that’s when we get a pitching matchup for the ages as Max Scherzer will take on Clayton Kershaw at Dodger Stadium. When they meet tonight it will be the first time two pitchers with three or more Cy Young Awards have matched up since 2006. That year, and in 2005 and 2000, Roger Clemens faced Greg Maddux. In 2001 Clemens faced Pedro Martinez.
Kershaw won his hardware in 2011, 2013 and 2014, with an MVP award in 2014 to boot. Scherzer collected trophies in 2013, 2016 and 2017. Each has started the 2018 season in Cy Young form. Kershaw is 1-2, but that record is due to poor run support. He has a 1.73 ERA and has struck out 31 batters and has walked only three in 26 innings. Scherzer is 3-1 with a 1.33 ERA and a whopping 38 strikeouts to only 4 walks in 27 innings.
This will be the third time that Kershaw and Scherzer faced each other if you include the playoffs. The first meeting was a decade ago when both were rookies. They most recently faced off in Game 1 of the 2016 NLDS, way back when Scherzer only had one Cy Young Award to his credit. Kershaw beat Scherzer in that playoff game and the Dodgers beat Scherzer’s teams in the two regular season matchups, with neither guy setting the world on fire. As so often happens in baseball, the hype hasn’t been matched by reality.
Still, there’s always a chance it will. And even if, in the end, this turns into a slugfest, the first couple of innings should at least give us some hope of something good. I’ll be watching.