Marlins starter Chen will be tough for Blue Jays to beat
Chen (5-9, 4.91 ERA) has been below average overall this year and horrible on the road (1-6, 9.35). But the left-hander has been superb at Marlins Park, where he will pitch Saturday night against the visiting Toronto Blue Jays.
In Chen’s most recent start, he struck out 10 batters — his biggest total since May 11, 2016 — and beat the first-place Atlanta Braves.
“He kind of kept those (Braves hitters) in check,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said after Chen improved to 4-3 with a 1.86 ERA in 11 home starts this year. “He made pitches when he needed to, which was big.”
Toronto will counter Chen with right-hander Marco Estrada (7-10, 5.18). Estrada, a 35-year-old veteran, is 62-62 with a 4.16 ERA in parts of 11 major-league seasons.
Estrada has made 23 starts this year, but his past three appearances were hindered by a lingering back injury. He lasted just two innings in his most recent start, allowing five runs.
“He’s good to go,” Jays manager John Gibbons insisted when asked about Estrada starting Saturday.
After posting a sterling 2.35 ERA in June, Estrada slipped to a 12.46 ERA in two July starts and a 6.15 ERA in five August starts.
Perhaps the fact that it is now September will be good news for Estrada and the Blue Jays.
The Jays ended August in fine fashion on Friday night, snapping a four-game losing streak by rallying for a 6-5 win.
Miami has lost four games in a row.
Toronto trailed at one point 5-0 and entered the ninth inning down 5-1.
But Justin Smoak, who did not start as Toronto looked into possibly trading him before the midnight waiver deadline, hit a two-out, two-strike, pinch-grand slam to put the Jays up 6-5.
Toronto closer Ken Giles nailed shut his 19th save of the season in the bottom of the inning.
After the game, Gibbons reacted to reports that third baseman Josh Donaldson had been traded to the Cleveland Indians.
“I haven’t been officially told, but I assume that is accurate. I’m going to miss him,” Gibbons said. “The city is going to miss him. His teammates are going to miss him. He was a big part of turning the franchise around after a lot of lean years.
“I love the guy. We had our battles. But he has a big heart, and he is a special baseball player. … He is like a race horse. He’s high strung, but he did a lot for us here. I wish him the best.”
After reporters left Gibbons’ office, it was announced that Toronto also traded outfielder Curtis Granderson to the Milwaukee Brewers.
With those sell-offs, it’s fairly obvious the Jays are closing in on their second straight losing season, disappointing a passionate fan base. The Jays sold 3.2 million tickets last year — trailing only the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers, St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants — but the results haven’t been there lately.
The Jays, for example, have a 4.35 home ERA this year. On the road, they had a 5.48 ERA entering Friday, and that disparity between those two figures is the third largest in the majors.
Meanwhile, since July 28, the Marlins lead the National League with a 2.39 ERA. Batters are hitting just .215 against Miami during that span.
One of Miami’s biggest standouts this season has been rookie Brian Anderson, who has split time between third base and right field. He went 2-for-3 on Friday with two doubles, two walks and two runs. Both of his doubles started Miami’s only two rallies of the game.
Entering this weekend, Anderson led all major-league rookies in games (133), runs (73), average with runners in scoring position (.383) and on-base percentage (.358).