Rested (or rusty?) Jays set to resume play in Atlanta

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The Toronto Blue Jays will be well-rested when they pull into Atlanta on Tuesday for the opener of a three-game interleague series against the Braves.

The Blue Jays spent the past five days working out in Washington. The club never left for its scheduled trip to Philadelphia because of COVID-19 issues with the Phillies. That leaves Toronto rested but rusty as it travels south.

Toronto, which hasn’t played since Thursday, has lost two straight. Manager Charlie Montoya said the Blue Jays took a lot of live batting practice and had their pitchers work through side sessions at Nationals Park during the days when they would have opposed the Phillies.

Atlanta has played 11 consecutive days to open the season and just finished a four-game series against the New York Mets. The Braves won three of those games, losing only to two-time Cy Young winner Jacob deGrom in the finale on Monday.

The Braves won three of four meetings with the Blue Jays in 2019.

Toronto’s Matt Shoemaker (0-0, 1.50 ERA), who will get the start in Tuesday’s opener, said the pause was “frustrating to say the least. It’s definitely a mental and physical battle. You think you’re getting ready to start in a couple of days, then I go from pitching Friday to pitching on the doubleheader Saturday. Then, finding out we’re not playing in Philly at all. Starters … we love our routines.”

Montoya said all the starters would be pushed back in order, with Trent Thornton, Tanner Roark, Nate Pearson and Hyun Jin Ryu following Shoemaker.

Shoemaker made his lone start on July 25 at Tampa Bay and allowed one run on six hits over six innings. The veteran is 4-4 with a 3.38 ERA in 10 interleague games (nine starts) but has never faced Atlanta.

The Braves will counter with left-hander Max Fried (1-0, 2.31 ERA), who will be making his first career appearance against Toronto. He is 4-0 with a 2.22 ERA in four interleague starts.

Fried gave up one lone run in 6 2/3 innings in his most recent start, July 30 against Tampa Bay. He retired the first 14 batters he faced, had seven strikeouts and walked only one.

“Every night he goes out there, I feel there’s a potential for him to throw eight or nine (scoreless) innings,” Atlanta closer Mark Melancon said. “The last couple of years, he’s been the guy you count on in big situations. It’s been fun to watch him mature.”

Fried, who won 17 games last year, has developed into a top-of-the-rotation guy. He has allowed only five hits and struck out 12 in 11 2/3 innings this summer.

“He’s just growing as a pitcher,” Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said. “His stuff was good (against the Rays). You could tell he was really locked in and pretty focused. It was pretty fun to sit and watch him.”

Fried will now be asked to shoulder additional responsibility with the news that Mike Soroka tore his right Achilles tendon on Monday and will be lost for the year. The team’s ace pitcher was injured in the third inning as he prepared to cover first base on an infield grounder. Soroka tumbled to the ground and had to be helped from the field by Snitker and a trainer.

“When I went out there, he knew it was that,” Snitker said. “It’s just one of those awkward steps. It’s a fluke thing that happens. I’m sorry that it did.”

–Field Level Media

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