Whit Merrifield has six two-hit games this month and has spent the past two days tormenting the Arizona Diamondbacks
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Merrifield had two hits and two RBIs in each of the first two games of the set, including a tiebreaking homer during Saturday’s 5-2 victory. The Blue Jays won Friday’s opener 7-2
The go-ahead blast in the fourth inning Saturday came off Diamondbacks ace Zac Gallen, who started the All-Star Game for the National League on Tuesday
Gallen had a subpar outing and was out of the game after five innings. He gave up three runs and six hits.
“We made him work,” Merrifield said after Saturday’s victory. “Didn’t chase his stuff out of the zone early on. And I think that when you do that to a pitcher, it gets in their head a little bit like, ‘Oh man, I got to get the ball over the plate.’ And when he did that, we did enough to get three runs off him. Against a guy like that, that’s a win.”
Merrifield is batting .333 in July to raise his season average to .291. He has hit four of his six homers in July.
Merrifield’s hot bat has helped Toronto win seven of its past eight games.
The Blue Jays hope to have standout closer Jordan Romano (26 saves) available for the finale. The right-hander injured his lower back while pitching in the All-Star Game, though an MRI exam ruled out serious damage
“No concern, it’s just some mild, left low-back soreness,” Toronto manager John Schneider said after Saturday’s triumph. “He’s taking it day by day. We’ll see how he is (Sunday).”
The Diamondbacks have lost seven of their past nine contests
Arizona’s offense is struggling. The club has scored two or fewer runs six times during the stretch.
“We’re trying to do a little too much, coming out of our bodies and our approaches and trying to maybe lift the ball to the pull side,” Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo said. “And that’s not who we are.
Arizona’s only runs on Saturday crossed when hustling Jake McCarthy barely beat out an infield hit to the right side. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Emmanuel Rivera both scored on the play.
“It was a Diamondback play,” Lovullo said. “We need to get back to more of that. I thought that would get us moving in a very positive direction. … I liked our chances. It just didn’t work out.”
A pair of left-handers will match up Sunday when Toronto’s Yusei Kikuchi (7-3, 4.24 ERA) and Arizona’s Tommy Henry (5-1, 3.75) take the mound.
Kikuchi has fanned 96 batters in 93 1/3 innings but has been touched up for 22 homers in 18 starts. He has served up 111 in 559 2/3 innings over his four-plus major league seasons with the Seattle Mariners (2019-21) and Blue Jays
Kikuchi, 32, received a no-decision in his last outing when he gave up four runs and eight hits over five innings against the Chicago White Sox on July 6. He has allowed nine runs in 9 1/3 innings over his last two turns after allowing nine total over his previous six outings.
The Japan native is 0-1 with a 4.09 ERA in two career starts against the Diamondbacks. Evan Longoria (1-for-2) has homered against Kikuchi
Henry has won four consecutive decisions since last losing on May 11 to the San Francisco Giants. Over his last four outings, the 25-year-old is 2-0 with a 1.48 ERA.
Henry last pitched on July 5 when he blanked the New York Mets on two hits over six innings. He received a no-decision.
Henry has never faced the Blue Jays during his 23-game major league career
–Field Level Media