A version of Bo Bichette the Toronto Blue Jays had been banking on is showing up in time for the playoff push.
Over his last seven games, the 24-year-old shortstop is hitting .516 with five home runs and 14 RBIs.
The Blue Jays (76-60) hope Bichette stays hot as they prepare to play the first of three games against the Texas Rangers (59-77) on Friday in Arlington, Texas.
“He’s a really good hitter getting hot,” Blue Jays interim manager John Schneider told MLB.com. “We’ve said this all along: Bo is a huge part of our team and offense. He’s locked in.”
Friday’s pitching matchup features Ross Stripling (7-4, 3.03 ERA) for Toronto and Dane Dunning (3-8, 4.37) for Texas.
Toronto enters the series having won three of four games at the Baltimore Orioles.
Despite losing 10 of 11, there’s plenty of fanfare in Texas for Friday’s game. That’s because, according to multiple reports, top prospect infielder Josh Jung is expected to make his MLB debut this weekend.
The eighth pick in the 2019 MLB Draft from Texas Tech, Jung is a touted third base prospect who would have already been called up if not for shoulder surgery.
Jung, 24, appeared in 23 games at Triple-A Round Rock, where he hit .273 with an .841 OPS and six home runs.
Bichette, also 24, already is one of MLB’s top young talents.
In 2021, Bichette batted .298 with 29 home runs and 102 RBIs. Entering the weekend series, his average is up to .275 with 22 home runs and 80 RBIs.
The Rangers and Blue Jays have met once previously this season, with Toronto taking two of three at home in early April.
Stripling on Friday will be achieving a couple of personal milestones. It will be his 200th MLB appearance and 100th start.
Toronto has used the veteran in multiple roles, as a starter and a reliever. Stripling has appeared in 27 games with 19 starts, and he even has recorded a save.
Stripling looks to build upon his last start, a win at the Pittsburgh Pirates last Sunday. In six scoreless innings, he struck out eight and scattered two hits and three walks.
“Good teams take care of business, right?” Stripling told reporters after his win at Pittsburgh. “We should take care of business and we did.”
In two relief outings against the Rangers this year, Stripling allowed three earned runs. For his career, the right-hander has a 7.50 ERA against Texas.
Dunning is 1-0 with a 3.60 ERA in two career starts against the Blue Jays. The right-hander faced Toronto earlier in the season, and wasn’t involved in the decision, allowing three runs in five innings.
The status of Blue Jays outfielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr. is to be determined as he is dealing with a left hamstring injury.
Rangers outfielder Adolis Garcia was out of the lineup on Wednesday due to hip discomfort.
Garcia jarred his hip on Tuesday while attempting to rob Jose Altuve’s home run.
“He’s OK,” Rangers interim manager Tony Beasley said. “When he landed trying to rob the homer, he landed kind of awkwardly. He had a little discomfort in his hip, I want to say.”