The Arizona Diamondbacks were one of the biggest surprise teams in what is informally viewed as the first half of the season
Arizona led the National League West for a large portion of the first half and stands two percentage points behind the Los Angeles Dodgers. However, the Diamondbacks lost five of their final seven games prior to the All-Star break
Arizona has matched its win total of two seasons ago, when it bottomed out with a 52-110 record. The Diamondbacks are 22 wins away from equaling last season's total
"I'm proud of our guys," Arizona manager Torey Lovullo told reporters. "I'm proud of what we've done. We're in a good spot."
The Diamondbacks' rise has been fueled by All-Star outfielder Corbin Carroll, who is batting .289 with 18 homers, 48 RBIs and 26 steals in 86 games. Carroll is a shoo-in for NL Rookie of the Year honors and is receiving mention as an MVP candidate
The Blue Jays are part of the American League wild-card chase and would like to see their former MVP runner-up heat up at the plate
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. won the Home Run Derby on Monday and was an All-Star for the third time but hasn't been a big force this season. He's hitting .274 with 13 homers and 58 RBIs in 88 games.
Two years ago, he was runner-up to Shohei Ohtani in the MVP race with the Angels' star able to win the award due to his strong pitching in addition to the hitting prowess. Guerrero tied for the 2021 major league lead with 48 homers and led the AL in on-base percentage (.401), slugging (.601) and OPS (1.002).
But this season, Guerrero has a .344 on-base percentage while slugging a measly .443. He has only 32 extra-base hits compared to finishing with 67 last season and compiling 78 in 2021.
As the Blue Jays wait for Guerrero to warm up, they stand in third place in the AL East, a distant seven games behind the Tampa Bay Rays
Toronto won five of its last six games before the break, and All-Star shortstop Bo Bichette said the club is close to putting it all together.
"I think we've had times, moments where we've played well," Bichette told reporters. "And so I think that's still coming in. We just have to keep working."
Not yet known is whether All-Star closer Jordan Romano will be available for Friday's opener. He departed Tuesday's All-Star Game with back tightness.
Romano is tied for the major league lead with 26 saves.
The Blue Jays also haven't announced a starter for the series opener
Right-hander Jose Berrios (8-6, 3.50 ERA) is certainly under heavy consideration as he hasn't pitched since July 6, when he blanked the Chicago White Sox on one hit over seven innings in a no-decision.
In his lone career start against Arizona, Berrios allowed two hits over seven shutout innings in a 5-0 win on Aug. 19, 2017, when he was a member of the Minnesota Twins.
Fellow right-handers Chris Bassitt (8-5, 4.19) and Kevin Gausman (7-5, 3.03) are lesser possibilities. Bassitt pitched on Sunday and Gausman pitched Saturday. Gausman pulled out of the All-Star Game due to the timing of his outing.
Arizona announced that right-hander Ryne Nelson (5-5, 5.19) will start the opener with All-Star Game starter Zac Gallen (11-3, 3.04) pitching Saturday.
Nelson, 25, was hit hard by the New York Mets on July 6 in his final start before the break. He gave up seven runs and nine hits in three innings while taking the loss.
Nelson hasn't faced the Blue Jays in his 21-game career
--Field Level Media