It’s been awhile! For the first time I can remember (although it was probably around this time 1993) not only are our Blue Jays in first place but the standings now list a magic number for them. For the record, the number is 17- meaning that any combination of 17 Toronto wins or New York losses clinches the division title. With 19 games left over the next 20 days, it is doable and certainly the Jays’ title to lose.
With Marcus Stroman making a return this past weekend, something almost unthinkable a couple of months ago (and a testimony to a solid work ethic in the young right-hander)and Mark Buehrle slated to start today’s game against Atlanta after missing a week or so due to a sore shoulder, it leaves the team with six valid starting pitchers. Although I’ve never been a fan of a six-man rotation, (hell, I look back at some of the great teams – not Toronto – of my childhood and wonder if a 4-man crew wouldn’t be better most of the time) it could be a blessing at this point. With Buehrle aching, Estrada already at a new career high in innings and David Price topping 200 innings already, an extra arm may be a plus down the line. Given the schedule and pitchers records, I came up with a rotation for the rest of the year that would give the Jays the best chance to win and carry on after October 4. Game by game…
Tuesday Sep. 15 – at Atlanta. Mark Buehrle, as scheduled. Mark says he is capable of pitching again after a cortisone shot , and is most rested of the starting 6.
Wed. Sep. 16 – at Atlanta. David Price – on his normal rest
Thu. Sep. 17 – at Atlanta. Marco Estrada– on normal rest, has same 6-4 record at home and on road with little difference in ERA , so a better bet than Friday’s starter
Fri. Sep. 18 – (home) Boston – Marcus Stroman – on an extra day’s rest (5), thus far in his young career he’s much better at home than on road and has done well (3-0, 1.25) against Red Sox
Sat. Sep. 19- Boston – RA Dickey– on an extra day’s rest, which can’t hurt a guy who’s already at 196 innings.RA hasn’t fared well against Boston in past, but is much better at Rogers’ Centre as we know (8-3, 3.16 vs 2-8, 5.09 this year)
Sun. Sep. 20- Boston – Mark Buehrle– fingers crossed, if his shoulder is Ok after today’s game, he’d be on regular rest for this one … letting him miss the Yankees, whom he’s famously troubled by (2-14 career)
Mon. Sep. 21– (home) New York – David Price – on regular rest, although his career ERA against NY is second-worst against AL teams (only Texas hits him harder), since Aug. 8 he’s beat the Pinstripes twice.
Tue. Sep. 22– New York – Drew Hutchison– by this point, Hutch would be on 12 days rest. Hopefully he won’t overthrow, and the time would be right for him to shine, given that he’s good against NY (2-0, 1.42 this year) and infinitely better at home than on road. Career ERA over 6 for his career, so the more the team can avoid throwing him out on any non-rogers Centre mound, the better.
Wed. Sep. 23- New York – Marcus Stroman– on regular rest. Has started more games against them than any other team, and is decent under the pressure (3-1, 3.18)
Thu. Sep. 24- last off day to enjoy
Fri. Sep. 25- (home) Tampa Bay – Marco Estrada– on a full week’s rest, which could help since he’ll be around 10 innings over his past high by this point. Definitely need to get him in this series, given that he’s shut out the Rays through 21 innings so far this year.
Sat. Sep. 26- Tampa Bay – David Price– on regular rest. Surprisingly has never beat his former team,but has seldom faced them and is very familiar with most of their lineup
Sun. Sep. 27 – Tampa Bay, final regular season home game – Drew Hutchison- on regular rest, lets him pitch once more in Toronto and against a team he’s 4-2 against in his career
Mon. Sep. 28 – at Baltimore – RA Dickey– on 8 days rest, not an ideal mix since he is better at home and has trouble traditionally not done well against O’s (2-6, 4.20 career). However, hasn’t played them this year
Tue. Sep. 29 – at Baltimore – Marcus Stroman- on an extra day’s rest
Wed. Sep. 30- at Baltimore- Marco Estrada- on regular rest, has been good against them this year (2-1, 3.32 in five games)
Thu. Oct. 1 – at Baltimore – Mark Buehrle – will be on 10 days rest, doing all they can to keep his shoulder ready for the post-season. Has pitched better against them than the other East teams (3-0 this year, 11-10, 3.52 career)
Fri. Oct. 2- at Tampa Bay- David Price– on an extra day’s rest, and have him ready also on extra day for first game of ALDS if things go according to plan
Sat. Oct. 3- at Tampa Bay- RA Dickey- on regular rest; a little problematic since he’s not beaten TB this year and has ERA of over 5 on road this year but there’s always a first time and hoping the game won’t be vital at this point. Alternate plan- if the Jays have clinched and playoff slots are set by this day, run out someone like Chad Jenkins and keep Dickey fresher for the ALDS.
Sun. Oct. 4 –at Tampa Bay, final regular season game – Marcus Stroman- if he’s good in the previous three, he should make post-season roster and would be ready by Game 2 of divisional series. If he’s disappointing, it still gives him one more chance to end season on a high note and saves an arm like Drew Hutchison’s for the playoffs.
So, in a somewhat perfect world, staff ace David Price and young, fresh Marcus Stroman each have 4 starts left before post-season; Mark Buehrle, Marco Estrada and RA Dickey three each and Drew Hutchison only two, both at home. And we get to avoid bugaboos like Hutch pitching on the road and Buehrle going up against the Yankees (although there would be worse fates than seeing that matchup in mid-October!)
And if things work out even remotely perfectly with that, soon I’ll be looking at how to plan out the playoff starts!