16 games left. 16 games are all that remain of the 2013 season for the Toronto Blue Jays. Like that one last helium filled balloon at the party, it started off all shiny and new, only to be hanging on past its time, wrinkled and spent.
Alas, the Blue Jays do have some opportunities to play a role they have become accustomed to the last several years; the spoiler. That starts With the Baltimore Orioles, with the Blue Jays having a chance to put a boot to the throat of Baltimore’s playoff hopes. The reeling Orioles have fallen to 2.5 games out of the Wild Card picture and into fourth place in the division.
But the task of spoiler will not be an easy one. The Blue Jays are 8-6 against the Orioles this season, but that was then Toronto was at its healthiest. With numerous injuries taking their final toll on the Toronto roster, this series will be a completed different match-up.
Game 1: Todd Redmond (3-2, 4.40 ERA) vs Jason Hammel (7-8, 5.11 ERA)
Game 2: Esmil Rogers (5-7, 4.46 ERA) vs Chris Tillman (16-5, 3.66 ERA)
Game 3: Mark Buehrle (11-8, 4.18 ERA) vs Miguel Gonzalez (9-7, 4.00 ERA)
At first glance, the Blue Jays rotation for this series does not inspire much confidence, but there is more underneath the sheer numbers than meets the eye.
Outside of his August 23rd start against the Houston Astros, Todd Redmond has done more than asked for as a starter for the Blue Jays. In those starts excluding the Houston game, Redmond has a 3.33 ERA and a 8.17 K/9 ratio over 54 innings of work as a starter in a Toronto uniform.
Esmil Rogers is another case. Rogers was thought to have hit the wall a few weeks back and moved back to the bullpen on August 27th. However, he was once again pressed into the rotation and in two September starts, the right-hander has put his name into the rotation debate for 2014 by throwing 14 shut-out innings, allowing just 4 hits and striking out 9 in the process.
Then there is Mark Buehrle, who was absolutely roughed up three nights ago against the Los Angeles Angels. Apparently, his ERA was due for a market correction, as the Angels knocked him around to the tune of 8 earned runs over 4 innings of work, bumping Buehrle’s ERA from 3.88 to 4.18. That said, going back to July 20th, Buehrle was on a stellar steak, going 6-1 with a 2.21 ERA and a 6.51 K/9 ratio.
On the Orioles front, we get to see some familiar faces.
Hammel has struggled in 2013 and that trend is consistent with the Blue Jays as well. He has faced Toronto twice this season, surrendering 10 earned runs and 3 home runs over the course of 12 innings pitched in those starts.
He’ll be followed by Chris Tillman, who has been a pleasant surprise for the Orioles this season. He’s pitched well against the Blue Jays as well. In three starts against Toronto, he owns a 2-0 record with a 3.57 ERA and 15 strike-outs over 17.2 innings pitched.
The final start of the series will go to Orioles right-hander Miguel Gonzalez. He is about what you think you’d get from a soft-tossing, location pitcher. However, he’s been the best of the bunch against the Blue Jays this season, making 3 starts and owning a 1-1 record with a 3.32 ERA and 7.58 K/9 ratio against Toronto.
Probable Starting Lineups:
Toronto Blue Jays
1. SS: Jose Reyes
2. 2B: Munenori Kawasaki/Ryan Goins
3. DH: Edwin Encarnacion
4. 1B: Adam Lind
5. 3B: Brett Lawrie
6. CF: Colby Rasmus
7. RF: Moises Sierra
8. C: J.P. Arencibia / Josh Thole
9. LF: Kevin Pillar
The Blue Jays line-up could receive a solid boost if both Edwin Encarnacion and Colby Rasmus are able to return to the field this weekend. Toronto could use all the boost it can get against a powerful Orioles line-up that has owned Blue Jays pitching this season. Adam Jones (.346 Avg, 1.190 OPS, 7 HR, 12 RBI) and Chris Davis (.348, 1.284, 6, 15) in particular have been brutal to deal with.
This Blue Jays line-up can ill afford to get into a slug-fest with the Orioles, as the current iteration lacks the firepower to hit back. But with Encarnacion and Rasmus back, there is a little more hope.
Prior to being swept by the Angels, the Blue Jays were on a solid roll, despite the rash of injuries and the piece-meal line-up. If they can channel some of that urgency, this series could be interesting and the Orioles could be in for some trouble. That said, Baltimore is clearly the better team on the field and should take 2 of 3 against our band of misfits.
But oh how sweet the spoil could be!
UPDATE: Encarnacion is returning tonight and is in the line-up batting third and slotting in as the DH. Colby Rasmus is also starting and playing center field, batting 6th. Game on!