Live Game Thread 26: Toronto Blue Jays (12-13) at Kansas City Royals (12-12)


Apr 17, 2014; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Dustin McGowan (29) pitches to the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

Thus far in 2014, the Toronto Blue Jays have played a mixed brand of baseball, riding the highs and lows like a tidal wave but getting absolutely nowhere in the process. The Blue Jays have enjoyed the subtle successes of Melky Cabrera, Jose Bautista, Drew Hutchison, and Mark Buehrle, but struggled to compensate for the slow starts of R.A. Dickey, Brandon Morrow, Edwin Encarnacion, Brett Lawrie, and Colby Rasmus.

Appropriately, they get to close the month out in Kansas City, against a Royals team that while sitting 5th in batting average ranks 25th in runs scored. The Royals have made up for that by limiting their opponents to the 6th fewest runs allowed. Of course, that has given them similar overall results to the Blue Jays, as they enter the series at 12-12.

The Blue Jays will send right-hander Dustin McGowan to the hill for his fifth start of the season, as start that depending on the final result, may be his last one of the year. In four previous trips to the mound, McGowan has mustered a 1-1 record and a 6.88 ERA, lasting past the fourth inning in just 1 of those starts. That has left the Blue Jays in the tough position of trying to figure out if McGowan is a viable long-term solution in the rotation. Already, the team is making plan to line-up prospect Marcus Stroman to jump into the rotation slot should McGowan falter.

McGowan will be opposed by letty Jason Vargas. The Royals signed the 31-year-old to a 4-year, $32 million deal this past winter that seemed curious at the time. However, after his first five starts it has looked like money well spent. He has thrown a total of 35 innings, with a 1.54 ERA and a 2-0 record. However, his 4.6 K/9 is hardly flattering and his 3.94 FIP indicate there is room for regression.

Toronto Blue Jays Line-up:

Jose Reyes – SS
Melky Cabrera – LF
Jose Bautista – RF
Edwin Encarnacion – 1B
Dioner Navarro – C
Juan Francisco – DH
Brett Lawrie – 3B
Colby Rasmus – CF
Chris Getz – 2B

Kansas City Royals Line-up:

Nori Aoki – RF
Omar Infante – 2B
Eric Hosmer – 1B
Billy Butler – DH
Alex Gordon – LF
Salvador Perez – C
Mike Moustakas – 3B
Alcides Escobar – SS
Jarrod Dyson – CF

Game Notes:

– This is Jose Reyes’ first game in Kansas City since squashing his ankle last season and missing 2 months. Any Blue Jays fans in attendance should do anything they can to help break that mojo.

– Vargas is 1-3 in his career against the Blue Jays with a 5.67 ERA in 6 starts. That said, Edwin Encarnacion is the biggest recipient from Vargas, batting .333 with 2 doubles, 2 home runs, and 5 RBI against the lefty, so this could be a slump buster for Edwin. Oddly, Jose Bautista has struggled against Vargas, with only 1 hit in 10 at bats. That one hit however was a home run, and he does own 6 walks against him as well.

– The Royals have limited exposure to Dustin McGowan, and most of their experience hasn’t been very good against the Jays’ starter. However, Alex Gordon has tagged him well, going 4-7 against McGowan with a triple, a home run, and a pair of RBI.