The Toronto Blue Jays have fought back from an 0-2 deficit, winning two straight on the road to force a fifth and deciding game at the Rogers Centre with Marcus Stroman on the mound. So, naturally, let’s talk about what went wrong today.
Manager John Gibbons suggested prior to first pitch that David Price and Stroman would be available out of the bullpen, and both began to stir early. It was Price who eventually entered a full warmup, and with a runner on base and Sin-Soo Choo at the dish with two outs in the fifth inning, Gibbons used the quick hook on R.A. Dickey.
With the score 7-1 at the time and Choo hitting Dickey well, perhaps there’s an alternate universe in which things went sour fast for Dickey, leaving the righty-heavy bullpen to struggle against the Texas lineup. In reality, though, Price was the choice. And people aren’t happy.
This isn’t a defense of Gibbons, or even a defense of the move, which I’m really quite neutral on. It would have been fantastic to see Dickey earn the win, and ideally, Price would have left this game completely fresh for game five relief. Instead, I think it’s important to consider this move within the logistics of the next few days.
Using Price in this relief appearance does not necessarily “burn” him completely, especially when we consider that Marcus Stroman appeared to be Gibbons’ preferred weapon for the series-deciding game on Wednesday. If Price was no longer needed to start that game, his usage today allowed for the Jays to solidify a victory while still leaving the door narrowly cracked open for him to appear on Wednesday. Given how many pitches he threw today, that Wednesday potential may be limited to a one-or-two out splash, but it exists.
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Now, was Price necessary? Goodness, no. The weakest link in the bullpen likely could have handled the situation, but Gibbons opted for complete security. An overcautious approach, even, and one that I feel he left on the mound a little too long. I can appreciate the disagreements with his decision, but one needn’t look far for an example of a “safe” lead crumbling. The Kansas City Royals scored five runs in the 8th inning against Houston tonight, powering an incredible comeback win. Keep in mind that Texas had the 3rd-highest scoring offense in the MLB this season.
Given that the decision had been made to roll with Stroman in game five, though, I feel this decision is being pushed into a larger narrative than it should be. Within the parameters of the plan Gibbons conjured up (for better or for worse), this move kept a cap on the Rangers offense and helped to wrap up something that looked very unlikely two days ago.
Game five is only made possible by today’s win. Unfortunately, it took some not-so-textbook decisions to get to this point, but the Blue Jays have made it. On Wednesday, shortly after 4:00 ET, they will take the field in Toronto for game five of the ALDS with their hottest starter on the mound, and just maybe, a left-handed AL Cy Young candidate available in a pinch out of the bullpen. Everything will be OK.