The Blue Jays find themselves painted into a corner for the second consecutive series, but this time, the path to the door is a bit more difficult. As the dust settles from Tuesday’s blowout loss to the Royals, the Blue Jays send Marco Estrada to the mound with the season on the line. A familiar position for the surprise right-handed star.
Toronto’s bullpen will continue to be the storyline, with injuries and underperformance leaving manager John Gibbons with few viable options. Aaron Sanchez and Roberto Osuna are the only remaining relievers that were not used in game four, meaning that starters David Price and Marcus Stroman could be called upon as the Jays desperately work to push their season on.
Marco Estrada (Postseason: 1-1, 3.09 ERA)
Estrada gets his second crack at the Royals in this series, and will again do so with Dioner Navarro behind the dish. His game one performance was not dominant, but in allowing three runs on six hits over 5.1 innings pitched, he kept the Blue Jays within striking distance well enough.
Recapturing the form he’d found against the Texas Rangers will be key in game five, as Estrada had opposing hitters on their heels in the ALDS. He and Navarro executed their pitch selection very nicely, and there were points in that ball game where it looked as if the Rangers hitters had never seen a changeup before.
The Blue Jays need quality from Estrada, but they’re also desperate for some quantity. Ideally, they’ll get 6.0+ innings and have the opportunity to shorten their bullpen. This would leave David Price and Marcus Stroman available to start a potential sixth and seventh game.
Edinson Volquez (Postseason: 1-1, 2.31 ERA)
Volquez was better than the Blue Jays in game one of the series, plain and simple. His velocity jumped to a level that we’re not used to seeing from him, so perhaps a more hushed support group in the Rogers Centre can help to dial that back. Volquez lasted 6.0 strong innings in his first matchup with the Jays, surrendering just two base hits.
He does have a history of inconsistency, however, and his eight walks in 11.2 innings this postseason are an encouraging sign. Another look should benefit the hitters more than it benefits the pitcher, but the Blue Jays really need to flip the script here.
Blue Jay to Watch: Josh Donaldson
Donaldson recorded one of Toronto’s two hits in that first meeting and managed a walk. He’s barrelling up beautifully over the past couple games, and the Jays may need that standout, MVP-type performance to lift them over such an evenly-matched opponent. If a ball leaves the yard today, the smart money is on Donaldson.