Hello darkness, our old friend. We’ve come to talk with you again.
Last night’s game was…disappointing, to say the least. Anytime Cliff Pennington is setting records with his arm (Congrats on being the first position player to pitch in the playoffs, Cliff), it’s not a good outing. As a result, the Blue Jays find themselves in a familiar hole to the one they faced ten days ago. They’re one game away from elimination, needing multiple wins to stave off trips to the golf course and Caribbean, and unlike the Rangers, they know the three arms ahead of them are not easy to conquer. So one of the questions facing the Jays is what to do with David Price? Should he be held for a Game 6 start in Kansas City, or should he be deployed out of the bullpen in case of emergency?
Toronto’s bullpen has been ravaged by injuries and inefficiency in the month of October. The top three pitchers have dealt with injuries, Brett Cecil‘s calf tear more serious than Aaron Sanchez‘ blister and Roberto Osuna‘s cracked fingernail, but all affecting their ability to pitch. The remaining members of the pen outside of Liam Hendriks have been unable to keep this team in games. LaTroy Hawkins is pitching like the oldest man in the majors, now sporting a 37.80 ERA and a WHIP of 4.80(!), and Cecil’s replacement Ryan Tepera displayed why he wasn’t on the postseason roster to begin with, allowing four runs in mop up duty. With all the problems the Blue Jays face behind their starters, wouldn’t it make sense to have their best arm available for relief duty tonight?
There is a strong case to be made for Price to come out of the bullpen. Now that Clayton Kershaw turned in a gem in an elimination game last round, Price inherited the tag of “elite starter who can’t pitch in the playoffs.” Teams are 0-7 in postseason games when Price is the starter, and while he’s received a paltry 2.29 runs of support in those starts, Price has held the opposing team to two runs or fewer just once (2014, ALDS vs. Baltimore). An ace is supposed to pitch like an ace when their team needs them the most.
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Oct 20, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays fan reacts during the game against the Kansas City Royals in game four of the ALCS at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Then there is the question of what happens in a close game tonight? Does Toronto want to bow out of the post-season with their best pitcher left to rust under the right field bleachers? With Aaron Loup taking himself out of the bullpen picture again due to the ongoing medical emergency in his family, Price is the only left-handed option available on the entire pitching staff. If Eric Hosmer is due up in the 7th with two on, two out, Blue Jays up one, are Toronto fans comfortable putting the ball in Osuna’s ailing hand that soon? Or is it worthwhile to bring Price in that spot to get a crucial out?
If Price is used, it certainly can’t be a situation akin to Game 4 in Texas, where he threw 50 pitches over three innings. Should Toronto win tonight’s game, starters will be needed for Games 6 and 7, and Mark Buehrle isn’t walking through that door (Unless Hawkins or Tepera suddenly develop an injury from last night’s work.) R.A. Dickey has pitched himself out of short rest consideration and possibly bullpen work given the record-setting four run first inning last night. If Game 6 goes as planned on Friday, Price is ticketed to start vs. Yordano Ventura. A Hendriks-level workload is simply not an option.
However, should the previously mentioned Hosmer situation arise, a side session-level appearance could be just what Toronto needs to get out of a jam. If 20 pitches from David Price will quell a Kansas City uprising and give Toronto a chance at life, John Gibbons should not hesitate to call #14 from the pen to pitch in the role that the Blue Jays should have had Cecil available to appear in.
This is a team that, following Price’s acquisition, were the odds-on favorites for the World Series by Vegas leading up to October, and were favoured to make their first World Series in 22 years by even pundits in rival cities. Going down with bullets in the chamber is not an option for this team, and if that means Price reprises a role he thought he left behind, then so be it. Get him in there and make sure the Jays don’t leave Toronto to the sounds of silence.