The Blue Jays are off to the ALCS for the second consecutive year, and will get a few much needed days of rest before facing the winner of the Indians/Red Sox division series.
After Josh Donaldson slid head first across home plate in the bottom of the 10th inning, Blue Jays players and fans jumped for joy in celebration of another division series win. The Rangers have been swept in the best of five series, and now the Jays will await the winner of the Cleveland Indians and Boston Red Sox series, where the Indians lead 2-0.
For as much as it was a time to celebrate for the Blue Jays, it was also time for a collective sigh of relief.
Despite the fact that the Blue Jays have now won four straight playoff games, and 6 straight overall (including the end of the regular season), this is a team battling injury and fatigue. There have been several questions about Devon Travis‘ knee, Donaldson’s hip and more, but Roberto Osuna has been one of the main question marks. So far, the 21-year-old closer hasn’t blinked, throwing another 2.0 scoreless innings for the win in Game 3.
For anyone who missed it, Osuna had to be removed from the last regular season game against the Red Sox, citing a stretching sensation in his throwing shoulder. Osuna says he hasn’t felt pain, just a “weird” feeling he hasn’t experienced before, which obviously concerns the Blue Jays’ brass.
The young star did have to throw 1.1 innings in the AL Wild Card game, performing well and reporting no issues. He wasn’t needed in Game 1 of the the ALCS, but was used again for five outs in Game 2 on Friday. Prior to Game 3, Gibbons acknowledged that they were leaning awfully heavy on Osuna’s arm, despite the injury concerns.
The thing is, where else is John Gibbons supposed to turn? He’s also heavily relied on Joe Biagini, Jason Grilli, and Brett Cecil (who each threw in Game 3 as well), and doesn’t have a lot of desirable options beyond that bunch. Joaquin Benoit is out with a calf injury, and is greatly missed in his former 7th/8th inning role.. Francisco Liriano was no longer available for the ALDS after being hit in the head by a line drive in Game 2, sending him to the seven-game concussion disabled list.
The situations just kept presenting themselves where Gibbons would use his desirable pen options, but still needed to rely on Osuna for more than he wanted to. Once again, the situation developed in Game 3, and Gibbons stuck with his stud closer in the 10th inning.
The move paid off for Gibbons and the Blue Jays, as Osuna shut down the Rangers again before Donaldson scored in the bottom half to close the series. Osuna only had to throw 22 total pitches (after throwing 31 in Game 2), but it was still a risky move for the manager.
I’ll admit, at first I was upset to see him back out for the 10th, but then I started to think about it.
- He had cruised through the 9th and likely had the stamina to continue.
- Regardless, if he pitched the 10th, he was going to be unavailable for Thursday’s Game 4.
- Finishing off the Rangers on Sunday meant four full days of rest, perhaps the most important thing for the ailing Blue Jays.
After considering those angles I suddenly agreed with the move, just in time to watch him finish the 10th, still looking strong.
Say what you want about Gibbons’ throughout the season (I’ve always been a fan for the most part), but his management of the team in the playoffs has been rock solid. He’s used the bullpen assets he does have at the right time, and decisions like starting Ezequiel Carrera have been quiet contributors to this win streak.
As much as the club would like to keep the momentum and hot streak going, rest will go a long way to helping the Blue Jays’ chances of a World Series ticket, especially in the back end of the bullpen. The bullpen, which is suddenly lights out after struggling for most of the season.
A bullpen that needs a healthy Roberto Osuna, now and in the future.