The Blue Jays look like they will to qualify for the post-season, and thankfully Matt Shoemaker is healthy and could be an option to make a playoff start.
There were a lot of encouraging signs for the Blue Jays last night, especially after the shellacking they took at the hand of the Yankees in New York last week. They had all kinds of offence, pitched well, and proved that they can beat the Yankees, even if that seemed like an impossible task.
One of the most important factors in the game was the Blue Jays’ starting pitcher in Matt Shoemaker, who was making his return from the Injured List. The veteran was solid against the Yankees, throwing three innings and allowing just one run on three hits and two walks. Charlie Montoyo kept his pitch count fairly low on purpose, especially because he wasn’t able to make an traditional rehab start at all, but chances are he’ll stretch things out a little more during his next start on the weekend.
His return could be very important, especially as the Blue Jays look ahead to the playoffs. They aren’t guaranteed their spot just yet, but their magic number dropped to three with their win over the Yankees, and could go even lower with another Mariner loss (this was written before the conclusion of their game on Monday night). While they have to focus on the immediate task at hand, and Shoemaker could be part of that solution, they can likely put on one on next week as well.
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Unless he’s needed to secure a playoff spot in the final days of the regular season, it’s all but guaranteed that Hyun-Jin Ryu will start the first game of the post-season for the Blue Jays. After that though, the picture is far from clear. If I were a betting man, my guess is that Taijuan Walker would be the Game 2 starter, but after that? Shoemaker might be the best available option.
Unfortunately, the Blue Jays have had a pretty inconsistent effort from their other veteran starters. Tanner Roark has a 6.41 ERA and a 1.754 WHIP over nine starts, and may not even make the post-season roster. Chase Anderson has had a couple of decent outings, but his numbers are even worse with a 7.45 ERA and a 1.724 WHIP over eight appearances and 29.1 innings. Ross Stripling is in the same ballpark since joining the team at the deadline, with a 1.909 WHIP in his first three outings as a Blue Jay.
They may only need three starters, and it’s hard to say how Montoyo would deploy his pitching staff for the playoffs, but the only other candidate I see as a challenger to Shoemaker would be Robbie Ray. The left-hander has had some good outings, and then some not so good appearances, but he likely offers more upside than Roark, Anderson, or Stripling. Would Montoyo prefer him over Shoemaker? That could depend on the match-up, but I don’t know if it should matter either way.
Assuming that Shoemaker’s next start goes well, he should be lined up for close to regular rest by the time Game 3 rolls around. If they end up finishing in eighth, that game will happen on Thursday, Oct 1st, and the assumption is he’ll likely make his last regular season start on Saturday. That would line up perfect for him to get his normal four days rest, so even if he’s not the post-season starter, he should be available and ready if he’s needed.
He may not have an ace-calibre resume, but Shoemaker has pitched very well in his limited opportunities as a Blue Jay. Hopefully he’s finally healthy and able to contribute at the most important time of his two-year tenure.