Blue Jays: Consider not having Hyun Jin Ryu pitch against the Yankees

TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 17: Hyun Jin Ryu #99 of the Toronto Blue Jays pitches in the second inning of their MLB game against the Minnesota Twins at Rogers Centre on September 17, 2021 in Toronto, Ontario. (Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 17: Hyun Jin Ryu #99 of the Toronto Blue Jays pitches in the second inning of their MLB game against the Minnesota Twins at Rogers Centre on September 17, 2021 in Toronto, Ontario. (Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images) /

As I am sure you’ve heard by now, this week’s series against the New York Yankees is easily the most important three games the Blue Jays are going to play all year.

Looking at the Wild Card standings, a disappointing homestead by the Boston Red Sox saw the Yankees sweep their Massachusetts rival and leapfrog ahead of them to claim top spot, dropping Boston down to the second slot. The Blue Jays did not do themselves any favours last week either, dropping two games against the Tampa Bay Rays before splitting a four-game series against the Minnesota Twins, a team the Jays could have swept on paper.

Regardless of last week, the Blue Jays are still having a great month of September and are now finding themselves in the gritty part of the season where it is coming down to the wire. You’ve probably seen all the different scenarios given how close the AL Wild Card standings are and how they are impacted by one win or two wins or a Boston loss; you get the point.

An interesting note heading into this series is that starting pitcher Hyun Jin Ryu is eligible to return from the injured list tomorrow after landing there due to a strained neck nine days ago (retroactive to the 18th). While the southpaw was dominant last year and showed signs of brilliance at the start of the campaign, a few rough patches this season have seen Ryu’s ERA rise to 4.34 through 29 starts with 35 walks and 133 strikeouts. He hasn’t looked like the same pitcher fans saw last year and has been shaky in his last seven starts, sporting a 7.09 ERA through 33.0 innings of work while allowing 26 earned runs.

With Blue Jays pitcher Hyun Jin Ryu eligible to return off the IL today, it may be wise to skip his turn in the rotation against the New York Yankees given his recent performance.

There has been no official word yet if Ryu will be activated before the game tonight or what the club plans to do with him in this series but it should be worth noting that the Blue Jays probable pitcher’s page does have him tagged as the starting pitcher for tomorrow’s contest at the Rogers Centre.

Given how the left-hander has pitched as of late and the serious implications of the next three games, I am a bit surprised that the Blue Jays chose to go with Ryu in such a big moment. Coming off an injury as well as a rough few outings does not bode a lot of confidence heading into the matchup and with the Yankees playing well as of late, he cannot afford to make any mistakes on the mound tonight or their opponents are going to capitalize given the power and depth they possess in the lineup.

One thing going for Ryu if he does take the mound tonight is that his last outing against the Bronx Bombers on September 6th was one of his best starts over the past two months. He held the Yankees to just three hits over 6.0 innings while striking out six batters compared to zero walks and zero earned runs. Maybe the neck injury was the cause for his recent poor outings and he feels fine now, it just seems like a huge gamble given the circumstances.

With the Blue Jays having an off-day yesterday, they could have juggled the pitching staff around if they chose to skip Ryu’s turn in the rotation. The club could have turned to left-hander Steven Matz considering the game tonight would have been a regular start for him given the recent rotation schedule but it appears that his turn has been skipped (at least according to the Blue Jays page). Matz did struggle in his last outing against the Minnesota Twins on Friday but has been pitching well as of late, sporting a 3.88 ERA on the season through 28 starts.

I would imagine that if Ryu struggles early tonight (if he does start) that Matz or Ross Stripling will be ready to go with Jose Berrios pitching Wednesday and Robbie Ray taking the mound on Thursday. The bullpen should be all rested and ready to go as well given the off day. The Yankees appear to be sending Jameson Taillon, Gerrit Cole, and Corey Kluber over the next three games, and should be a tough battle for the Blue Jays batting order.

If the Blue Jays do indeed start Hyun Jin Ryu tonight it will be a risky move, one that could have some pretty tough consequences if he struggles early and puts the club in a rough spot early in the game. He could also come out and pitch a gem and put any doubts to rest, and quite frankly I am more than ok with that.

Just considering the major implications these next few games have on the season, the Blue Jays should send their top arms and their players out on the field, and right now that is not Ryu given the recent injury and performance.

Next. George Springer getting hot at just the right time. dark

Time will only tell if the southpaw does take the mound tonight and hopefully, he can find the same groove he did back in early September because winning the first game of this series could go a long way to helping the Blue Jays reach the postseason in 2021.