The Blue Jays let a winnable game slip away on Wednesday night, and it once again highlighted the need for more help for the pitching staff.
The Jays had the good fortunate of lining up their three hottest starters against the Red Sox to begin this week, and the trio of Kevin Gausman, Ross Stripling, and Alek Manoah delivered just as needed. That said, they now enter a five-game series against the Rays that will have serious implications in a tight AL East and Wild Card races, and there are some pretty big question marks as far as how the pitching staff may perform.
It starts with Yusei Kikuchi on Thursday, who is getting the ball to the surprise of many. To put it bluntly, Kikuchi has been flat out terrible in June, and he’ll look to close off a nightmare month with a strong outing. The southpaw has yet to make it through five complete innings, and his last time out saw him lose the ability to throw a fastball for strikes. As you can imagine, that didn’t end so well. After that comes Jose Berrios, who is also struggling lately, and we still don’t know who will start during the double-header on Saturday other than that Gausman will pitch one of the two games.
On top of the question marks in the rotation, the bullpen has been showing some serious leaks lately, and I’m not sure how much longer they can try to patch things together with in-house solutions. The problems have been compounded by the recent performance of Kikuchi and Berrios, but it’s not just about being overworked. They need some legitimate help for the bullpen, and Sergio Romo likely isn’t going to move the needle much, if at all.
While I’m not against giving Romo an opportunity to help this bullpen, I’m also trying to be realistic about what he can bring to the table. At the moment he serves as depth that is badly needed, and that much I can appreciate. However, what the Jays truly need is another late-inning arm that can help close out some of these tight games against fellow contenders like the Red Sox. While I still believe in the likes of Tim Mayza, Adam Cimber, and David Phelps, there’s no doubt that the bullpen would be much stronger if they all moved down a spot or two on the depth chart.
With just over a month until the trade deadline, the Blue Jays need to be aggressive when it comes to looking for that help. I understand that the tendency is to wait until closer to the trade deadline, hoping that the asking prices get to a palatable place, but I’m not sure that they have the luxury of patience right now. I’m not saying they should trade a top five prospect to bring in a reliever or two, but I do think the Blue Jays have to find some solutions, and do it in a hurry. And if Kikuchi and Berrios can’t get on track this weekend against Tampa Bay, the urgency in the rotation could increase even more as well.
It’s not an ideal place to be letting the Red Sox leave town with a half game lead, but the Blue Jays have still managed a 42-33 record thus far, and are clinging to the second Wild Card spot at the moment. There are still all kinds of reasons to be excited about this team, but unless the front office finds some help for pitching staff in a hurry, we might be looking at a completely different situation when another month goes by.