Blue Jays: Looking ahead to a fascinating possible Game 2 matchup
I know we’re not supposed to get too far ahead ourselves here, but I can’t help but notice a fascinating potential Game 2 matchup for the Blue Jays in the opening round of the playoffs.
After the Blue Jays won a game that was called because of rain in Baltimore, and then the Tigers beat the Mariners on Monday night, we now officially know that the Blue Jays will be the host team in their Wild Card series. We don’t officially know who they’ll be playing just yet, but barring a minor miracle it looks like the Mariners will be coming north of the border.
And you know what that means? Robbie Ray is coming back to the Rogers Centre for the first time since he left in free agency this past offseason.
Ray did not make the trip with the Mariners earlier this year, which led to a lot of Blue Jays fans scratching their heads and letting out a collective “Ooooooooh” when reflecting back on how this past free agency period went. Thanks to a well-timed change in the laws around crossing the Canada-USA border, Ray will be joining his team this time, which I’m sure the Mariners are thrilled about.
What makes his return even more interesting is the fact that it looks like Ray might square off against the pitcher that the Blue Jays signed to take his place in the rotation, Kevin Gausman. For what it’s worth, here’s how the two stacked up in 2022:
Robbie Ray: 12-12, 3.75 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 189 IP, 212 K, 2.0 bWAR
Kevin Gausman: 12-10, 3.25 ERA, 1.237 WHIP, 174.2 IP, 205 k, 3.1 bWAR
As you can see, the Blue Jays did very well to replace their 2021 Cy Young award winner, and even ended up with the better performer in year one of their respective five-year contracts. As significant as that may be, I’m sure both hurlers would agree that their next start is more important than anything they’ve done on the mound so far in 2022.
Ray did make one start against the Blue Jays this season and he was very effective going 6.0 innings and allowing just one earned run on three hits, while striking out six. The Mariners only saw Gausman once this year as well, but he wasn’t quite as dominant as Ray against the Jays, pitching just 5.0 innings and allowing two earned runs on seven hits. Of course, the sample sizes are so small that we really can’t glean too much from what happened this year.
At the end of the day, both pitchers and their teams are in a whole new ball game (pun intended) once the playoffs begin, and the privilege of playing at home is huge for the Blue Jays, and likely for Gausman as well. While he could be taking the mound for a win-or-go-home Game 2, in a perfect world the 31 year old will be starting with a chance to finish the short two-game series. Either way the stakes will be high, but I’m sure the Blue Jays are feeling confident with their rotation heading into the weekend.
As for the layers of storylines throughout the first round, expect Blue Jays fans to be a little less welcoming for their former Tight-Pantsed hero than they may otherwise be. We’re firmly on Team Gausman these days, and I’m already looking forward to the Game 2 matchup.