The Toronto Blue Jays have announced their starting rotation for the best-of-three Wild Card series against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field in Minneapolis.
Below, you’ll find a breakdown of each pitcher and their playoff resume, as well as something critical to watch for when they take the mound.
Game 1: Kevin Gausman
- 12-9, 3.16 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 237 strikeouts
As expected, Kevin Gausman will get the ball in Game 1 after an incredible year in which he put up a 3.16 ERA and led the American League in strikeouts. If he has his splitter working, there are few pitchers better, and few you would rather have to open the playoffs than the 2023 All Star.
Playoff resume: Gausman has made seven career appearances in the postseason, including two starts, pitching to an 0-1 record with a 4.57 ERA. Note though, the numbers behind his mediocre ERA – a 1.06 WHIP and 2.54 FIP – suggest that Gausman has actually pitched much better than his ERA indicates.
What to watch for: Remember that it was Gausman who got hooked by John Schneider with an 8-1 lead in the sixth inning of an elimination game last year, which, of course, the Jays would go on to lose 10-9. If Gausman wobbles in the middle innings again, particularly with a lead, will Schneider be more willing to stick with him, or will he again look to have a quick hook?
Game 2: José Berríos
- 11-12, 3.65 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 186 strikeouts
Game 2 will see José Berríos toeing the slab for the Blue Jays, the cherry on top of an astonishing bounce back season for ‘La Makina.’ After putting up a 5.27 ERA in 2022, while leading the AL in both earned runs allowed and hits allowed, Berríos pitched to a 3.65 ERA this year, while looking at times like one of the best starters in the game.
Playoff resume: Berríos has made three career appearances in the postseason, including two starts, pitching to an 0-1 record with a 3.75 ERA. Note that in his two starts, he has a 2.00 ERA.
What to watch for: Berríos returns to his old stomping grounds in Minneapolis, where he pitched for the Twins for six seasons before a midseason trade to the Blue Jays in 2021. For his career, he is 33-21 with a 3.63 ERA and 1.16 WHIP at the friendly confines of Target Field.
Moreover, Berríos has made five starts against his former team since coming to the Jays, putting up a 3-1 record with a 4.33 ERA and 1.17 WHIP. Take out one particularly bad meltdown when he was in the depths of his struggles in 2022, and it’s a 2.82 ERA and 1.03 WHIP.
Game 3: Chris Bassitt
- 16-8, 3.60 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 186 strikeouts
With José Berríos set to go in Game 2, this lines up Chris Bassitt for the winner-take-all Game 3, should it be necessary. The $63 million man has been money well spent for the Blue Jays in 2023, leading the American League in wins, while finishing top ten in ERA, WHIP, and strikeouts, and becoming one of only five pitchers in the big leagues to reach 200 innings.
Playoff resume: Bassitt has made three career starts in the postseason, pitching to a 1-1 record with a 4.20 ERA and 1.47 WHIP. Note that in two of the starts, he was mediocre (4 IP, 3 ER), while in the other, he was brilliant (7 IP, 1 ER).
What to watch for: Six times this season, Bassitt went at least seven scoreless innings in a start, and eight times he went at least seven with one earned run or less. The Blue Jays were 8-0 in these starts. In other words, when Bassitt is on, he can almost single-handedly win you a game. On the other hand, there were six starts this year in which Bassitt simply didn’t show up, including games allowing seven, eight, and nine earned runs. The Jays were 0-6 in these starts.
Simply, while the Jays have to like the prospect of throwing a starter out there in an elimination game who has shown he can totally silence opposition bats, John Schneider is going to have to keep a close eye on Bassitt, particularly early, and be ready to go to Yusei Kikuchi if things go sideways in a win-or-go-home game.
The ‘get it done’ league
All season long, the Blue Jays have remained resolute that the MLB playoffs would be the time their spectacular pitching – arguably the best in franchise history – really gave them an advantage. Well, the moment has come. As former Jays (and Twins) great Josh Donaldson put it, “this isn’t the ‘try’ league, this is the ‘get it done’ league.”
Of course, the pitching might not be under such a microscope if the bats could ever show up and start hitting …
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