Arlington – Nothing is perfect in basketball – especially in September and especially for a club that holds a post-season position.
It was an act of necessity, not a strategy, that propelled the Blue Jays into their second game of the Bulls this weekend on Sunday afternoon against Rangers. Losing 4-1 at Globe Live Field wasn’t the end Toronto wanted. But with three series wins in this 10-game wild ride, the club has positioned itself exactly where it wants to enter a massive five-game streak against the Rays, who are now only trailing half a game in the lead. NBA Wild Card Racing.
The Savior said, “As it ought to be, isn’t it? It’s at hand.” David Phelps. “We have games against teams that we need to beat. He’s not saying it’s going to be an easy task. We have our work cut out for us. But we have teams on our schedule that if we go out and do our work and play our best baseball game, we really have a chance.”
One of the main factors that propelled the Blue Jays to their second game in one week was the lack of starting depth. This wild ride – which finished Toronto 8-2 – once again highlighted just how good the streak this club is.
The four starters Kevin Gausman, Alek Manoah, José Berríos and Ross Stripling have been locked in for months, and outside of Berríos’ ups and downs, that quartet has given the Blue Jays all the confidence they can ask for a rotation. This number 5 turn, however, was a revolving door.
I started with Yossi Kikuchi, who is now called Bullpen home, then Stripling, who finally comes out on the ladder. Mitch White is the newest fifth-placed player and is expected to be revitalized for one of two games in Tuesday’s day and night two-header game at Rogers Center against Reyes, but the right-hander’s 8.17 record kicked off the over-six era since coming off the Dodgers on August 2 ahead of schedule. The final trade. All along, Toronto has been one injury away from plunging into a thin puddle of depth, and it still isn’t.
Despite this, the Blue Jays did a great job avoiding this. Much of that credit goes to Stripling, who stepped in for injured Hyun Jin Ryu and ran with the job, protecting the starting depth on his own. This has also always been a club, and you can’t predict it for better or worse.
Without a #6 player ready to contribute, though, the Bulls have been forced to carry a heavy load twice in the past week, and it just doesn’t get any easier with Rays. Sunday offered more good than bad, and this squad should win the most matches when Toronto only allows four games.
“They’ve been fantastic, I think,” said interim manager John Schneider. “A few pitches here and there and a bit of a tough start with Trevor [Richards]. But from Phelps to [Zach] Bob Julian [Merryweather] – Only one bad pitch. Kikuchi with one bad pitch. They’ve all kind of gone ahead and done a really good job. It just didn’t work. It just didn’t work out aggressively for us today.”
Sunday’s loss also provided a glimpse into the lighteners who will be – and won’t be – part of the biggest moments of the coming week.
There were bad signs, first when Richards scored only one as the opener, then when Kikuchi allowed two runs at home and four hits in two rounds. At this point, it’s hard to imagine any scenario in which Kikuchi would be part of the post-season roster.
Phelps saved the first half, though, with two major wins. The pop came to knock the Blue Jays out of the bases jam on the fourth. Merryweather gave Toronto two goalless shorts, and he looks as good as he’s been all season. These are the offers the club needs the most.
Phelps said, “I think it speaks to the resilience of our club that when we have a day’s work, there’s one man after another picking up another. We’ve talked about it for, I feel, three or four months now, it would take 26, now 28 men to fight from Order each other, lift each other up to get where we want to go.”
This path leads through the rays this week. It’s the biggest series of the season for Blue Jays. And as long as they can avoid the need to go deeper into their depth, the major softeners have shown they have what it takes to play in the post-season.