This MLB regular season finale will have a different feel to the Toronto Blue Jays than in years past.
Last season, the Blue Jays were in a playoff race with the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, and Seattle Mariners, which saw the team miss the playoffs by one game. This season, Jays currently sits first in an extended playoff, ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays and Mariners, and six-and-a-half games ahead of the Baltimore Orioles, who are looking outward.
According to FanGraphs, the Blue Jays have a 99.7 percent chance of making the post-season. While the players will focus on the remaining matches, management can look forward to preparing for the playoffs.
“I think the decision makers in the Blue Jays are thinking big because they know they’re almost certainly going to be in the playoffs,” ESPN’s Buster Olney told TSN1050 on Tuesday. “You know you’ve got a first-round streak, and you want to make sure you’re ready for that whether you’re in Tampa Bay, or Seattle, or at home.”
Part of preparing for play-offs is making every effort to ensure that the key players are as healthy as possible. Players like attitude George SpringerAlejandro Kirk, and Lourdes Gouriel Jr., who had injuries during the final stage, could be key in a long playoff.
Olney believes one of the key points will be managing star bowler Alec Manoah’s workload over the last 15 matches.
“I think they’re going to pull the reins back on Manuah, protect him, and maybe pull back a little bit,” Olney said. “I’m not saying they won’t start with it [but] Maybe if he’s in a situation where you can take him out after 80 throws, you do.”
Manoah is presenting in his second season in the Major League and has a 14-7 record with a 2.40 ERA in 29 starts. The 24-year-old has thrown 72 extra runs and has appeared in nine more games than he did in his rookie year.
As part of MLB’s new expanded playoff system, the first round will be a series of three matches in one location. This short streak increases the need to set up the tone rotation in an order that gives the Blue Jays the best chance of winning.
“I would like to go [Kevin] Gusman [as the] No. 1 because he’s a veteran and he’s earned it,” Olney suggested. “I like Manouh in both places because of his level of self-confidence. With the Yankee teams I covered in the ’90s, they always liked to fight Andy Pettit In the second game because manager Joe Toure was saying that the second game is the most important.”
“[Third] I’ll go with [Ross] Stripping because in his 10 starts since July 8, he’s had 2.53 ERAs and has been pretty consistent. He has eight straight starts of two rounds or less, so I’m going to do that.”
Missing from that list is the right-handed shooter Jose Perios. The 28-year-old was the Blue Jays’ main acquisition during last season’s commercial term and signed a seven-year, $131 million contract extension during the off-season.
Berrios has been inconsistent this season, scoring 11-5 with 4.99 ERAs in 29 starts.
“When I look at the common denominator with some of the successes of Berrios recently, that’s when they gave him a little more comfort,” Olney explained. “So, maybe you talk to him and tell him that they’re going to set him up to start the first game of the next series coming from that first round.”