Preview: Blue Jays Shoot for Split in Philly

Despite a few uncategorically miserable performance from their bullpen, the Toronto Blue Jays (15-17) have a chance to split their eight-game road trip with a victory tonight in Philadelphia.

The bullpen had a meltdown in Kansas City, and two in Pittsburgh. The Jays could be entering this evening’s contest with a shot at a 7-1 swing if the relief corps had held its own.

But, as Gregg Zaun likes to say, if my aunt had balls, she’d be my uncle. I think he says that. If not, my apologies, Mr. Zaun.

It does not do well to dwell on what could have been, and since I said before the trip that a 4-4 record was acceptable, I must stay true to my word and accept it should the Jays pull out the W tonight. They don’t ask how, they ask how many. Sure, it sucks to have been bitten in the ass by inconsistent relievers, but Toronto will force their fair share of blown leads over the course of this season, too.

So, on to tonight.

Stock_Hutchison02It’s Dr. Drew (1-2, 3.82) on the hill for the birds, and ever since I wrote about two weeks ago that he needs to catapult himself to another level, he’s taken the steps to do just that. In those two starts, he’s pitched 13.0 innings, allowing six earned runs on 11 hits and just two walks, while striking out 14.

How does that break down?

4.15 ERA (meh). 1.00 WHIP (yes, please). And 9.7 K/9 IP (yowza!)

Obviously the 7:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio is fantastic. He’s also pitched at least six innings in both of those starts (he went 7 last Wednesday in KC, throwing just 97 pitches). It was a very impressive start, marred by a late two-run double in the seventh inning that saddled him with the loss. While Mark Buehrle has gotten the lion’s share of positive attention in the starting rotation, Hutchison has probably been the best pitcher overall this season, and I look for him to have another excellent start tonight. He shut the Phillies down pretty well in his final spring training tune up. Buck Martinez said on the broadcast last night that Hutch, a former position player in college, was hitting home runs in batting practice last night. That’s pretty impressive for a pitcher. Might we see the first hit from a Jays hurler tonight?

The staff is collectively 0-for-11 in the four interleague games with seven strikeouts and ZERO sacrifices. That’s ugly.

Here’s tonight’s starting lineup, going against Cole Hamels (0-2, 6.75).

Blue Jays 05/06 (15-17)
SS 7 Jose Reyes .247 2 7
LF 53 Melky Cabrera .368 6 14
RF 19 Jose Bautista .452 9 20
1B 10 Edwin Encarnacion .326 2 17
3B 47 Juan Francisco .390 3 7
C 31 Erik Kratz .214 1 4
CF 28 Colby Rasmus .281 7 16
2B 18 Steve Telleson .400 0 1
P 36 Drew Hutchison .000 0 0
P 36 Drew Hutchison 3.82 1 1

Ugh, not the greatest starting nine. No Lawrie tonight because of a hamstring injury (more on that below). No Navarro because of a quad injury. No Thole and Getz; Rasmus batting 8th, because it’s a lefty.

The Blue Jays bench tonight is two and a half men: Thole, Getz, and Navarro, who is available only to pinch hit. And Tolleson is the reserve outfielder. Yeeesh.

Esmil Rogers bat for himself in the 7th last night, and it would not surprise me if he comes off the bench if the Jays need an emergency pinch hitter. R.A. Dickey and Dustin McGowan are probably first in line to pinch run, which is just embarassing that you have to rely on your pitchers for that.

Injury News!

Stock_Lawrie03 (rage)
While calm on the outside, I imagine this is how Brett feels about missing a few games.

– Lawrie (hamstring) is only expected to miss a few days. Word around the clubhouse is possibly Thursday, but I’m going to go ahead and just assume we don’t see him until Saturday. If we don’t by then, he’ll have to hit the DL. From’s Gregor Chisolm:

“I’ve hit a point where I can’t keep doing this every single day,” Lawrie said. “In every game that I’ve played in the last little bit, it has been little things that have just grabbed on me — almost resets it a little bit, and just kind of says, ‘This is how it’s going to be, it’s not better yet.’

“I just can’t do it the way that I want to, and to put myself at risk like that. … I could be out for a month and a half or something. I just don’t want to because I want to play. So I’d rather take a couple of days, rather than do something really bad.”

Sounds like he’s growing up. But I guess Red Bull doesn’t give you stronger hammies.

This will mean Johnny McFrank at third for the time being, which is fine by me. And once Adam Lind returns, we’ve been told that it’s not expected Francisco will be going anywhere. Gibbons says it’s highly likely they’d lose him on waivers, so he’s a safe bet to stick with the club.

– Navarro (quad) is supposed to be able to catch again tomorrow, which will mark his first start in almost a week. He was last behind the plate on Thursday in Kansas City.

– Adam Lind (back) will play nine innings at first base tomorrow, and is expected to be activated for Thursday at home to the Phillies. At the point, I’d expect Erik Kratz to head back to Buffalo. Depending on how long Lawrie is out, we could indeed see the Encarnacion/Lind/Francisco combination all in one lineup. But don’t expect Lawrie to be part of that group in AL park. Anthopolous told reporters that there have been no serious discussions about moving Lawrie to 2B full-time. He still sees him as a third baseman, and that’s fine with me. Don’t sacrifice defence for offense, especially when the defence at third is so damn good.

Look, teams juggle guys around in interleague play all the time to keep certain bats in the lineup. It was a fun experiment while it lasted, and it didn’t really end up costing the team. Do they re-visit it when they head back out to NL parks in June? Maybe. Of course with this team, there will be a completely different set of injuries by then, so who knows what the roster will look like.

– Neil Wagner was placed on the 7-day minor league DL with a forearm strain. As always it’s “not expected to be serious” and he “should be back by the end of the week.” Okay then. Colour me unconvinced. But, obviously I won’t hate if it’s true. I want that guy back up in the bigs as soon as possible.

– Casey Janssen gave up a couple of hits in the first inning in New Hampshire yesterday, but escaped unscathed, and he threw 13 of his 17 pitches for strikes. It’s a good first outing, and he’ll need roughly three more before being promoted. I’m hopeful he’s back by the end of the Los Angeles series on Monday.

– Last, but certainly not least, Brandon Morrow is NOT expected to need surgery to repair a torn tendon sheath in his finger. But he does have to wear this ridiculous brace for the next week and a half.

Did You Know!

As pointed out by Mike Wilner on Twitter last night, the Blue Jays are the only team in the AL East with a positive run differential at +3, thanks to last night’s win. And it’s not even close. The others: Tampa Bay (-7), Boston (-6), Baltimore (-6), and bringing up the rear, New York, with a whopping minus-19! Yet they’re tied for first place! The Jays are tied for third (and last), just a game and a half back. So, it’s going to be a dog fight all year.

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