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Preview: Hutchison looks to keep the good times rollin’

Screenshot 2014-05-21 16.08.20In case you haven’t heard by now – and even if you have it bears repeating – the last time Drew Hutchison took the mound he threw a complete game, 3 hit (all singles) shutout…against Yu Darvish. It was the Jays’ first complete game of the season, and you know what they say – the best bullpen is no bullpen. Right? Well, when it comes to the Jays this year, that’s definitely right.

Hutchison takes the hill against another top of the rotation starter tonight, or at least he used to be, in Clay Buchholz. Buchholz (6.17 ERA, 1.80 WHIP) has struggled this year, which is somewhat surprising considering how lights out he was last year (1.74 ERA). It may have something to do with his fastball velocity, which is down to 91.0 this year from a career average of 92.9. It could also have something to do with bad luck considering Buchholz’s BABIP is .385 (MLB average around .300) and FIP (an ERA-predicting stat) is more than 2 full runs lower than his actual ERA at 4.12. It also could have something to do with an injury. Buchholz missed half of last season, made some big adjustments to his offseason throwing program this winter, has dealt with injuries every year since making his MLB debut in 2007 and has never hit 200 innings or 30 starts in a season. He’s like the Red Sox’s better version of Brandon Morrow.

But all that matters for the Jays is that right now he’s not himself, especially at home where he’s posted a 9.00 ERA this year. Not good news for a Red Sox team that has lost 5 in a row and look to be suffering from a World Series hangover. The losing streak has dropped them to 20-24, 3 games back of the Jays and 3.5 out of the division lead. Holy shit – the Jays are just a half game out of the division lead. Makes sense when you say that after the Victoria Day long weekend and not the Labour Day one.

Speaking of hangovers, Andrew Stoeten over at Drunk Jays Fans throws a small dose of positivity in to the pie about the starting rotation, specifically R.A. Dickey, after I did the exact opposite last week (and the Jays have gone 4-1 since). As is a bad habit of mine, Stoeten notes that since !Arbitrary End Point Alert! that cold start in Minnesota on April 17th, “Dickey has pitched to a 2.92 ERA and held opposing batters to a .211/.300/.331 line.”

He certainly has looked much better recently, and his velocity is up as it was at the end of last year when he had a great second half. What if his injury at the start of last year really was the difference? What if Mark Buerhle has rediscovered a fountain of youth? What if Drew Hutchison pans out in to a top of the rotation starter? With this lineup and the way the division has played out so far this year, it could be enough, but it’s still a lot to ask.

All of that is a little off track of tonight, where Hutchison looks to build on last week’s incredible start where he said he was “grinding”. If that’s him when he’s “grinding”, I can’t wait to see what he looks like when he feels like he’s got everything working.

As for the lineup that produced 7 runs off of 11 hits and 4 home runs last night, they are now 5th in the MLB in runs and tied for first with the Rockies in home runs, who play half their games in the performance enhancing confines of Coors Field. As a whole, this group has exceeded expectations. The best part about the lineup right now is having dependable backups (Thole, Kratz, Francisco) so that when a guy needs a night off or a matchup dictates it, for the most part it doesn’t create a glaring hole. Here’s the version Gibbons throws out tonight vs. Buchholz:

Blue Jays 05/21 (24-22)
OBP HR RBI
SS 7 Jose Reyes .303 3 10
LF 53 Melky Cabrera .361 7 22
RF 19 Jose Bautista .432 11 30
DH 26 Adam Lind .405 2 11
1B 10 Edwin Encarnacion .332 11 35
3B 47 Juan Francisco .373 8 19
2B 13 Brett Lawrie .280 7 24
C 30 Dioner Navarro .311 1 17
CF 8 Anthony Gose .500 0 2
ERA WHIP K/BB
P 36 Drew Hutchison 3.64 1.16 55/16

With a righty on the mound, Francisco draws back in. Lind is up in cleanup to get Edwin’s righty bat between him and Francisco. And the left handed hitting speedster Anthony Gose gets the start. At this point, this is the optimal lineup for the Jays, although I might swap Lawrie and Navarro. But let’s not sweat the little things.

Your end of post reward today, Edwin Encarnacion’s hilarious splits this year courtesy of John Lott:

To add to that:

There’s still 10 days left in May…You know what they say, April slumps lead to May thumps?

As always, don’t forget to follow on Twitter:

@JaysBalk

@The_PistolPete

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