If you’re looking for a silver lining in the Toronto Blue Jays 4-3 road trip through Los Angeles and Seattle, let it be this – the Blue Jays’ starting rotation was back its old self again.
That likely won’t be the narrative as they return home to Toronto for their final home stand of the regular season. The Jays’ disheartening 2-1 loss in extras in the series finale in Seattle will be the lasting image from that road trip.
It was another squandered opportunity by the Blue Jays, but that was hardly the fault of the starting pitching. By the way, Aaron Sanchez showed no ill-effects of a blister and powered his way to six innings of four-hit ball against the Mariners.
The truth is the Blue Jays’ starting pitching on that road swing was good enough to win them all seven games, but team only walked away with four wins.
In many ways, that’s been a microcosm for the Toronto Blue Jays’ 2016 season; reliable starting pitching despite a sporadic offense.
At any rate, the collective effort of the starting rotation through that last turn was incredibly promising. Especially as the Blue Jays enter their most crucial week of the season with 10 games left on the schedule.
Here’s a peek at the appearances from the last seven games by the Blue Jays starting rotation. These are the kind of numbers you’d expect from a starter in the postseason.
Among those starts: R.A. Dickey’s tightrope act in Los Angeles, Marco Estrada carrying a no-hitter into the seventh inning, and J.A. Happ striking out eight batters and holding the Mariners to just two earned runs.
For those who suggested the six-man rotation may have done more harm than good for the Blue Jays, look no further than that last turn through the rotation. Not a single starter gave up more than two earned runs in any given game.
Admittedly, John Gibbons has had a much shorter leash on his starters as of late. It’s not as though these guys have gone the distance or pitched incredibly deep into games, but opposing hitters have often come back the third time through the order to punish Blue Jays starting pitching.
Especially with the expanded rosters and bevvy of arms in the bullpen, one really can’t blame Gibbons for having a quick hook with his starters. With the lack of offense, the Blue Jays have been forced to play a lot of close games, and the sixth inning and beyond is when the match-up game starts to be played and often signals the end of the starting pitcher anyway.
But the Blue Jays are delivering playoff-calibre starting pitching once again, and their starting staff ERA is still tops in the American League at 3.79. This late in the season, all one can really ask of a starter is to keep the game close for five innings.
The rotation has done exactly that for seven consecutive games.
Unfortunately, the Blue Jays run support hasn’t been great in September, but at least the starters have kept the Jays in the game by the time Gibbons hands things over to the bullpen. As evidenced by yesterday’s loss, a strong start often gets cast aside when the lineup fails to deliver.
At times this year, the Blue Jays’ starting rotation looked very frail. There was a period when the six-man starting rotation experiment appeared to reach its untimely end, but ever since that brief blip on the radar, all six pitchers have looked solid.
If the Blue Jays are going to have any chance whatsoever of coasting into a playoff spot, it’s going to be on the strength of the starting rotation. The Blue Jays lineup has been so sporadic as of late, that two or three runs might be all the run support the lineup can muster for their starting pitcher.
Since Opening Day, the Toronto Blue Jays’ starting rotation has defied convention. Without any big-name starters or an “ace” to their name, the Blue Jays have compiled one of the best starting rotation ERA’s in all of baseball.
What’s one more week of magic from the Blue Jays’ starting rotation?