The Yankees and Blue Jays are separated by 1 1/2 games in the standings and over the last 24 games of the season, the two teams play each other seven times. One team will win the AL East and the other will play in the one-game playoff.
With the Yankees and Blue Jays meeting for a crucial four-game series, Tom Dakers of Bluebird Banter joined me to talk about the Blue Jays’ run since the trade deadline, Josh Donaldson’s incredible MVP campaign, R.A. Dickey’s unbeaten streak, the return of Marcus Stroman and if the Blue Jays will win the East.
Keefe: The last time we talked the Yankees were 62-51 and the Blue Jays were 64-52. I said the two teams were set to begin a seven-week battle for the AL East with the loser going to the one-game playoff. Since then, the Yankees have gone 15-10 and the Blue Jays have gone 15-8.
Over their last 12 games, the Yankees have gone 8-4. Unfortunately, the Blue Jays have also gone 8-4, so the Yankees haven’t made up a single game and still trail the Blue Jays by one game in the loss column.
I understand the Blue Jays are a magical run and have rarely lost since the trade deadline, but this is out of control. Every time I check the Blue Jays score I expect to see them having scored 10 runs and am shocked when they don’t.
Do you believe this run is happening?
Dakers: It has been a fun month and a half. The Jays have been good all season, but their record has been far short of their Pythagorean Record all season, so we hoped that, at some point they, there would be a correction. Well, we got it.
When you look at the team, you do wonder if they will ever lose again, but no matter how good the team, slumps happen. The nice part is, no one guy has to carry the team. In the past, if Bautista and Encarnacion were to slump, we wouldn’t win. Now Donaldson or Tulowitzki or even Chris Colabello can take up the slack.
Adding Price, Tulowitzki, Revere, Hawkins and Lowe added some life to the team, made the team think that they can win every game and well as filling the weak spots on the team. Jose Reyes’ defense was not good enough, he showed little range and had this ability to make an error at the worst possible moment. Tulowitzki’s bat hasn’t been what we hoped, but it’s nice to have a shortstop with real range. And Ben Revere is much better defensively than Chris Colabello in left. David Price gives us the Ace we really needed. And adding Lowe and Hawkins to the pen has given us a nice deep pen.
Keefe: Does Josh Donaldson ever get out? He is hitting .307/.374/.592 this season with 37 home runs and 115 RBIs, but since July 29, he’s hitting .363/.434/.747 with 13 home runs and 47 RBIs in 38 games. He’s slugging .747! That’s insane. What’s even more insane is he is making $4.3 million this season. Stephen Drew is making $5 million.
I have been tweeting at Donaldson and Jose Bautista to remind them the bars in New York City stay open until a 4 a.m. in hopes that they will go on a bender this weekend and not perform well against the Yankees. Maybe they will listen.
What are you going to send Billy Beane to thank him for trading Donaldson to the Blue Jays?
Dakers: He can have my first born, or my right arm or really anything he wants. I have no idea what Beane was thinking. When you have one of the best players in the game, who is still under team control for several more seasons, you don’t trade him. I’ve always thought the way to build a team is to find those guys who are among the best in the game and build around them.
I liked Brett Lawrie, good player, Canadian, fun to watch on defense, but he’ll never be close to as good as Josh. The pitchers we gave up don’t look to be much better than back of the rotation types, so I really don’t understand where Beane thought he was getting fair value for Donaldson.
Add in that Donaldson seem to have the equal intensity to Jose Bautista (something I didn’t think was possible) he’s really helped give the team a “nothing short of winning is acceptable” attitude.
Keefe: The last time R.A. Dickey lost was on July 9 despite giving up two earned runs in seven innings. Since then he is 7-0 with a 2.68 ERA in 11 starts and the Blue Jays are 10-1 in those starts.
It seems like Dickey is finally pitching like the ace the Blue Jays thought he would be even though he no longer needs to be that guy with David Price in the rotation.
Are you impressed with R.A. Dickey this season?
Dakers: He’s had an up and down time of it. In his wins, he’s had an ERA of 2.39, in his losses his ERA is over 6. He seems to be very good or very bad, and there is little in between. He’s followed the same pattern in each of his 3 seasons as a Blue Jay, a poor first half (this year 3-10 with a 4.87 ERA and a good second half (7-0 with a 2.68 ERA).
I came into the season thinking that there was no way the Jays pick up his $12 million option for next season, figuring that, at 41, he’ll be reaching the age that even knuckleball pitchers have a hard time providing value. But if he continues to pitch like this, and we have a bit of a playoff run, they might prove me wrong.
Keefe: Of course Marcus Stroman is coming back to the Blue Jays’ rotation in time to face the Yankees. Why wouldn’t he?
What do you expect out of Stroman?
Dakers: I’m cautiously hopeful. I really didn’t expect him back this yeah but Stroman is someone you should never bet against. He’s got such a strong work ethic. I do imagine he could have a couple of rough starts, he’s only had two rehab starts (well in real games, he had some simulated games too), one very good, one not so good. In a perfect world, I’d like to see him get a couple more rehab starts, but then the minor league seasons are ending (and there isn’t all that much major league season left) so he gets thrown out there quicker than we would like.
The good news is that it was a knee injury, so he kept his throwing arm in shape all along. He’s been throwing hard in this rehab starts. I think, by playoff time, he’ll be the Marcus Stroman we saw last season. It is just a question of how quickly he gets there.
Keefe: If the Blue Jays win the AL East, what is your ALDS rotation?
For me it would be Price, Dickey, hopefully Stroman and Buehrle. If Stroman doesn’t prove ready, then move Buehrle up and put Marco Estrada in the 4-spot.
Keefe: And if they have to play in the one-game playoff, I’m guessing you’re going with David Price. But let’s say he’s unavailable, who do you turn to?
Dakers: If Dickey keeps pitching the way he is right now, it would have to be him. He’s averaged over 7 innings a start, his last three times out there, and has an ERA of just 2.08. But then, Marcus Stroman has a month to show that he’s as good as last year, if he can do that, it the job might be his.
But, I think he idea of trading for Price as to have him make a one-game playoff start. I’d hope they will make sure that he is ready for the game.