Gibbons says he'd be comfortable using any pitcher
By John Lott
Special to MLB.com |
TORONTO -- With so many moving parts in the American League East sweepstakes, Blue Jays manager John Gibbons was in no position Monday to pinpoint his starting pitcher if his team wins an AL Wild Card berth.
But he certainly seemed to lean toward Aaron Sanchez. And given his druthers, he'd also like to have J.A. Happ ready in reserve.
"Maybe you'd need them both, who knows?" Gibbons said before Monday's 7-5 loss to the Yankees, as he bantered with reporters about the vagaries of a pennant race that, for the Blue Jays, could go down to Sunday's regular-season finale in Boston.
The Blue Jays hold a one-game lead over Baltimore for the first AL Wild Card spot. On Tuesday at Rogers Centre, the Blue Jays and Orioles open a three-game series that will have a huge impact on the outcome of the AL Wild Card race.
Sanchez (13-2, 3.12 ERA) will oppose Baltimore's Kevin Gausman (8-11, 3.57) in the opener. Sanchez is also scheduled to start in Boston on Sunday, after Happ goes on Saturday.
If both the AL East and AL Wild Card races are settled before Sunday, Gibbons made it sound like he would save Sanchez for the AL Wild Card Game next Tuesday.
"We'll look at some different things to see who all's available," Gibbons said. "But naturally he would slot into that because he's supposed to throw Sunday."
Should the Jays need to run with their regular rotation through the Boston series, Marcus Stroman would line up on normal rest for the AL Wild Card Game.
Gibbons suggested he would be comfortable using any of his starters that day.
"If we do get in, I think we can run anybody out there and feel pretty good," he said.
Toronto's starters led the AL in ERA (3.72) and innings (950 1/3) entering Monday.
In a perfect world for the Blue Jays, Gibbons allowed that he might hold back Happ to back up Sanchez in the AL Wild Card Game. But he also suggested he doesn't expect that to happen.
"I've got a feeling those games [in Boston] are going to matter," he said. "That's kind of the way it stacks up."
Indeed, both the Red Sox and Jays could still be playing for home-field advantage, even if they have locked up the AL East and AL Wild Card playoff berths.
Most teams that stay in contention benefit from a long winning streak or two. Last year, the Jays reeled off two 11-game winning stretches. This year their longest has been seven, and they did that just once.
"We always seemed to be waiting on [a long winning streak], because we had two real long ones last year, so naturally you think you're going to have one," Gibbons said. "You're waiting on one. But I think what saved us, too, is, in a lot of ways, we didn't have any of those big dips either."
Toronto's longest losing streak has been five, and that happened only once. Entering Monday's series finale with the Yankees, they had won three straight and seven of 10.
They have seven games left.
"Maybe," Gibbons said, "we're on that streak right now."
John Lott is a contributor to MLB.com based in Toronto. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.