Losing the first two games of a series is a hole the Toronto Blue Jays are familiar with. Facing a “backs against the wall” situation in the ALDS, the Jays rallied off three straight wins to take the series. And while tonight isn’t a win-or-go-home scenario, another loss to the Kansas City Royals would be devastating. Toronto will send young phenom Marcus Stroman (4-0, 1.67 ERA) to the mound as they try to get back into the series tonight at the Rogers Centre (8:07 PM Eastern).
Stroman last pitched in Game 5 of the ALDS, easily the biggest game in the franchise’s’ history since Joe Carter’s walk-off bomb 22 years prior. And the 24-year-old was strong, going six innings and surrendering two runs. Now the youngster will need to turn in another veteran-like performance against a Kansas City order that tagged Toronto starters for eight earned runs in the first two games, including five off of ace David Price. The relentless Royals order tallied eight hits in both games, and kept the pressure on Jays pitchers all game.
Toronto couldn’t keep pace with Kansas’ death-by-papercut offense; the long-ball reliant team failed to go deep once at Kauffman Stadium. But a few of the warning track balls they hit in Kansas would have certainly been homers in the friendly Rogers Centre. So even though Johnny Cueto (11-13, 3.44 ERA) hits the mound for the Royals on the tail of a masterful eight inning, two run performance in Game 5 of the ALDS, the Jays’ offense should be able to get on track.
In their one game against Cueto this season, the Jays tallied seven hits and three runs in a game they eventually took 7-6 in extra innings. However, Toronto will need much more production out of the top of their batting order this time around. Ben Revere, Josh Donaldson, and Jose Bautista combined for just two hits in 22 at bats. (However, Bautista did reach base four times on walks.)
For the Royals, their order hasn’t shown any weaknesses, with every starter recording at least one hit over the first two games, including Lorenzo Cain extending his playoff hit-streak to 11 games.
However, back at home, it’s hard to imagine this powerful Jays team letting the series slip away so quickly. Stroman has pitched well in big spots, and should do enough tonight to get Toronto back in it.
Pick: Blue Jays (-160).
(Photo Credit: Keith Allison on Flickr (Originally posted to Flickr as “Johnny Cueto”) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.)