TORONTO, Ont. – Well, they weren’t going to win every series they played for the rest of the season, were they?
The Toronto Blue Jays went unbeaten in seven-straight series – winning six (sweeping four) while splitting a four-gamer with the Kansas City Royals – and were riding an insane run of 19 wins in 23 games when the defending National League champion St. Louis Cardinals came to town.
The Cardinals were struggling, having lost five of six and eight of 11, and neither of their best starters, Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha, were scheduled to pitch in Toronto.
So of course, the Cards won the series – shutting out the high-octane Blue Jays twice in the bargain.
That’s why they call it baseball.
The Blue Jays have still not gone unbeaten in eight-straight series since 1993.
The loss in Sunday’s series finale dropped the Jays to 3-4 on the season in front of home crowds of over 40,000 — the sellout coming thanks both to the Blue Jays’ place in the standings and the Jose Reyes bobblehead giveaway.
What stood out the most on Sunday afternoon was the ineffectiveness of Blue Jays’ starter Drew Hutchison. The 23 year-old got roughed up, allowing all five St. Louis runs on six hits and needed 70 pitches to get through just three innings of work.
He was bailed out nicely by Todd Redmond, who supplied five innings of shutout relief, giving the hitters a chance to get things going. It was a chance they didn’t take advantage of.
Hutchison only walked one, but his stuff was neither hard nor sharp. He hung sliders and change-ups and paid for it. In the second inning, he often struggled to hump his fastball up over 90 miles an hour.
It was the fourth time this season that Hutchison has given up five runs or more in a start. It should be noted that there have also been four occasions this season on which Hutchison has given up no runs in a start.
However, it was the second time in his last three starts that Hutchison hasn’t been good, and the second time that he hasn’t been able to carry the 92-93 mile an hour fastball that he usually sits with.
Hutchison’s 75 innings of work so far is more than he’s ever thrown in a major-league season. Add all that up, mix in a pitcher coming off Tommy John surgery, and red flags start to go up all over the place.
But do they really need to?
A pitcher coming off Tommy John is just like any other. The strong, new ligament in his elbow means that he has no greater chance of having the same problem again as any other healthy pitcher.
The fact that Hutchison has already surpassed his career-high in big-league innings is misleading because he got hurt eleven starts into his rookie season, so his career-high in big-league innings coming into this season was just 58 2/3. Hutchison threw 149 1/3 innings in 2011, but none of them were in the majors. The velocity drop raises an eyebrow and hopefully it’s nothing more than a blip on the radar screen. At the very least, it’s something that bears watching.
The Blue Jays have tried to get Hutchison extra rest when possible. In fact, only six of his 13 starts have been with the usual four days of rest. But with only one day off between now and July 10th, they’ll have to get creative in order to give the young righty a breather or two.
The occasional extra day has certainly helped. When Hutchison has pitched with more than four days’ rest, he’s put up a 2.62 ERA and 1.03 WHIP, and averaged more than six innings per start. On normal rest, he’s averaged five innings per start and the numbers have ballooned to a 5.57 ERA and 1.42 WHIP.
Hutchison certainly has the potential to be a dependable, top-of-the-rotation arm. He showed that in Texas and Detroit, throwing a combined 16 shutout innings at those two stops. He’s also shown glimpses of his potential by allowing two runs or fewer in more than half his starts this season.
But perhaps it is too much to expect him to be able to take a regular turn for an entire season both this early in his career and coming off a lost year and a half.
Shaun Marcum had Tommy John surgery late in 2008, missed all of the 2009 season and was the Blue Jays’ Opening Day starter in 2010 — going on to make 31 starts and throw 195 1/3 innings that season. But he was 28 years old and in his 8th year in professional baseball. Hutchison is 23, in his 6th year pro (he was drafted out of high school, Marcum was a college pick), and perhaps it’s a situation of too much, too fast.
If the Blue Jays can figure out a way to give Hutchison more of a break in June and July, it could serve him, and therefore the team, awfully well in August, September and, hopefully, October.