Let’s play a game. Finish this sentence: “You know it’s September when…”
Acceptable answers include:
– kids go back to school
– the weather turns cooler
– the days start to get a bit shorter
– the Blue Jays go on a meaningless roll
Yes sir, the Jays are once again red hot. After sweeping the Twins over the weekend, they have won three straight, five of six, and ten of thirteen. The hot streak comes at a good time, because this week the Jays welcome the Angels to Toronto for a huge three game series that may decide who finishes 10th in the American League.
Here are three things from week 23:
Week 23: September 2 – September 8
Record: 5 – 1
1. Esmil Rogers is Dealing
Rogers joined the rotation on May 29th in Atlanta as an injury replacement. He promptly made Jays fans forget all about Brandon Morrow. In seven appearances, including six starts, Rogers went 2-1 with a 2.06 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, and 24 strikeouts in 35 innings pitched. His final start of that stretch – 6 shutout innings in Fenway Park against the Red Sox – gave fans hope of an improved rotation and a second half playoff run.
But then he fully hit the wall. His next seven starts were terrible (0-4, 8.50 ERA, 1.97 WHIP), his struggles accentuated by the fact that the team was falling apart at the seams. After being removed from the rotation for a day, however, Esmil has bounced back in a big way. In two starts last week he was outstanding. On Monday he allowed only 1 hit and 0 runs in 6.1 IP in Arizona, and followed that up with 7.2 shutout innings Sunday in Minnesota. In total, he has now thrown 14 consecutive scoreless innings.
Of course, he fell off the rails once and can just as easily do so again, so talk of a guaranteed 2014 rotation spot is premature. But if he can finish the season strong, he has to at least be in the conversation for 4/5 spot next season.
2. Dickey Quietly Finishing Strong
Based on how successful he was in 2012, this season will go down as a disappointment for R.A. Dickey. The knuckleballer won’t come anywhere close to matching his 2012 totals, one of the main reasons the Blue Jays are buried in the AL East.
Because of that, it may come as a surprise to many just how solid Dickey has been over the past month. In his past eight starts dating back to July 31, Dickey is an impressive 4-1, with a 2.88 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, and 45 strikeouts in 56.1 IP. After beating the Twins on Friday night, he has now won three straight starts to even his record at 12-12, and his ERA now stands at 4.29 – the lowest it has been all season long. And it’s not like he’s been fattening up on also-rans either. That eight start stretch includes two starts against Oakland, two against the Yankees, and one each against Tampa Bay and Kansas City.
Maybe it took him a while to get used to the AL again, maybe it took him a while to figure out life at the Rogers Centre. Whatever it is, it looks like Dickey is righting the ship. It is obviously way too little, way too late for this year, but it at least gives us hope for 2014.
3. Last Chance for Ricky?
With the expanded September rosters arriving last week, it was clear that Toronto was going to promote a few extra players for the stretch. What came as a bit of a surprise to many was that among the call-ups was none other than Ricky Romero. According to John Gibbons, Romero will pitch out of the bullpen in September, and possibly be called upon for an emergency start if required.
So what does this mean for Ricky? He was pretty bad in his first stint with the Jays this season, and wasn’t much better in AAA Buffalo, where he put up a 5.78 ERA over 113.2 IP. There are many who believe that this is his final shot to impress and stick with the Jays. Anything less than several great outings might mean a release from his contract.
Is that the actual truth? Who knows. It is very hard to impress anybody in a few innings, let alone a few innings in September out of the bullpen. I think regardless of how he fares in September, Ricky will be back with the team at Spring Training trying to prove he belongs. Whether he succeeds is an entirely different story. Best of luck.