HOUSTON — While the Houston Astros and Toronto Blue Jays have immediate concerns for the second game of their four-game series on Tuesday, how their respective rotations will shape out over the final two months of the season came into focus Monday.
Toronto knuckleballer R.A. Dickey (7-12, 4.66 ERA) will get the start against the Astros right-hander Lance McCullers (6-4, 3.18 ERA) on Tuesday.
In his career against Houston, Dickey is 2-5 with a 4.96 ERA over 13 games (11 starts). However, the biggest news impacting the Blue Jays' rotation was the acquisition of three pitchers Monday at the trade deadline.
In addition to landing right-handed relievers Scott Feldman and Mike Bolsinger from the Astros and the Los Angeles Dodgers, respectively, Toronto (59-47) acquired left-handed starter Francisco Liriano from the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Liriano (6-11, 5.46 ERA) has struggled this season, but reuniting him with catcher Russell Martin, his former Pittsburgh batterymate, bodes well for a rebound.
The addition of Liriano to the rotation will enable the Blue Jays to transition right-hander Aaron Sanchez (11-1, 2.71 ERA) to the bullpen. Although Sanchez has pitched like an ace this season, his innings total (139 1/3) has already surpassed his previous professional career high of 133 1/3 set in 2014.
The Blue Jays haven't announced when the transition will take place, but they did make clear that Liriano eventually will replace Sanchez and that a six-man rotation isn't plausible.
“(Sanchez) will make his next start in Kansas City (on Friday), I do know that,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said.
Toronto general manager Ross Atkins said, “We feel like … transitioning him to a relief role will be the best thing for us being in a Game 7 of the World Series.”
McCullers will start against the Blue Jays for the first time in his career. The 22-year-old enters Tuesday on quite a roll, as he went 3-2 with a 2.00 ERA over his last six starts. McCullers has 50 strikeouts in 36 innings during that stretch, and if he had enough innings to qualify, he would lead the American League in strikeouts per nine innings (11.79) and strikeout rate (30.1 percent).
Like the Blue Jays, the trade the Astros made on Monday will impact the rotation. By shipping Feldman to Toronto, Houston (56-49) opened a spot on its staff for right-hander Joe Musgrove, the organization's seventh-best prospect, according to MLB.com.
“He'll be down in the bullpen as a long guy. We've got a couple of those guys down there,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said, referring to right-handers Chris Devenski and Michael Feliz, who combined for 5 1/3 scoreless, hitless innings Monday in a 2-1, 14-inning win over the Blue Jays. “And for the foreseeable future, he looks to be a guy who'll be in the 'pen for now.
“He's always an option to join our rotation. We'd like to get him acclimated to the big leagues a little bit and determine his role later. We're very excited about his career. We think he's a guy who's got a ton of upside.”
Musgrove, who earned a promotion from Triple-A Fresno, has worked largely as a starter during his professional career. In a combined 16 games (14 starts) in Double-A and Triple-A this year, he was 7-4 with a 2.74 ERA.
“I told him his role, I expect him to help us win,” Hinch said. “He'll take the ball whenever we call down there and put him in the game.”