Hope springs eternal for the Toronto Blue Jays following their game four breakthrough, and in game five on Wednesday afternoon at the Rogers Centre, opportunity presents itself in a rather obvious fashion.
Cleveland’s rotation has performed very well this series, but the reality of their health and availability presents a real issue for manager Terry Francona. Already without Danny Salazar for the ALCS and Carlos Carrasco for the remainder of the playoffs, now Trevor Bauer‘s situation is uncertain after leaving game three with a bloodied finger.
The aftermath of these injuries is Ryan Merritt, a 24-year-old left-hander with 11 MLB innings under his belt who will start on Wednesday.
A 16th round pick from 2011, Merritt has been considered a mid-range prospect for Cleveland with the potential of developing into a depth starter.
Merritt has appeared in four MLB games this season, including one start, and earned a 1.64 ERA over those 11 innings. In 24 starts and 142.1 innings with the triple-A Columbus Clippers of the International League, the lefty had a 4.21 ERA while striking out 5.8 batters per nine innings and walking 1.4.
The Blue Jays will be met with a finesse pitcher in Merritt as he tops out at 88-89 MPH with his fastball. He’ll rely on forcing weak ground ball contact for his batted-ball outs, and is certainly a pitcher whose stat line will depend on the fielders around him at times. While Merritt will look to work the edges of the plate and mix his pitch selection, the Jays can expect plenty of strikes which should be a green light for them to be aggressive early in counts.
Estrada is coming off a pair of game one starts and is now tasked with saving the Blue Jays season. He’s been excellent once again in these playoffs, keeping Toronto’s bullpen rested with starts of 8.0 and 8.1 innings.
Over those 16.1 innings, Estrada has allowed just 10 hits, three runs, and one walk with 12 strikeouts.
Manager John Gibbons said after game four that, with an off day coming on Thursday, his full bullpen would be available if needed. Even with Estrada’s track record, Gibbons won’t hesitate to turn to his bullpen if there is any early trouble.
Brett Cecil looked as good as he has all season in his one inning of relief last night, and given that he only used 11 pitches, he’ll be called upon in game five if needed. Jason Grilli and Roberto Osuna also pitched, with Osuna’s appearance in a four-run game surprising some in the ninth inning. Francisco Liriano could also get involved in an important spot.
On the Cleveland side, Otero, Shaw, and Clevinger were used in game four which means that Terry Francona has his two biggest weapons waiting fresh. Expect to see Cody Allen and Andrew Miller, and with Francona, it could come at any time.