If Drew Hutchison wins a third straight start, he could match two others for the majors’ best winning percentage among qualifying pitchers. It’ll take an absolute gem for him to join Zack Greinke and Nathan Eovaldi with an ERA under five, but that’s almost never been necessary for the fortunate right-hander to reach the win column this season.
Call it luck or call it a true baseball aberration – a pitcher with numbers that wouldn’t keep him in many rotations might be just the guy to steer the once-hot Toronto Blue Jays away from a sweep Sunday against the visiting New York Yankees.
Hutchison (11-2, 5.26 ERA) leads the league in run-support average at 7.92, on pace to be the fifth-highest mark in data available back to 1974. The four higher numbers came in seasons when the league ERA was at least 4.28 compared to this season’s 3.87 entering play Saturday.
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The result is what’s on pace to become the highest winning percentage ever (.846) by a pitcher with an ERA north of five. The Yankees’ Ed Wells went 12-3 (.800) in 1930, but no other qualifying pitcher has had a winning percentage over .720 with such an ERA. The only others above .800 this year are Greinke and Eovaldi at 12-2.
Hutchison’s most respectable work by far has come at home with a 9-1 record and 2.68 ERA. The 24-year-old limited Oakland to two runs and four hits in seven innings of Tuesday’s 4-2 victory to match his career-best win total from last season.
"He’s been kind of the whipping boy around here lately," manager John Gibbons told MLB’s official website. "But to step up like that, it’s big."
He’s also been strong in his last four starts against the Yankees, going 3-1 with a 1.90 ERA. Chase Headley is 1 for 10 with five strikeouts against Hutchison, while Brett Gardner is 5 for 20 with three home runs and two doubles.
His opposition, meanwhile, is still seeking his first big league win despite limiting opponents to three earned runs over 11 innings in his first two starts. Luis Severino, contrary to his counterpart, has received one run of support in those outings.
Severino (0-1, 2.45) has a .333 opponent average the first time through the lineup and a .160 mark in the second and third rotations.
In terms of big games, his manager thinks the 21-year-old right-hander is capable of working through demanding AL East pressure.
"So far, he’s handled everything," Joe Girardi said. "You think about his first start against Boston, and he handled that pretty well at our ballpark. You’d have to have your head in the sand not to understand the rivalry, if you come up in one of those systems. So far, so good."
After Saturday’s 4-1 win, New York (64-51) is trying to cancel out a three-game sweep suffered against Toronto (64-54) from Aug. 7-9 at Yankee Stadium. The Blue Jays, who haven’t lost three in a row at home this season, had won 11 straight prior to the consecutive losses in which they’ve managed four runs while batting .175.
The Yankees have moved back atop the AL East with a 1 1/2-game lead, thanks in part to some sustained success on the road. After opening 20-23 with 3.8 runs per game and a .233 average, the Yankees have won an AL-high 12 of 19 since the start of July with 6.2 and .278 marks.
After hitting the three-run homer that ended the Blue Jays’ streak Friday, Carlos Beltran homered for the third time in five games Saturday and also doubled to extend his hitting streak to 10.
"We’re happy," Beltran said. "They went to our home (last weekend) and they took three out of three. Right now we have the opportunity to do that."
The Blue Jays are in danger of going without a home run in three straight games for the second time this season. They’re an AL-worst 6-26 when they don’t homer.