Canada

Blue Jays hoping the Shoe fits in bold starting move for Game 1

Crafty or crazy won’t be determined until it plays out, but the Blue Jays will begin their bid for an extended 2020 post-season run with their ace in the hole.

Sticking with the vow from general manager Ross Atkins and manager Charlie Montoyo to be creative with their pitching strategy, the Jays will open their best-of-three series against Tampa Bay Rays with Matt Shoemaker on the mound.

The $80-million ace, Hyun-Jin Ryu? He’ll be rested and ready for Game 2 at Tropicana Field.

From the beginning of this season, the Jays have gone about their business operating under the parameters of a 60-game season rather than the usual 162-game version.

So out of the batters’ box it will be for a short series against the top-top-seeded and heavily favoured Rays.

As contrarian as the call may be, the Jays didn’t come up with this decision on a whim and are well aware of the threat of it backfiring should they get destroyed by the Rays in Game 1.

But this is a team that doesn’t have three aces to deal like their first-round opponent does. All season, Montoyo and pitching coach Pete Walker have managed a diverse pitching staff and are arguably in the post season more because of their bullpen than starters.

Along the way, the Jays have regularly messed with perceived tradition and some of those decisions have helped he team rebounding from a 95-loss season and making the post-season for just the eighth time in franchise history.

But holding Ryu back? It’s a managerial swing for the fences move that actually makes some sense, once you wrap your head around it.

Following Shoemaker and Ryu, the team will have Taijuan Walker ready for Thursday’s if necessary Game 3.

“In a three-game series the goal is to win two of them so putting our ace in the middle makes sense to us for several reasons,” manager Charlie Montoyo said on a Monday afternoon Zoom call to announce the brazen plan. “Plus our bullpen is fully rested.

“We said we were going to be creative from the beginning and that’s one of the reasons that we got here, being creative. The goal is to win two, so it doesn’t matter when he pitches.”

A couple of things: A big reason the Jays are keeping Ryu back a day is to get him five days’ rest between starts. They feel the big South Korean lefty operates best under such circumstances and suggested he was a little arm-weary the day after Thursday’s brilliant playoff-clinching win over the Yankees.

“I remember it well,” Shoemaker said. “I felt really good. Exeuctiving pitches. Using all parts of the zone.”

Though easily viewed as a controversial move by the Jays, the tone will shift notably should the Jays take the opener and then have Ryu available to take the series in Game 2.

And even if they lose, the clutch side of Ryu — easily the strongest pitcher on the Jays staff in that area — will be available in a possible elimination game.

The 2020 baseball season has been anything but traditional, a mindset and reality that the Jays eventually embraced on their way to a 32-28 record and the American League’s No. 8 seed in the expanded playoff format.

They certainly have trusted in their manager and the level of self belief is sky-high for a group of over-achieving underdogs.

“We’re going to go out there and play hard and we’ve got the talent to surprise people,” shortstop Bo Bichette said. “They’re definitely really good, no doubt about it. But if we go out there and trust ourselves and just let our talent go, I think we’ve got a really good shot.

“We understand that they’re a good team. From top to bottom, they do everything really well. But we’re not at all intimidated.”

If there is consternation to be had, it’s that Walker isn’t getting the call in the opener, but the front office trusts their numbers and seemingly likes the idea of throwing a number of different arms at the Rays.

Odds are strong that Shoemaker serves as an opener, going three or four innings before another arm — think Robbie Ray or Ryan Borucki — comes out of the bullpen.

And while we’re talking creativity — might we even see Nate Pearson and his 101 mile per hour fastball at some point? The questions may drive fans crazy, but there are possibilities aplenty. And it certainly adds some intrigue to a Jays team that has no fear on the field, nor in the front office.

The Jays believe Shoemaker, who has had just one one three-inning outing after spending a month on the injured list, is “sharp and fresh” to get the ball at the Trop where the Jays will face ace Blake Snell.
Interestingly, Shoemaker has faced the Rays three times already this season before being sidelined. The best of those was his first start of the season when the veteran right hander gave up one run and three hits in six innings.

“The excitement level, it pumps me up,” Shoemaker said of what he figures is the biggest assignment of his career. “Heck ya, I’m ready to go. I just want to go out there and take the ball and win the game.
Shoemaker, who is 4-0 lifetime against the Rays with a 2.56 ERA, had a superb effort against the Rays in his first start of the season, allowing three hits and one run in six innings.

Football news:

Lautaro Martinez: Messi is the best in the world. He is always one step ahead of the rest
The Atletico stadium was painted pink as part of the campaign to fight breast cancer
Frank Lampard: nothing comes easy in the Champions League. This is a great platform to learn new things
Ronaldo was not included in the Juve bid for the match against Dynamo Kyiv
Bruno on the role of captain: I didn't expect it. Tomorrow it's not about me, it's about the team. Everyone should be a leader
Ronaldo, Muller, van Basten, Bergkamp and Cruyff are among the nominees for the best centre forward in history (France Football)
UEFA can expand the Champions League to 36 teams from the 2024/25 season. Each club will play 10 matches in the group stage