Another Tough Stretch Ahead

Monday, May 11 2009 @ 10:26 AM EDT

Contributed by: Magpie

After 20 games in 20 days, they've earned their day of rest.

Since their last off day (April 20), another starter (Ricky Romero) joined Jesse Litsch (and Shaun Marcum and Dustin McGowan) on the Disabled List. One of the five starters being counted on at the start of the season was found wanting, and dispatched to Las Vegas to get his act together. The first man summoned from AAA to fill the void lost both his starts and posted an ERA of 14.21 while he was at it.

It's not like there haven't been challenges along the way.

Nevertheless, they played .600 ball during this Tough Stretch - and seeing as how I announced ahead of time that I would be "more than pleased if they can split these 20 games," I am - more than pleased.

I am delighted!

It doesn't get easier, though. Up next is a 16 game stretch. We begin with a 7 game homestand on Tuesday as the team finally begins to lock horns with the Famous Beasts of the Easts. After the three game set with the Yankees, the White Sox are here for four games. Then it's a nine game roadtrip, taking the Jays to Boston, Atlanta, and Baltimore before the next Day of Rest and Recuperation. That will be the 28th of May, by which time some of the missing pitchers may be trickling back into action.

Again, I will be satsified if they can come away with a split during this Tough Stretch - something like a 4-3 homestand, a 4-5 road trip. These are the parts of the schedule that you're just trying to survive.

You may not have noticed, but only one team in the American League (Tampa Bay) has played more road games than the Blue Jays.

Cito Gaston got adventurous during the last 20 games - he actually used Kevin Millar twice as a pinch-hitter (once for Overbay, once for Snider). He's now used four pinch-hitters over the course of 32 games (the other two, however - Snider and McDonald -  were pinch-hitting as late inning subs in blowouts.) At this rate, Gaston will use some 20 pinch hitters over the course of the season. This is quite a lot of pinch-hitting by Cito Gaston's standards. You could look it up.

Brandon League seemed to have his act together - he made 7 appearances during this 20 game stretch. The first five were perfect, and the six was at least scoreless. Alas, the last one was pretty disastrous. But that will happen. You do have to like the way that Scott Downs only allows the other team to score runs when he has at least a four run cushion to work with.

The bullpen has just 6 saves, despite winning 22 games - this is something that happens when you score lots of runs. The save situations disappear. Anyway, the starters - all nine of them - have gone 15-9, 4.34. That's the fourth best performance in the AL so far (behind LA, KC and Detroit.). The bullpen is 7-3, 3.66, which is fifth best (behind Oakland, KC, Boston, and Seattle.) The staff as a whole has the fourth best ERA in the league.

And the offense has scored more runs than anyone in the major leagues. Quite a few more, in fact. Okay, Scutaro and Hill will cool off. But Rios and Wells will heat up. Snider will, eventually, hit another home run. There is no reason they can't keep scoring runs.

So let's just get through this Tough Stretch Ahead...