HOUSTON _ The last time the Toronto Blue Jays visited Minute Maid Park they were nine games over .500.
Mark Buehrle made for a “happy, happy flight,” — as the St. Louis Cardinals used to chant when they won on getaway days — out of Boston. And why not. The Jays were owners of the second wild-card berth in the American League, three games up on the Seattle Mariners.
Buehrle had pitched 6 2/3 innings in a 6-1 win at Fenway Park, before they headed to the charter, bound for deep in the heart of Texas, deep in the heart of the wild-card race.
They won the opener when the redoubtable Nolan Reimold homered off Chad Qualls to break a ninth-inning tie, shook hands with closer Casey Janssen at 9:59 PM on July 31 and waited.
And then … nothing.
The trade deadline came and went.
After president Paul Beeston and grand pooh-bah Edward Rogers promised that if the Jays were in the hunt “the funds would be there,” at the annual wind up diner before camp broke in spring training, the Jays added little in the way of salary. Well, they did add 1/3 of Danny Valencia’s $532,500 US salary earlier that week. Yet since the minimum wage was $510,000 last year, Rogers Communications picked up 1/3 of $32,500.
Both Jose Bautista and Janssen expressed their disappointment on Aug. 1.
And this was a team that needed help with Edwin Encarnacion, Adam Lindand Brett Lawrie all injured. A spare part here, a back up there or maybe someone who could throw more than 85 MPH.
Fans knocked the players for being upset.
It wasn’t until the final days of the season other players mentioned the last supper in Dunedin. Now, had management not promised anything that’s a different story.
The Jays turned in to ESPN, trade deadline week to watch:
The New York Yankees add Brandon McCarthy and Martin Prado from the Arizona Diamondbacks, plus Chase Headley from the San Diego Padres.
The Los Angeles Angels acquire closer Huston Street.
The San Francisco Giants pick up Jake Peavy from the Red Sox.
The Baltimore Orioles added Andrew Miller from the Red Sox.
The Washington Nationals picked up Asdrubal Cabrera from the Cleveland Indians.
The Oakland A’s bulked up by adding Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammelfrom the Chicago Cubs, plus Jon Lester from Boston.
The Detroit Tigers give up Austin Jackson, Drew Smyly and minor leaguerWilly Adames for David Price in a three-way trade with the Seattle Mariners and Tampa Bay Rays. In a separate trade, the Tigers added reliever Joakim Soria from the Rangers.
The Cardinals added Justin Masterson from the Indians and acquired John Lackey from the Red Sox for Joe Kelly and Allen Craig.
The Angels, Orioles, Nationals, Tigers, Cards and the World Series champion Giants all made post-season play.
Maybe they all would have advanced anyway.
And maybe the Jays would have lost the final three games in Houston and maybe they would have gone 23-29 the rest of the way with help.
We’ll never know.
We do know that the Astros, who won at a .404 clip (44-65) took the final three games over the Jays who went from 10 to nine to eight games over.
And the year before in 2013, the Astros took two of three against Toronto with Mark Redmond and Chien-Ming Wang losing to Jordan Lyles and Brad Peacock, while Buehrle beat Chia-Jen Lo 2-1.
Blue Jays at Astros
Thursday, 8.10 p.m., Blue Jays Drew Hutchison (3-0, 6.69) vs Houston Astros RHP Roberto Hernandez (1-3, 3.86).
Friday, 8:10 p.m., Blue Jays RHP R.A. Dickey (1-4, 5.00) vs Houston Astros LHP Dallas Keuchel (4-0, 1.39).
Saturday, 7:10 p.m., Blue Jays RHP Marco Estrada (1-2, 3.42) vs Houston Astros RHP Scott Feldman (2-4, 5.23).
Sunday, 2:10 p.m., Blue Jays LHP Mark Buehrle (5-2, 5.54) vs. Houston Astros RHP Collin McHugh, (4-1, 3.52).
TOR at HOU
.263 AVG .224
4th RANK 15th
40 HRs 45
21 STEALS 36
4.54 ERA 3.44
13th RANK 2nd
6.81 K/9 7.48
OF Jake Marisnick, the former Jays third round pick in 2009 (Chad Jenkinsand James Paxton were selected in the first round), is tied for fifth in stolen bases (nine). He’s only been thrown out once this season and has reached safely in four of his 13 plate appearances batting in the No. 1 spot. He ranks third amongst centre fielders in OPS (.864) going into the finale of the two-game series against the Giants.
C Jason Castro hit .313 (5-for-16) on his last home stand and has hit safely in 10 of his last 11 games at .256 (10-for-39).
George Springer has been activated off the seven-day concussion disabled list and had one rehab appearance with Double A-Corpus Christi Tuesday. Before that he had three homers in his last 11 games and he’s tied for third in the AL in steals (10).
2B Jose Altuve is hitless in his last 10 at-bats going into Wednesday’s game and still leads the AL in hits (45) and steals (11). All that fuss about Devon Travis earlier this spring? Altuve leads AL second basemen in average, and is second OBP (.381), in OPS (.854) and RBIs.
IF Chris Carter was 2-for-21 (.095) with two homers and four RBIs in the Astros last home stand. He has five homers and 11 RBIs in his last 18 games after going 14 games without a homer to start the year. He might be Mr. April with a .645 OPS, but in May he’s .721, .807 in June, .828 in July, .830 in August and .704 in September.
Evan Gattis is hitless in his last 17 at-bats and batting .179, with six homers and is second on the team in RBIs. He became the first to homer in three straight games since Chris Carter earlier this season.
Hutchison, who may have the highest ERA for any starter with a 3-0 record, makes the 51st start of his career. He’s made one against Houston allowing four runs on six hits and a walk in three innings. Hernandez, the right-hander formerly known as Fausto Carmona, is 3-3 with a 4.24 ERA in nine starts, walking 21 and fanning 33 in 57 1/3 innings facing Toronto.
Dickey is making his 10th start and 12th appearance against Houston with a 2-4 mark and a 4.52 ERA, walking 13 and striking out 38 in 63 2/3 innings. Keuchel is 2-0 with a 2.95 ERA in three starts walking six, striking out 14 in 21 1/3 innings.
Estrada is 1-0 in nine appearances making three starts with a 3.04 ERA, walking five and fanning 27 in 26 2/3 innings. Feldman is 2-4 with a 5.08 ERA in 14 games — eight starts — walking 16 and striking out 36 in 62 innings.
Buehrle makes his fifth start going 4-0 with a find-it-if-you-can ERA of 0.89, walking six and striking out 23 in 30 1/3 innings. McHugh has faced the Jays once allowing one run in 6 1/3 innings walking one and striking out five.