BALTIMORE – As the regular season winds to a close, John Gibbons must make choices that no Toronto Blue Jays manager has faced over the past two decades.
One day after Toronto won its first AL East title in 22 years, Gibbons opted to rest his starters Thursday in a rain-marred 6-4 loss to the Baltimore Orioles.
Although the Blue Jays are still dueling with Kansas City for the best record in the AL — a distinction that provides home-field advantage through the postseason — Gibbons has to balance that objective with the need to keep his players fresh.
After Toronto clinched the division crown in the opener of a doubleheader Wednesday, Gibbons fielded a starting unit consisting entirely of reserves in the nightcap. He posted a similar lineup Thursday, in part because the Blue Jays had celebrated their division crown with champagne, beer and cigars late into the night.
"We want to win home field," Gibbons said. "We had a doubleheader yesterday, and we've been going at it hard all year. It made perfect sense not to play [in the] doubleheader after you clinch. Then, coming back and playing an early game today would be like no day off at all for them.
"My job is to take care of these guys. Yes, we'd love to win it but I've got to do what's best for these guys — not what some bozo out there in fantasy land thinks.""
Manny Machado homered twice for the Orioles, who took a 3-0 lead in the first inning against Drew Hutchison (13-5) before a delay of 3 hours, 25 minutes.
It became apparent early that the Blue Jays were going to experience a figurative hangover from their big day. Hutchison gave up a one-out single in the first inning and Machado followed with a home run to center.
Chris Davis and Steve Pearce then sandwiched doubles around a hit batter for a 3-0 lead.
Not long after that, the game was halted. Neither starting pitcher returned.
T.J. McFarland (1-2) took over for Tyler Wright and pitched four innings for the win.