Opponents liked to see Drew Hutchison's name listed as Toronto's probable starter last season. The Blue Jays' lineup just liked it more, and those bats seem to have shown up just in time for his return.
The right-hander was eight games over .500 and left off the postseason roster because of a 5.57 ERA, but he's back with the big league club for a spot start Sunday as the Oakland Athletics wrap up a three-game series in Toronto. Expect some offense.
The Blue Jays aren't replacing or skipping anyone in the rotation, only electing to give a starting staff that's thrown an AL-leading 117 1/3 innings an extra day of rest. They complete 16 games in as many days on Wednesday.
Hutchison went 13-5 in 28 starts and two relief appearances last season, and his .722 winning percentage went down as the best ever for a pitcher with an ERA over 5.50. The next closest is 15-8 seasons (.652) by Colorado's Shawn Estes in 2004 and Bill Hawke with Baltimore in 1894, who strangely had the exact same ERA (5.84).
His 150 1/3 innings were 11 2/3 shy of qualifying for individual leaders categories, but his 7.90 run-support average would have blown away last season's leader - teammate Mark Buehrle (6.89). Hutchison's mark would have gone down as the highest since David Wells' 7.97 in 2005 with Boston and only the seventh north of 7.75 in RSA data available back to 1974.
The 25-year-old lost out to Aaron Sanchez in a competition for the No. 5 spot in Toronto's rotation and has gone 0-1 with a 4.11 ERA and .208 opponent batting average in three starts for Triple-A Buffalo. Those numbers blew up with five runs and 10 hits allowed in six innings of a 9-6 win on Monday after giving up a hit and two runs over his first 9 1/3 innings.
One of his better efforts last year came at home against the A's, limiting them to two runs and four hits in seven-plus innings in a 4-2 win on Aug. 11.
He's opposed by Eric Surkamp, whose brief tenure as Oakland's No. 5 starter has gone smoothly enough, though he's still seeking his first win as a starter since 2011. The left-hander has given up two runs in each of his first three starts, though eight walks in 14 2/3 innings have stopped him from getting through six innings yet. Surkamp (0-1, 3.68 ERA) gave up seven hits with three walks in 5 2/3 innings of Tuesday's 3-2, 11-inning win at the New York Yankees.
He faced the Blue Jays six times in relief in 2014 while with the Chicago White Sox, giving up a run and two hits in 4 1/3 innings. Toronto has a .630 OPS against lefties a season after posting a major league-best .818 mark.
Toronto evened the series with Saturday's 9-3 victory ending its three-game losing streak and Oakland's six-game winning streak. Troy Tulowitzki was 3 for 4 with two home runs for his first multihit game, and former A's third baseman Josh Donaldson went 3 for 4 with a home run and four RBIs to help the Blue Jays (9-10) to their seventh win in the last eight meetings in Toronto.
"We've been waiting on that kind of day," said manager John Gibbons after his team's top offensive output of the season. "Hopefully we can build off that. It should loosen a lot of guys up."
The A's (10-8) got a home run in a second straight game from Mark Canha but lost on the road after a 7-0 start. They've hit six homers in the last three games and are batting .276 on the 6-1 span after opening at .212 over their 4-7 start.
"The offense did well again today, and I just didn't give us a chance, and that's the most disappointing thing," starter Chris Bassitt told MLB's official website.