12:55 AM Eastern
I’m just wondering if, at this point, I have to say anything other than “2-for-21″. I was seriously considering writing just that, and leaving it to be the entire post.
That figure, in case you weren’t already sure, is the Blue Jays’ club output with runners in scoring position for the entirety of their stay at Lake Buena Vista, Florida. A trip on which they got unceremoniously swept by the hated Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays, by the way, have never lost a regular-season game at Champion Stadium.
2-for-21. A spectacular .095 batting average. An .095 slugging percentage as well, but a .174 on-base percentage, thanks to the walks that Lyle Overbay and Gregg Zaun picked up after Shannon Stewart’s two-out double in the 4th tonight. Is there a Mendoza line for OPS? If there is, it’d probably be, like, .450 or something. In fact, in Mario Mendoza’s WORST season, his OPS was .426. The Jays’ RISPOPS in Orlando was .269.
It’s become laughable, this constant failure when presented with the opportunity to score, and it’s pathetictude like this that leads to teams losing seven games in nine. The Blue Jays look horrendous right now.
But all is not lost. You knew that’s where I was going, didn’t you? And all is not lost just because Scott Rolen and (probably) Adam Lind will be in the line-up for tomorrow night’s opener in Kansas City. It’ll be nice not to see Marco Scutaro and his .200/.351/.250 in the line-up most days, and Shannon Stewart’s .189/.302/.216 against righties has been particularly ugly, but to expect Rolen and Lind to ride some sort of tandem white horse into beautiful Kauffman Stadium and wake up the Jays’ slumbering power bats is a little much.
All is not lost because the Blue Jays are actually a good team, all evidence to the contrary. They sit 4th in the league in on-base percentage and 5th in the league in ERA. Eventually all those runners, all those chances, will turn into some scoring. They’re hitting .260 as a team, but .234 with runners in scoring position. Worse still, just .216 with RISP and two out. I mean, that’s Yankee bad! But things even out over the course of 162 games, and by the end of it all, the Jays’ hitting in all situations should be about the same. Which means they’re due. Of course, they’ve been due for a six- or seven-game winning streak for a few years now, but that’s another story.
The power outage is what’s so hard to explain. Tied for last in the league in home runs, 11th in the league in doubles. It’s baffling, but I honestly don’t think there’s any reason to believe it won’t come around. Even without Frank Thomas, the Jays should get enough offense from Hill, Rios, Wells, Stairs, Rolen and Overbay to make them a better-than-decent line-up, and Eckstein, Zaun and (hopefully) Lind are all better-than-average bats at their positions. This is a team that should score, and not just against the Red Sox. And I believe it will.
Despite the protestations from some of the commenters here, it’s not “getting late early” for the Blue Jays. There are still 139 games to go, and even at their suckingest, they’re 4 1/2 games out in the division and 4 games out of the wild card. If they’re in the same position on August 15th, they’re in the thick of the race, so let’s not get silly. And please don’t hit me with the “if they keep this up” argument. Obviously, if they lose seven out of every nine, they’re going to be historically bad. They’re not going to keep this up.
It’s hard to watch, though, while we wait for them to snap out of it.
I swear that after the first two innings tonight I thought that Dustin McGowan actually had a good chance of throwing a no-hitter. Five strikeouts through seven hitters, hitting 99 on the gun and just simply blowing people away – and then in the fourth, it all fell apart. He was pretty lucky, actually, with Zaun throwing out Eric Hinske trying to steal second. I mean, how often does a pitcher allow five straight hitters to reach base, giving up a triple and throwing a wild pitch in the bargain, and only give up one run?
The house of cards collapsed in the 5th, though, and McGowan was gone without allowing an out. He wound up walking five of the last seven hitters he faced. Leave it to Jesse Carlson to come on and get a big strikeout to end the 5th with runners on the corners, though.
Alex Rios should be in great shape for K.C. after getting pretty much this whole series off. He sat Tuesday, got the flu Wednesday and in an ironic twist, got the heave tonight. After being rung up on appeal by first-base ump Tim McClelland to end the third inning, Rios was tossed after an emotional display. I saw McClelland say something along the lines of “you threw your bat, that’s one, you threw your helmet, that’s two” before the camera cut away. I’m assuming Rios’ third strike was that he cursed a blue streak as he started to walk slowly out to right field, and that was enough for McClelland. I don’t think an ejection was warranted, but I don’t know what Rios said, either.
Huge props to Gregg Zaun for his day overall. He built on his 10-pitch deep fly out in the 9th on Wednesday night and had a 2-for-3 day with a walk, just missing a go-ahead three-run homer in the 9th. His hit-and-run single in the second was executed to absolute perfection, smacking a line drive to exactly the spot where Jason Bartlett had been before he went to cover second base, but the piece de resistance was the steal of home. Scoring-wise, it’s considered a runner’s fielder’s choice, but it was a beautiful bit of baserunning derring-do.
With Zaun on second and Marco Scutaro at first, David Eckstein dropped down a bunt out in front of the plate (don’t get me started). Tampa catcher Dioner Navarro went out to get it, fired to first to retire Eckstein, then kind of hung out about 30-40 feet in front of the plate, impressed with the job he’d done, while Akinori Iwamura put his head down and started to walk the ball towards the pitchers’ mound. Zaun saw the letdown in focus intensity, and the uncovered home plate, and took off, barely sneaking his hand in past a racing Navarro as he scrambled to get back. It was fantastic. Too bad the Jays couldn’t do anything with it.
As I said way up there (man, this is getting long), Rolen and Lind should be in the line-up for the opener against KC and Zack Grienke, who has allowed just one home run in 29 innings, has a WHIP of 1.17 and an ERA of 1.24. If I had to guess, I’d say Rolen will hit 6th, behind Matt Stairs and Lind 7th, in front of Lyle Overbay.
Lastly, congrats to the Oakland A’s for signing Frank Thomas. They pick up what will be a valuable asset for them and only have to pay him the major-league minimum. Thomas had a great year with the A’s back in 2006, and they like him out there. I think it’s a great move for Billy Beane, assuming Thomas has the second half I expect him to. The A’s, despite the fact that they currently share first place in the West, are going nowhere this year, but bringing in Thomas shows fans that Beane is trying to ride the wave of the team’s hot start. Truth is, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he grabbed Thomas in order to cash in on the bounty he might bring back on July 31st. Who knows, maybe after Thomas heats up and the Athletics cool down, Frank will get traded back to the Blue Jays! Now THAT would be fun.
Comments are encouraged, and remember – in order to make up for tonight’s Raptors-induced loss of JaysTalk, we’ll have a special pre-game JaysTalk Friday for listeners of the Fan590 (if you can’t listen, catch it here on the website) from 7:05 – 7:30 Eastern.