Archive for May, 2008
Saturday, May 31st, 2008
2:30 AM Eastern
Off the top, I want to apologize for not getting the comments up sooner. Seems my achin’ back was knocked out of joint by that astounding defensive play I made in last night’s softball game, and I was unable to sit comfortably most of the day. Luckily, it de-flared itself by the time I had to get into work. Mmmmmmmmmmm, Advil.
So, it appears these Blue Jays can hit the ball a bit, huh? They have become the proverbial offensive juggernaut, with 22 runs in their last two games. This is a team that, earlier this season, went THREE consecutive weeks (Sunday to Saturday) without scoring as many as 22 runs in any one week. The worm, it seems, has turned.
Hey, you HAVE to win a game if Brad Wilkerson gets three hits, right? Can’t waste one of those.
I’m not saying the Blue Jays are going to score in double-digits every night, or even on a regular basis. But it must be something for the non-believers to see that they actually have it in them to do so. I really hope that all the April whiners remember this in the future, but I know it won’t happen. To say things early in the season like, “this team isn’t capable of scoring eight runs in a game” or “there’s no way these guys can put together a long, winning run” or “the season is over” is patently ridiculous. Even the worst of the worst can run off eight or nine in a row, or win 10 out of 13, and the Jays are certainly not the worst of the worst. Nor are they an historically awful offense. Water rises to its level, and that’s what the Jays have spent the month of May doing. With a game to go in the season’s second stanza, the Jays are 20 up and 9 down for the month. Are they this good? Not even a little. Are they as bad as their 11-17 April would indicate? Even less so.
Right now we have a much better gauge of where the Jays belong in the baseball world, and right now they sit with the fifth-best record in the American League.
Nice little run they’re on, too, having won seven of eight, 14 of 19 since they hit rock bottom that Monday night in Cleveland.
Tonight, Dustin McGowan hit the mound at Disneyland rocking the protective/corrective eyewear. I’m not sure which it was, but it didn’t help him on that Gary Matthews, Jr. bunt in the 3rd that he threw into right field. Still, six innings, eight baserunners, three earned runs. Unspectacular, but certainly not bad, and only one walk, which was great. McGowan has now walked just one (unintentionally) over his past 17 1/3 innings, this from a guy who has had a 4-, a 5- and a 7-walk outing already this season.
Marco Scutaro did a fine job filling in for the mildly-concussed Aaron Hill at second base, and picked up a pair of hits in the bargain. It turns out that, apparently, the Hill-Eckstein collision on Thursday afternoon was Hill’s fault. As John Gibbons explained on the pre-game show, Eckstein called the ball first, but Hill called it later because, as Hill said, “it was on my side of second base.” The golden rule in the game, of course, is that if the shortstop calls it, every other infielder should get the heck out of there. Hill is expected to be back in the line-up for Game 2 tomorrow.
The Jays’ 16-hit attack featured three safeties from Scott Rolen and Lyle (Two-Bomb) Overbay, as well as Wilkerson, and Alex Rios had two hits to go along with Scoot’s. Rios also struck out in the 1st in a really nice 10-pitch at-bat.
Overbay’s first homer was a towering, majestic, no-doubt beauty, and his second was blasted as well, looked gone from contact, but only made it out by about a foot and a half. Still, the Jays’ “powerless” first baseman is now second on the team with his five big flies, and drove in three today to up the RBI total to 21. Didn’t I bet someone on here a million dollars that he’d get to 30 by the all-star break? Where is that guy?
The one bad thing about this game was The Captain’s poor effort on McGowan’s wild pitch in the 4th that allowed Torii Hunter to go first to third. Hunter was moving on the pitch, but after the ball got by, Barajas sat in his crouch for a couple of beats before getting up to chase it, then Hunter barely beat the throw. I’m not sure what was going through his head there, but that’s a hint as to why we heard the Phillie fans booing him so steadily a couple of weeks ago.
OK, there’s one more bad thing – why was Matt Stairs sent home on Wilkerson’s 9th-inning single to centre, when he would have been out by 10 feet if Mike Napoli had been able to hold on to the throw? That’s not a chance you take with a 5-run lead.
Some other quick things to consider:
-Since Scott Rolen was activated off the disabled list, the Jays are 21-13 (a 100-win pace).
-The bullpen hasn’t given up an earned run since May 18 (11 games!) and has only allowed ONE HIT on this road trip, a span of 8 1/3 innings. And that with only one inning out of B.J. Ryan and no appearances by Snakeface!
Not too shabby, if I do say so myself.
The Friday night JaysTalk was swell, though I think I let a couple of callers go on too long – sorry about that, I get kind of loopy late at night. You can enjoy it for yourself right here:
Comments are encouraged, as always, and try to keep them below book-length. The 24/7 JaysTalk rocks!
Thursday, May 29th, 2008
SOFTBALL UPDATE at the bottom of the post
8:00 PM Eastern
Nope, I checked it out with other sources just as reliable as Jerry Howarth and Alan Ashby, and it turns out the Jays actually did score a dozen runs in Oakland this afternoon.
It’s amazing! The series that was a fait accompli Oakland sweep turns into the Jays taking two of three and outscoring the A’s 15-4. Don’t get excited, though – these aren’t exactly the Kansas City Royals.
Jesse Litsch did his thing again, brilliantly, and Alex Rios sounded great in centrefield (which is a good thing because otherwise, yuck), and the offense was spectacular.
The Captain had a big day with three doubles, Shannon Stewart added three hits as did Kevin Mench, who raised his batting average 66 points and even contributed an extra-base hit! Every starter had at least one hit save for Rios, who grounded into three double plays and would have had a fourth had Mark Ellis not dropped Bobby Crosby’s relay throw in the 3rd.
Honestly, though, how cool would that have been? The Jays score 11 (the 4th DP would have eliminated one run) while Alex Rios grounds into four double plays. That would have been a brilliant karmic payback by the baseball gods.
There’s really not that much to say about this one, especially since I didn’t get to see much of it (other than the mlb.com highlights). But here are a few things:
-The Jays are 14-1 in day games so far this season
-The Jays are undefeated when they score in double digits (credit that great pitching staff!)
-David Eckstein has reached base safely in 7 of 9 plate appearances since coming back from the disabled list
-The Blue Jays are 2 1/2 games out of the wild card in the American League, which sucks because as we all know, the season ended on May 10th when the Jays lost 12-0, proving that they wouldn’t be able to do a thing without Vernon Wells.
That collision between Eckstein and Aaron Hill looked pretty serious. It seemed like Hill took Eckstein’s elbow right in the cheekbone as they came together on a 7th-inning pop-up by Rob Bowen. Hill had to leave the game, but Eck was fine. Hopefully, Hill wasn’t concussed, because that can have lingering, very unpleasant effects (I speak from experience). If Hill has to sit a while, Joe Inglett certainly won’t do any worse offensively, though Hill looked to be coming out of his rough patch by going 2-for-3 with a pair of walks.
Finally, let me pre-empt anyone from whining that the Jays will now get swept in Anaheim because they should have “saved” some of these runs today. The stupidity of that statement is self-evident but regardless, they’ve been “saving” these runs all season long! They might get swept in Disneyland, by the way, but they might sweep the Halos. It’s likelier that they’ll drop two of three, just because, but anyone who claims to know what’s going to happen is either REALLY self-important or an idiot.
I have a softball game tonight that I’m leaving for right now, I’ll update you afterwards.
SOFTBALL UPDATE – Since so many of you seem to care so much, I went 2-for-5 tonight with a ground single to left and an opposite-field triple, and we won 17-5. No errors at short, with one terrific defensive play on a slow roller up the middle. The defensive play of the night, though, was turned in by their left fielder, Jeff Myers (sp?) on a drive I hit down the line. He made a sensational leaping catch on the dead run towards foul territory. Why he was there I’ll never know, since I had tripled down the right-field line in my previous at-bat. The game ended when one of their guys hit a shot down the first-base line that hit the runner on first in the left hand, and just hearing it from shortstop it sounded like the guy broke at least three or four bones in his hand. We also had one of our runners hit in the face by an uncut throw from the outfield, but he’s fine.
Comments are encouraged (there was no JaysTalk today), though I’m not sure about Neil anymore.
Thursday, May 29th, 2008
2:25 AM Eastern
Believe it or not, folks, the Blue Jays will not be swept in Oakland. Even though that’s what they always do, and they can’t sustain any kind of good run, and they’re terrible, they managed to beat the A’s 2-1 to improve their record in May to 18-9.
It’s funny, I took a look back at some of the comments from the end of April, and people were saying stuff like “if the Jays win 12 or 13 games in May, which is highly doubtful…..”. Hilarious, and it illustrates again just how long the season is and how quickly things can change. The Jays currently sit 2 1/2 games back of the wild card in the American League.
Tonight was vintage Roy Halladay, with a massive assist from Alex Rios. Halladay was in another of those “no-margin-for-error” games we’ve come to expect from these Blue Jays, and gave up a rocket to left-centre to Mark Ellis with two on and two out in the 6th that Rios chased down on the warning track. It was as spectacular as it was smooth from the speedy outfielder, and it saved the game. The batter before, Emil Brown, had hit a grounder to a drawn-in Lyle Overbay with a runner at third, and Overbay made a great throw (despite pinning the ball against his ribcage as he took it out of his glove), and Rod Barajas blocked the plate beautifully to ward off Jack Cust.
Rios completed his big night by doubling in the eventual winning run in the 9th, after Aaron Hill had bunted Shannon Stewart’s walk to second base. Stewart singled in the other Jays’ run, a fine night for him at the dish.
I’m not going to complain about that bunt, by the way, though nor am I going to say that if Hill hadn’t bunted, he’d have hit into a double play. The Jays had scored twice in their last 17 innings, and were in a tie game with the 3-4-5 hitters coming up, nobody out and a hitter at the plate who was 6-for-his-last 33 (.182). In the 9th inning, that’s a really solid time to bunt.
We saw a nervous ninth from B.J. Ryan that included a pair of walks (bring back any Oakland nightmares, anyone?), but he’s now 12-for-12 in save situations and has given up just one run since April of 2007, that’s a pretty good run.
Those of you who have been dying to see Rod Barajas usurp Gregg Zaun and become the everyday catcher have had your wish granted. Zaun felt something in his right elbow during batting practice Tuesday, and has been placed on the disabled list with mild inflammation. Barajas is the man for the next two weeks, with the occasional back-uppage from Curtis Thigpen. I have a feeling that The Captain getting regular work might not be the panacea so many seem to believe it will be, but we’ll see.
Rich Harden pitched great tonight, and how cool is it that he has a little Canadian flag on his glove? Awesome, and he may be a free agent this winter (the A’s have a $7 million club option). If only he could stay healthy. I just hope that if the A’s pick the option up, they let him pitch in the World Baseball Festival next year, though I have strong doubts.
We had the pre-game Wednesdays with J.P., and he resolved once and for all (though probably not once and for all) that he never said anything about a five-year plan. And Neil, who makes up numbers and believes that 16 teams make the playoffs in Major League Baseball, called. You can hear it all right here:
There was also a post-game JaysTalk. Enjoy!
Comments are welcome – The JaysTalk continues 24/7, even though there will probably be no actual The JaysTalk after the series finale, in which the Jays will, sadly, get swept. Because they always do.
Wednesday, May 28th, 2008
2:45 AM Eastern
The Blue Jays fulfilled the predictions of their most pessimistic doubters by getting to the West Coast and messing their nests in a 3-1 loss that I’m thinking most of you didn’t stay up to listen to. If you did, I’m sorry – at least I got paid to watch it.
The Jays’ offense shot blanks, hearkening back to the tough, tough days of last Tuesday and Wednesday, as they managed just six singles and one walk against Greg Smith, who they knocked around for an inning then stopped hitting in his major-league debut back at Rogers Centre in early April. Not only were they just 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position, they didn’t even ADVANCE a runner in scoring position as much as 90 feet until the 8th inning, when Kevin Mench drove in the Jays’ only run with a single.
Remember last Tuesday and Wednesday, by the way? The Jays came home having won six of seven on the road and for two nights, couldn’t get a big hit at all against the Angels, lost two straight, and that was all a lot of fans needed to see – it was all over, the previous week didn’t matter. Then they won five in a row.
A.J. Burnett had a fine start, with just one blip in it, and even that wasn’t so huge. With two out and nobody on in the 4th, he walked the nine-hitter, Kurt Suzuki. It should be noted, though, that Suzuki was leading off for the A’s earlier this month. Jack Hannahan followed by ripping a double into the gap in right-centre, scoring Suzuki, and then Bobby Crosby lined a single up the middle to score Hannahan. A run of three hitters where Burnett didn’t have it, but for the rest of his 5 2/3 innings, he was more than fine. He even struck out 10, contributing to the 103-pitchness of his outing and his early exit.
The A’s stole three bases off Burnett, who can’t hold runners to save his life, but only one of them scored, and that one only scored because The Captain’s throw hit him (Emil Brown) in the ankle and ricocheted into shallow left field, from whence David Eckstein couldn’t throw him out. I talked about this on The JaysTalk, but it doesn’t bother me if people run wild on Burnett (or Halladay, for that matter), because I’d rather have them get the hitter out as opposed to changing their delivery to try to hold the runner better and having that have an effect on how they deal with the hitters. They’ve both been quite successful despite not being great at controlling the running game.
Eckstein came back with an offensive flourish – activated off the disabled list to replace Hector Luna (whose freshly-baked cookies will surely be missed around the clubhouse – I mean, he must have done SOMETHING to warrant taking up a roster spot for two weeks, no?), Eck went 2-for-3 with two singles and a walk. His defense stood out for the wrong reasons in the first, though. The first ground ball of the game went to him, and he dropped it, but recovered enough to make the play. The next hitter did the same thing, and though he fielded it cleanly, his throw was low and Lyle Overbay dropped it. Overbay should have made the play, the ball didn’t hit the ground, but pardon him for being used to having a shortstop who could actually heave it all the way to first on a line on a regular basis.
The Jays-Big Hurt match-up fizzled when Frank Thomas had to leave the game after two at-bats, having strained his right quadriceps either legging out his third-inning double, going to third on the Ryan Sweeney single that followed, or eating birthday cake in the clubhouse (Happy 40th, Hurt!). Hopefully, Big Frank will be able to get back into the line-up for the last two games, it won’t be as much fun without him.
The late-night JaysTalks are always interesting, and tonight’s edition is here:
It’s good to know that Neil makes as little sense on the air as he does here in the comments section.
Hopefully, we’ll get a pre-game Wednesdays with J.P. That’s the plan, at least, to start at 8:30 pm Eastern, and you can hear it here on the website or on the air on the Fan590 if you’re in the listening area. All you J.P.-haters, don’t expect me to do your work for you. If you have issues with the guy, quit shrivelling up on Wednesday nights and pick up the phone. There’s so much criticism of Ricciardi on The JaysTalk and here on the blog, but all we get on Wednesday nights are calls about the draft and minor leaguers and people telling J.P. how great he is.
Comments are encouraged, it’s the 24/7 JaysTalk, but I warn you, I’m sleeping in.
Monday, May 26th, 2008
11:40 PM Eastern
There’s your final cumulative score of the Blue Jays’ sweep of the Kansas City Royals, closing out a 5-2 homestand and getting the Jays three games over .500 for the first time this season.
I didn’t hear any “it’s only the Royals” calls after the game, which made me happy. I was expecting some, but only because for the last few years we’ve been hearing about how the Jays can’t beat the bad teams. This time, they not only beat a bad team, but they beat it up real good.
Shaun Marcum was his usual treeeeemendous self, despite being all fidgety with his right hand and the rosin bag. He hit a career-high three batters, two of them in the sixth, but still only gave up one earned run. That sixth inning was really something – after the hit batsmen, Marcum got two textbook double-play balls but no double plays. On the first one, Marcum didn’t get his foot down on first base to take Marco Scutaro’s relay throw – stunning, because he might be the best-fielding pitcher in the league. On the second, Joe Inglett’s flip throw to second was nowhere near Scoot.
You can’t tell me that two weeks ago, that inning doesn’t blow up and bury the Jays. Of course, two weeks ago, it was probably a 0-0 game, not 6-0 Toronto at the time. How things have changed.
Along those lines – did my eyes deceive me or did Lyle Overbay actually hit a “ground ball with eyes” that got through into right field for a RBI single in the second? Might be the first one of those I’ve seen from the Jays all year.
Scutaro jumped out of his 0-for-10 nicely, with a gorgeous hit-and-run single and a solo homer. And hey, Gregg Zaun (I think I might call him “TOYS” from now on – for Target Of Your Scorn, I don’t get why everyone seems to have so much of a hate-on for the guy) had a great day, with a two-run homer, a double and two runs scored.
Now the Jays are off on the road for three each with the A’s, Angels and Yankees. If they wind up 5-4 on the trip, that would be spectacular.
We also get to see right away if this recent hot streak will now enable the Jays to beat left-handed starters with any kind of regularity. They started the year 0-4 against starting southpaws, though only one of them was around for the decision. Since then, they’re 5-4 when a lefty starts, but they haven’t faced one since Jamie Moyer beat them (well, David Purcey beat them – it’s semantics, really, and he’s a lefty, anyway) in the opener in Philly a week and a half ago.
Greg Smith starts in Oakland tomorrow night, and Dana Eveland goes Thursday afternoon. Smith and Eveland started two of the games in the Oakland sweep at the end of the first homestand, with Smith leaving after 6 down 3-2 (the A’s scored four in the 9th off Jeremy Accardo and Brian Wolfe) and Eveland throwing 6 1/3 innings of three-hit shutout (the A’s won 3-2 in 12 on the night of Jesse Carlson’s major-league debut).
The afternoon JaysTalk was a good time, as always, and it’s right here for your listening pleasure:
I especially enjoyed the caller who wanted to make it clear that he thinks the Jays will get swept in Oakland “because that’s what they always do”. He wanted me to make sure that I know he KNEW it would happen so that when he calls me on Thursday after the sweep, I won’t think he’s just frustrated by three straight losses. In retrospect, I should have suggested that he wager his house on the sweep, could make him a rich man. Hey, if any of you know him, offer to bet pink slips!
Comments are encouraged, as always, and make sure you stay up for the 1:30 AM (Eastern) JaysTalks tomorrow and Wednesday!
Sunday, May 25th, 2008
9:53 PM Eastern
Sorry, busy day with the afternoon game and T.B.J.T.W. and a day game tomorrow, there will be no real, hard-hitting bloggage today.
It was great to see Dustin McGowan throw seven innings without walking anybody, and B.J. Ryan continues to defy all logic by converting his 11th save in 11 chances barely 54 weeks post-Tommy John.
If you listened to the pre-game show (and if you didn’t, shame on you) you may have been surprised to hear that in this month’s edition of the R.R.T., all of Jeff Blair, Jordan Bastian and Rob MacLeod thought of Jesse Litsch as little more than another Gustavo Chacin waiting to happen.
How amazing is it that we got to witness Blue Jays’ history twice in one weekend? First Saturday, with Litsch running the consecutive innings without a walk streak to 38 before issuing a free pass to Mark Teahen with two out in the ninth. Today, it was Lyle Overbay fighting back from an 0-2 count to draw a second-inning walk off Gil Meche, reaching base safely in a club-record 12 consecutive plate appearances. He’s now fourth in the league in Overbase percentage, and third in Overbases on balls.
Major kudos to Alex Rios for a phenomenal play to throw out Jose Guillen at the plate. It was a ground single up the middle with Guillen at second, and Rios charged it hard from the get-go. A lot of outfielders seemingly wait for a ball to get through the infield before taking off after it, but he was on his horse pretty much from contact, then made a great throw. And Shannon Stewart nailed a pretty quick Tony Pena, Jr. tagging up to go to third, as well.
Here’s the JaysTalk:
Comments are welcome, sorry I couldn’t get to them all today, but these quick turnarounds are tough and I occasionally do enjoy spending time with my family.
Saturday, May 24th, 2008
UPDATE 7:30 PM Eastern
Here’s today’s edition of The JaysTalk!
6:10 PM Eastern
For a guy who faces constant complaints about his inability to turn up more than the odd player in the draft, I present the Blue Jays’ 24th round pick in the 2004 first-year player draft, Mr. Jesse Allan Litsch.
The 23 year-old took the club lead with his sixth win of the season, pitching his first shutout (and first complete game) in the bigs and setting a team record in the process. He got to the 9th inning without issuing a walk, making it 38 consecutive innings pitched without a free pass, breaking the Jays’ record Jimmy Key set in 1990. Hands up anyone who thought that Jesse Litsch would ever break any of Key’s club records! Didn’t think so.
The kid has been an absolute revelation. He doesn’t have great stuff, but he has great location. He doesn’t shy away from contact, but there’s rarely anyone on base when he gives up a big hit because he simply refuses to walk people. And – he’s a fantastic defender. He’s always in a great fielding position after he delivers a pitch, and it stood him in good stead today, when he was ducking shrapnel pretty much all afternoon, breaking bats right and left and having the barrels fly out towards – and right over – the mound.
Every time he gets the ball, Litsch proves again why he more than deserves to be part of this pitching staff, and there were plenty of us – including your trusted correspondent right here – who didn’t believe he’d have anywhere near this kind of impact.
That said, will there ever be a better sell-high opportunity on Litsch? It’s not like this is fantasy baseball, though. The Pirates won’t be calling offering Jason Bay, and the Reds won’t ring up to try to pry away Jesse for Adam Dunn. Anyway, it’s not like the Jays have someone ready to step in and take Litsch’s spot if they move him, so let’s enjoy the second-best 5th starter in the majors.
By the way, Litsch had five innings in which he threw fewer than 10 pitches. Granted, it’s the Royals, but that’s awesome stuff.
How about that Lyle Overbay? As Jordan Bastian of mlb.com worked out (with a little help from his friends), he’s been ridiculous over the last 12 games, hitting .359/.479/.590 (the perfect slugging percentage). He’s also tied the club record by reaching base safely in his last 11 plate appearances, and will have a chance to break the record in (probably) the second inning tomorrow against Gil Meche.
Brad Wilkerson’s day off seemed to stand him in good stead, he took a 3-1 heater from Luke Hochevar in the first and hit it out for the Jays’ fourth Grand Slam of the season. He could have had a second slam, too, but popped up to short in the 7th. One was more than enough, though.
Shannon Stewart continues to look good, reaching base four times in five plate appearances out of the leadoff spot, and Joe Inglett made an incredible catch of a foul ball down the left-field line and threw in a triple for good measure.
The Jays went just 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position, but when one of those is a home run, you can look awfully good. This team has now won nine of 12 to get back over the break-even mark.
I know I’ll be hearing from a lot of you about Marty Pevey sending Stewart on Aaron Hill’s double in the 1st, and it was definitely a bad send given the fact that there were none out. Stewart is running better than he has in a few years, but he’s still nothing like the guy he was when he came up. Still, the ball was still in the left-field corner when Shannon hit third base, and Marty didn’t hesitate a bit in waving him on, which is good. Of course, Tony Pena – the relay guy – has an incredible arm, you have to take that into account, too.
I’m more concerned with the fact that in the 7th, Shannon was at third when Scott Rolen hit a shallow fly to left, and it appeared that even just seconds before the ball landed in David DeJesus’ glove, Pevey still hadn’t made up his mind. Stewart actually stood on third with his palms up, as if to say “what should I do?”. That’s just what I’m speculating from the palms-up thing, though, what really happened may have been entirely different.
Comments are welcome, as always, but please try to avoid writing essays. The 24/7 JaysTalk is the place to be!
Saturday, May 24th, 2008
12:35 AM Eastern
Well, whaddaya know?
The Blue Jays batted around in an inning for the first time in 2 1/2 weeks and gave their starter a big, early lead for just the second time all season. Roy Halladay said “thank you very much, I’ll take it from here.”
Halladay was tremendous, going the route on a four-hitter, walking nobody. He only struck out four as he was back to his old, efficient ways. In six of his nine innings, Halladay needed 11 pitches or less to get the requisite three outs, and therefore had thrown only 89 going into the 9th. A fantastic job.
Afterwards, Halladay said that he didn’t think he was all that great, but that the defense made some great plays on balls that were hit hard. Modesty is a wonderful trait, but there were only two really nice plays that had to be made behind him, although they were REALLY nice. Aaron Hill brought back Alomaric visions with his diving catch of a pop-up in short right field, and Shannon Stewart made a terrific sliding catch of a line drive by David DeJesus.
And hey, how about that Stewart guy? 12-for-his-last-35 to jack the batting average up to .254, and he was back up in the leadoff spot tonight with Brad Wilkerson enjoying a well-earned night off.
Marco Scutaro continued to swing a very hot bat, contributing a pair of two-out, two-run singles to help get the lead to 6-1 in the 3rd. It was the first time the Jays had six on the board through three this season, by the way. Scutaro has done way more than I ever imagined he could in the absence of DaJohn EckDonald (credit bluejays.com). Since being installed as the starter (16 games total), Scoot has hit .327/.413/.364. That’s pretty serious stuff, and it’s an easy argument to make that he should stay in the line-up once EckDonald comes back – the first half of which could arrive anytime now, though probably not until Monday.
The question is, where do you play Scutaro? He’s not going to take at-bats away from Hill or Rolen, and John Gibbons said today that Eckstein is the shortstop once he’s healthy. That leaves first base and the outfield. I don’t mind Scutaro platooning with Lyle Overbay at first, and I don’t mind him getting at-bats in right field over Brad Wilkerson or Joe Inglett, the way he’s been swinging. It’s a nice problem for Gibby to have, and it’ll be interesting to see how he deals with it.
The 3-4-5 hitters in the line-up really got it done tonight, with Alex Rios, Scott Rolen and Overbay combining to go 7-for-9 with a double and three walks, SIX runs scored and two RBIs. It was great to see, especially against a guy like Zack Greinke, who came into the game with a 2.18 ERA (second-best in the league) and a 1.16 WHIP. Grienke hadn’t allowed more than three runs in any of his nine starts this season before tonight, when he gave up six in five innings.
RISP Alert!!!! The Jays were 4-for-13 tonight, led by Scutaro’s two huge hits, and believe it or not, they’re 10-for-their-last-32 against three starters who had a combined record of 15-5 going in. This team just isn’t good enough offensively to compete.
We had a super-extendo-JaysTalk tonight because of how quickly Halladay dispatched with the K.C.ites, and there was a lot of love in the room, I thought. Always nice, but not necessary. As usual, we had a caller who disagreed with everything I said and thought I was a hypocrite, but hung up agreeing with me. Also as usual, we had an idiot – one who thought Roy Halladay was being selfish for going out for the 9th (having thrown 89 pitches!) and was hoping to see a comebacker through the box break Doc’s ankle. Some people just should have their telephone privileges taken away.
You can listen to the show right here:
Thankfully, no one called to suggest that Ernie Whitt should take over as the manager. I made my feelings on that issue known yesterday, and I’m not ever going to address it again, other than with a simple “I disagree” with those who feel he should. One is not to criticize the esteemed Mr. Whitt.
Comments are welcome, but it’s a day game after a night game, so no promises!
Thursday, May 22nd, 2008
11:55 PM Eastern
Oh, right. He’s the guy who can’t hit for power anymore (and never really could), a diminishing asset on the downside of his career at the age of 31. A guy on whom it would be best to cut bait at the end of April because, seriously, there’s no way he can help this club. Fine, he gets on base, but come on, right?
That’s a fair representation of most of the comments from the first month of the season, isn’t it?
So what does Overbay do but hit the game-breaking home run in each of the Jays’ last two wins – both of them mammoth shots to right field. Overbay (who one of the JaysTalk callers referred to tonight as “Lyle OverFence”) has hit eight doubles and two home runs so far in the month of May. Extrapolated over a full season, that’s a 64 double, 16 homer pace, which clearly shows that all the Chicken Littles should just calm down. Not enough homers for most of them, though.
Overbay came up with the big hit at the right time tonight, a two-strike blast into the second deck to untie the game that the Angels had just knotted up the sixth inning, and he added a two-bagger over the head of Torii Hunter in the 8th, aiming to provide an insurance run. It didn’t work out because Shannon Stewart struck out to end the inning (damn Overbay’s inability to score runs!).
A.J. Burnett looked as though he had no-hit stuff through the first four innings, allowing only a little nubber infield single up the first-base line by Garret Anderson that Burnett hinself, and then Aaron Hill, whiffed on, but he hit a wall in the 5th, allowing back-to-back two-out RBI doubles to Sean Rodriguez (0-for-the-series and looking completely overmatched to that point) and Maicer Izturis to get the Angels to within one. It was Rodriguez’ first career extra-base hit and RBI. A.J. got out of the inning by inducing a weak comebacker off the bat of Gary Matthews, Jr.
In the 6th, a two-out four-pitch walk to Torii Hunter was Burnett’s undoing. After making Hunter look silly his first two times up, he just plain didn’t throw him a strike after striking out the first two hitters of the inning. Burnett then fell back into his old habit of completely ignoring a baserunner, allowing Hunter to get more than halfway to second while he was still in a set position on the rubber – then delivering anyway! Casey Kotchman hit that pitch to right for a single, and Jeff Mathis followed with a liner up the middle to tie the game, and set the stage for Overbay’s heroics.
Those first four innings set against the next two illustrate exactly why so many people get so frustrated so often with Burnett. He’s expected to pitch the way he did at the beginning all the time. If he was more consistent within his outings, maybe – a hit here, a walk there, another hit somewhere else – instead of packing them all together, people might give him more of a break. As it is, for those to whom it matters, he’s now tied with Jesse Litsch for the team lead with five wins.
How about that offense, huh? 4-for-8 with runners in scoring position, and a run-scoring inning set-up by two VERY weakly hit flares to shallow right. In the 4th, after a hard single by Alex Rios (and a steal of second base!), Scott Rolen struck out and Overbay walked. Stewart was next, and he just threw his bat at a two-strike pitch and doinked it over second baseman Rodriguez for a single. Rod Barajas followed and did exactly the same thing, for an RBI hit. It was something that I don’t know if I’ve seen from the Jays yet this season, and it was nice for them to pick up a couple of lucky hits in a row. And hey, no double plays tonight!
Matt Stairs missed this game because of a sore neck, and there’s no further word on the severity of the injury or how much time he might miss. Joe Inglett filled in at the bottom of the order and delivered an RBI triple to deep centre as part of the two-run third. If Stairs is going to be out a while then it’s once again time to Free Adam Lind! We’ll have to see how things progress.
Brad Wilkerson went 1-for-4, striking out three times. His hit was big, an RBI single to cash the Inglett triple, but he was thrown out trying to ambitiously stretch the hit into a double. It was a solid line drive to right-centre, and Hunter had to come a long way from left-centre to get it, but come on – he’s Torii Freakin’ Hunter. I saw Wilkerson kick it into high gear just before he got to first and thought to myself “please don’t”. It was close, but there was no reasonable expectation that he’d be able to get to second on that play. Unlike Rolen’s second inning shot off the wall in left – Garret Anderson had to play the carom perfectly and make a terrific throw in order to get Rolen, and he did.
I’m not sure I get the whole Wilkerson thing. I mean, I know he used to be a very good hitter, walked a lot, hit home runs and stuff, but he hasn’t been that since 2004. I was all for giving him a shot, to see if there was a resurgence coming, but in the two weeks he’s been a Blue Jay he has hit .174/.255/.239. There’s no sugar-coating that, it’s awful. Worse than awful, actually; I guess I did sugar-coat it a bit. And except for his first game, when he hit second, he’s been leading off every start. Anyone in the line-up is a better lead-off hitter than Brad Wilkerson is right now.
Before I go, I just want to mention the vast Ernie Whitt Fan Club there appears to be on The JaysTalk, which you can hear right here:
There was more than one call for Whitt to take over as manager, and another caller – in all seriousness – suggested that Ernie replace J.P. Ricciardi as the general manager. Honestly, I’m dumbfounded. How anyone can think that Ernie Whitt is qualified to run a Major-League organization is so far beyond me that I can’t even comprehend it. A manager, fine, I can see that line of thinking. He managed Team Canada at the Olympics and the World Baseball Festival (winning every game except the one the team really needed to). People loved him, he was a good, longtime Blue Jay, but seriously. There were two massive line-up mistakes made last year when he was the bench coach and that rule issue at the Olympics that the last caller brought up. Whitt has told me that he didn’t make out the line-ups, and that the screw-ups last season with John McDonald and Hill/Overbay batting out of turn weren’t his fault, and I’m sure they weren’t – directly – but part of a bench coach’s job is to oversee everything, including stuff like that, to take some heat off the manager. I don’t want to sound like I’m piling on Whitt here, he might make a fine manager, but I’d like to see him have some experience doing it on a regular basis, more than just an interim job here and a tournament there, before handing him the keys to a big-league club.
Comments are encouraged, as always – let’s keep The JaysTalk going 24/7!
Thursday, May 22nd, 2008
2:00 AM Eastern
You know, I still believe that the Blue Jays hit rock bottom last Monday in Cleveland with the ridiculosity of the 9th inning of the nightcap before they rallied to win in the 10th, but I guess it turns out that the climb back from the deepest depths isn’t without its share of stumbles.
Tonight wasn’t as ugly as last night, though you don’t need degrees of ugliness. It was more unlucky than anything else, given the events of the bottoms of the last four innings.
By the way, sorry for the late post – I had to rush home after Wednesdays with J.P. to see a good, winning team in action. The Missouri Jailbirds of the FEBC (www.fat-elvis.com) swept a doubleheader 10-6 and 3-1 to improve to an incredible 17-5 on the season. Now THAT is about which that I am talking.
Anyway, back to the Jay game. So they’re down 4-2 going into bottom of the 6th, with Shaun Marcum having recovered from giving up two bombs to Big Daddy Vladdy (Rex Hudler’s nickname for him) to retire 11 Angels in a row. In that bottom of the 6th, six Blue Jays come to the plate, five Blue Jays absolutely scorch the ball, and they score one run on three hits. Matt Stairs started it by ripping a line drive right back through the box that, for the second straight night, the pitcher caught. Lyle Overbay then doubled into the gap in right-centre and Shannon Stewart came up with the only non-laser beam of the inning, a little humpback looper to shortstop for the second out. The much-maligned Gregg Zaun tonged one right off Jon Garland’s glove and into left for an RBI single, Marco Scutaro hit a hard grounder up the middle for another hit and Brad Wilkerson ripped a ball down the first base line that Casey Kotchman snared with a nice dive to his left to end the inning.
If the Blue Jays’ hitters actually played in the real world, Wilkerson is standing at second having hit a two-run double, four runs have scored in the inning and there’s still only one out with the Jays leading 6-4. But life doesn’t work that way for the boys in black, white, gun-metal gray and a little bit of blue. At least not in early 2008, anyway.
In the 7th, not bad luck, but bad baserunning. After Aaron Hill and Alex Rios led off with back-to-back singles, Scott Rolen swung and missed at a pitch that Mike Napoli couldn’t handle and went all the way to the backstop. Both runners either lost sight of the ball when Rolen swung or thought it was fouled off – Hill got a very late break to third, and Rios didn’t go at all. It’s impossible to explain, and impossible to excuse. Even if you think it’s a foul ball, YOU RUN UNTIL SOMEONE TELLS YOU IT’S A FOUL BALL, preferably someone who is wearing blue. Hill got to third, on a play that was closer than it should have been, but Rios stayed anchored at first. And he remained there as Rolen struck out, and again as reliever Jose Arredondo threw two balls in the dirt to Stairs, at least one of which kicked away far enough for him to try to advance. Stairs wound up hitting a hard grounder to first that Kotchman turned into a 3-6-3 double play.
If Rios runs on any of the three occasions on which he could easily have taken second (or if he’d stolen second), Kotchman would have been playing in, and Stairs’ grounder gets down the line for a two-run double. That wasn’t bad luck, that was Alex Rios not being aware enough on the basepaths. I don’t think it’s lack of focus, as we’ve mentioned with him before, and I don’t think it’s the new contract that has made him lazy. I just think it’s lack of instinct. Some guys are great baserunners (honestly, Brad Fullmer is the best Jays baserunner I’ve seen in the last 10 years, I think), and some guys aren’t. It doesn’t mean you can’t work on it, though, and Rios really needs to. All it takes is to be on the balls of your feet, ready to run at every opportunity. You don’t have to do it, you just have to be ready to do it so that you can get moving in a hurry when the opportunity presents itself. It’s really too bad, because a lot of players can find other ways to contribute when they’re not hitting. Not only is Rios not hitting right now, he’s not running the bases well when he’s on them and he’s not throwing particularly well, either. He will come out of it – he’s starting to already with the bat – and he’s going to be a great player for a long time. Tonight, though? Tonight – ARGH.
In the 8th, another chance, but Marco Scutaro’s scorched grounder was hit directly into second baseman Sean Rodriguez’ glove for the Jays’ SIXTH double play of the homestand that’s only two games old.
Finally, in the 9th, it was Rios’ shot at redemption, and he took advantage. With Hill on first and one out, Rios ABSOLUTELY DRILLED a line drive to deep left field, over the head of Garret Anderson, heading for the wall to be a game-tying double. Anderson (who, it should be noted, is no longer the defensive standout he was 10 years ago) made a superb running catch over his head. A spectacular game-saving play. Scott Rolen then followed the directions of everyone who has been whining that the Jays aren’t aggressive enough at the plate, and popped up on the next pitch to end the game.
The Jays were 3-for-11 with runners in scoring position tonight (.273), but all three hits were singles. In fact, ten of the Jays’ 11 hits were singles. For the two games with L.A. of A., the Jays have pounded out 20 hits and drawn 11 walks for a grand total of 31 baserunners. They have scored four runs. As pathetic as that is, it’s equally ridiculous, and that’s why I continue to insist that they can’t possibly keep this up.
These things simply do not happen over the course of an entire season, and in fact they’ve continued to happen this season a whole heck of a lot longer than they usually do. The Blue Jays are hitting .221 with runners in scoring position. The rest of the time, they’re hitting .265. That’s an amazing difference. The overall AL average is .258, and the league average with runners in scoring position is .265 – including those abysmal Jays numbers. It’s stupid, it’s almost unheard of and I am steadfast in my belief that it simply cannot continue.
J.P. Ricciardi joined me tonight for his regular Wednesday visit, and I was really happy that the commenter who suggested trading for Juan Pierre got through. We talked about offense, we talked about managers, we talked about trades, we talked about the farm system (yes, I asked him about Scott Campbell), we talked about all kinds of things, and you can hear it right here:
It’s pretty plain to hear that he’s just as frustrated by what’s going on as the rest of us are.
Comments are encouraged, as always – The 24/7 JaysTalk is a beautiful thing!