11:45 PM Eastern
The Blue Jays are so good that they don’t even need to score an earned run to get a win. OK, maybe I should say that the pitching is so good that they don’t need to score an earned run to get a win.
Shaun Marcum’s air of unbelieveability held strong for another night, even though he wasn’t feeling well. He simply smoked the White Sox, keeping them off-balance all night with a mixture of change-ups, curveballs, sliders and the occasional well-placed fastball. It was brilliant to watch, and just as good as the performances of Roy Halladay, Dustin McGowan and A.J. Burnett the three nights previous, though in a completely different way.
I have been reluctant to hop on the Marcum bandwagon. That is, the “Marcum – potential Cy Young winner” bandwagon, but every time he gets the ball, he shows me that he can be one of the best pitchers on a team that’s full of great pitchers. I think he’s great, but I have thought before that he’s a great middle-of-the-rotation guy, and easily the best 4th starter in all of baseball. Now, though, I’m starting to feel the gusts that will raise him higher, and if they do, it would be a wonderful thing for the Jays both now and and in the future, when A.J. Burnett walks after this season.
The rotation is on an incredible run right now. In this last trip through all five starters, they’ve combined to allow just three earned runs on 22 hits, walking ten (five of them A.J.’s) and striking out 29 in 37 1/3 innings. That’s a 0.72 ERA and 0.857 WHIP on a full trip through the rotation! Sadly, the team went 3-2, which points out just how awful the hitting has been.
It was awful again tonight, against a Mark Buehrle who came into the game with a .333 opponents’ batting average in five starts. Throw the Jays at him, and he pitches his first complete game of the year, a five-hitter with no walks, and doesn’t allow an earned run. It’s almost as though they’re completely overmatched at the plate.
Best Blue Jay ever to the rescue, though, as Scott Rolen – with his hustle, leadership and all-around greatiosity – forced Joe Crede to bounce a throw to first on his grounder that would have ended the first inning. Nick Swisher couldn’t handle the hop, Rolen beat it out, and lo and behold – the Blue Jays were opportunistic!
Vernon Wells followed by taking Buehrle’s next pitch down the right-field line (one of his few – maybe only – hits to right so far this season), but it bounced into the stands, temporarily saving the Sox a run. The much-maligned Shannon Stewart then bounced a single up the middle to cash a pair, the game’s only runs as it turned out. And hey, at that point, the Jays were 1-for-1 with runners in scoring position!
They would only get one other legitimate chance to score, but couldn’t come through. After Wells and Stewart both singled to lead off the 5th, with Shannon going to second on Brian Anderson’s throw that missed the cut-off man, the Jays had runners on second and third and nobody out. But Buehrle struck out Lyle Overbay and Gregg Zaun (two of the Jays’ best hitters this season, but worst against lefties), and then got Adam Lind to hit a hard grounder to first on which Swisher made a really nice diving stop.
Great work out of the bullpen tonight, with every move John Gibbons made on a B.J. Ryan-free night working out perfectly. When Marcum, who was sick (both literally and colloquially), hit the wall in the 7th, walking Carlos Quentin and Joe Crede back-to-back with two out, Gibby went to Jeremy Accardo for the two righties at the bottom of the order. Accardo walked Anderson, but rebounded to get Juan Uribe on a harmless fly ball to right to end the inning.
Jesse Carlson came out for the 8th, and was brilliant again, retiring the top three hitters in the order in order, with a large assist from a great defensive play. Orlando Cabrera hit a shot into the hole between short and third, and Rolen could only get a glove on it as he dove, but the ball rolled slowly towards shortstop, and John McDonald picked it up and fired to first for the out. Just a phenomenal defensive play. The Jays have the two best defenders in the game on the left side of the infield. When McDonald and Rolen play side-by-side, it’s not a huge stretch to say that no ground ball will get through. Would that we could see it more often.
In the 9th, with lefty-crusher Jermaine Dye leading off, Gibbons went to Shawn Camp to get him one out, and he got it, striking out the one-time World Series MVP. Snakeface was next, to finish it off against lefty A.J. Pierzynski and righty-who-can’t-hit-lefties Quentin, and that was that. No phantom balks, no do-overs, nothing but another win and a continuation of the perfect month of May, a month in which the Jays have yet to be scored upon.
How long this can continue is anyone’s guess, on both sides. The pitching can’t possibly keep this up but then again, neither can the hitting. The Jays were 1-for-4 with runners in scoring position tonight, making them 8 for their last 77. It’s long past ridiculous, already, and it has to change. One hopes it’ll change in a hurry, because I don’t see the whole rotation going through another turn with an ERA under 1.00.
Day game after a night game coming up! Remember to tune in at 12:30 Eastern for the full pre-game show Jesse Litsch against John Danks. With the Jays seeing a second lefty in a row, combined with the day-after-night thing, I expect to see Barajas behind the plate and Marco Scutaro at third. Unless Scutaro plays first and Johnny Mac plays third to give Rolen the day off, which Gibbons said would be coming soon. When it happens it should be against a lefty. Rolen doesn’t hit lefties as well as he hits righties, and both McDonald and Scutaro destroy lefties, relative to the way they hit righties.
Comments are always encouraged, the JaysTalk continues 24/7!