Archive for May, 2008
Saturday, May 10th, 2008
4:00 PM Eastern
UPDATED – 4:05 PM Eastern
I said last night that when Vernon Wells rolled over on his left wrist making that nice diving catch on Franklin Gutierrez I was certain that he had broken it, but the Jays released a statement during the game saying that the wrist was only “jammed”.
Well, it turns out that after some further tests today, the wrist is indeed broken, and Wells could be out until the all-star break.
Jeremy Accardo isn’t doing all that well himself, and he’s joining Wells on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right forearm. Joe Inglett and Armando Benitez have been called up from AAA Syracuse to replace Wells and Accardo on the active roster.
Without Vernon for six to eight weeks, Alex Rios becomes the everyday centrefielder and I’m thinking that Brad Wilkerson will take over every day in right, though he has played centre well in the past.
It’s horrible timing, as major injuries always are, but Wells was one of a very few Blue Jays who was actually hitting well, going at a .413/.452/.655 over the last eight games. Of course, the team only scored 26 runs over those eight games, but Wells scored five of them and drove six in.
I’m also thinking that Wilkerson might go into the leadoff spot, with Rios moving down to third and Rolen to fourth in Wells’ absence., but we’ll have to see how the line-up looks. Today, facing a lefty, it might be Kevin Mench in the clean-up spot and maybe even Marco Scutaro up top.
This is going to be a big test for the Jays, to see if they can get hitting on several cylinders without Wells. They still have enough offense to score runs, I think, but the fact that they need to start hitting as a group doesn’t change with the loss of Wells. They weren’t scoring any runs with him as a result of their overall failures. These guys need to start hitting, and they needed to start doing it a long time ago. Losing Wells doesn’t make it that much harder to score four runs a game to support this phenomenal pitching staff.
Another sad part is that he was actually hitting well with runners in scoring position – at .279/.373/.372. Take away his contributions and the team batting average with RISP is a staggering .200 – 60 for 300.
And by the way, Tracy Thorpe was designated for assignment in order to make room for Benitez on the roster. The 27 year-old is getting his first taste of AAA and struggling with his control, with nine walks in 13 2/3 innings, but has allowed only 11 hits (including just one HR) and has struck out 18.
Benitez pitched a perfect inning last night for Syracuse, his first action since yanking a hamstring covering first base for Dunedin in the second week of April. He retired three former big-leaguers in a row – Dan Johnson on a comebacker, Joel Guzman on a fly ball and Chris Richard on a pop-up.
Remember, tune in to the pre-pre-game show at 6:00 pm Eastern tonight on The Fan 590 and this very website!
Friday, May 9th, 2008
11:45 PM Eastern
Sometimes you have to tip your cap to the opposing pitcher and say, hey, it wasn’t that we sucked, it was that he was great. With C.C. Sabathia on the mound, more often than not it’s a “tip your cap” game, but with the offensiveness that the Blue Jays are currently presenting, it’s impossible to know. Do you tip your cap to pretty much every pitcher in the American League? They can’t all be that good. I think right now, we should be tip free, and instead of tipping the cap to the opposition, go grab your dog and have him or her raise a leg to the Blue Jays’ hitters.
With runners in scoring position, the Blue Jays currently have a worse batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage than had the 2003 Detroit Tigers. That would be the 43-119 Detroit Tigers. The only reason the Jays are sticking around the .500 mark is because the pitching has been almost as ridiculous as the hitting has been, just in the other direction. If the Jays were just kind of OK with RISP, instead of overwhelmingly craptastic, they’d be about two games back in the East right now, if not better. It has been amazing to watch.
Tonight, Roy Halladay gave it everything he had, but he was probably left in a batter too long. Just one, and it was more than likely academic anyway. Halladay appeared to be getting close to running on fumes in the 6th inning, having thrown 101 pitches when that inning ended, which is remarkably inefficient for him and speaks to how hard he had to work to get those first 18 outs. A lot of that was because, as usual, the Jays’ bats left him with zero margin for error. Given how much he’s pitched lately, the warning signs were there, but heading out to face the bottom of the line-up in the 7th, you couldn’t have reasonably expected him to blow up. Halladay gave up a pair of little looping flare singles that dropped in in front of Alex Rios and Shannon Stewart, respectively. No big deal, but then the HUGE red flag.
Up came Asdrubal Cabrera, with specific instructions to get himself out, and Halladay wouldn’t let him do it. With Cabrera looking to bunt the runners over, Halladay couldn’t throw a strike, and walked him on four pitches. That should have been it. Now, bringing in a reliever with the bases loaded and nobody out in a one-run game and asking him to get you out of it still holding that lead is almost impossible to ask, but that was clearly it for Halladay. Chances are the Jays lose it there anyway, but Casey Blake took Doc off the wall to make it a moot point. That’s moot, by the way, not mute.
To those of you who say Vernon Wells doesn’t dive, so there – now he probably misses at least a few days. He made a spectacular charging/diving/rolling catch on Franklin Gutierrez’ shallow fly in the 6th, and as he rolled over on his left wrist I was sure he broke it and would be gone until about the all-star break. Instead, the Jays are saying the wrist is just jammed (still wouldn’t surprise me if there was a hairline they discover on a future x-ray, though), and his right hamstring also tightened up, forcing him the game and, I’m thinking, at least the rest of the series.
There were a lot of questions about Wells’ defense earlier in the season, and I even went so far to say that he may have lost a half-step, which is a pretty big deal for a 29 year-old, but the last couple of weeks, he’s been his old self out there, and he’d started to hit a bit, too – and to right and right-centre! I’d say it’s a big loss, but when you’re only scoring a run and a half a game, really, it may not even matter.
Rios took over in centre, and will be the guy there until Wells gets back, and we’ll see Brad Wilkerson in right every day, I’m assuming.
As I said this afternoon, I like the acquisitions of the Wilkersonian Institution and Kevin (A Gantze) Mench; Mench more because he’s more a legit lefty-crusher. But anytime you can get guys who have had success in the recent past for basically nothing, you do it. Neither may work out, but it didn’t cost you anything to try, and they certainly couldn’t possibly make the offense any worse while they’re here.
Comments are encouraged, as always, it’s how we keep The JaysTalk going 24/7!!!!
Friday, May 9th, 2008
3:45 PM Eastern
I told you last night that the Blue Jays would most likely sign Brad Wilkerson, who had been released last week by the Mariners, and they did. But they weren’t done, also sending some cash to Texas in exchange for massively-meloned Kevin Mench. See, now that’s more like it.
While Wilkerson has been a very good hitter in the past and a not-so-good one lately, Mench can be otherwise known as “Crushy McCrushstein”when there’s a lefty on the mound. Mench is a career .303/.361/.563 against portsiders, and will fit in beautifully as Matt Stairs’ platoon partner at DH.
Wilkerson’s purpose, I think, is to give Lyle Overbay the occasional breather against lefties and Shannon Stewart the occasional breather against righties.
It’ll be difficult for the Jays to keep both Mench and Wilkerson long-term, though, because when David Eckstein and John McDonald come back, someone will have to join Jorge Velandia in being moved off the active roster. Of course, that’s over two weeks away, and of course, they could always cut down to a six-man bullpen – especially since by then B.J. Ryan will likely be even healthier.
Joe Inglett heads back down to Syracuse to make room for Mench, Wilkerson fills the spot that was vacated last night when Eckstein went on the DL. I expect to see both new guys in the line-up tonight against C.C. Sabathia, along with Velandia.
The Jays’ 40-man roster was full, so they had to drop two guys. Designated for assignment were Gustavo Chacin and Sergio Santos, which means the Jays have 10 days to either trade, release or outright them.
Santos was a 1st round pick of the D-Backs, and came over to the Jays in the Hudson-Glaus deal. He’ll be 25 in July, hasn’t hit over .244 in a minor-league season since 2004 and has had an obp over .288 only once since then. This season, he’s been struggling along at .183/.224/.237.
Chacin has been trying to get back off of last year’s injury, and has been getting killed in A-ball this season. In six starts, he’s 0-4, 7.00, having allowed 53 baserunners in 27 innings, striking out only 12.
I’m thinking the Jays get them both through waivers.
Friday, May 9th, 2008
12:45 AM Eastern
How amazing is it that the Blue Jays can come back from 3-0 down in the bottom of the ninth to force extra innings, finish up a homestand 5-2 and still leave everyone with such a horrifying taste in their mouths?
Jesse Litsch had a great start, retiring the first 14 he faced on the way to seven innings of five-hit, three-run ball – his third straight start without issuing a walk. In the bottom of the 9th, the Jays touched up Troy Percival, a guy who had given up just three BASERUNNERS in 11 innings so far this season. Vernon Wells hit a mammoth two-run home run, Lyle Overbay hit his second double of the night and Aaron Hill scored Overbay’s pinch-runner with a solid single. The ballpark had woken up from a 2 1/2 hour slumber, and things looked they were going the Jays’ way. A 6-1 homestand, a series win against the Rays were all in the offing, especially when Alex Rios led off the 10th with a triple.
Rios flew around the bases on that hit, by the way. When he gets the motor going, he can pick ‘em up and put ‘em down with the best of them. It was beautiful to watch – but I figured that he’d probably wind up going another 90 feet at some point. Shannon Stewart struck out looking, the Greatest Blue Jay Ever was intentionally walked, Matt Stairs struck out swinging, Vernon Wells got the old unintentional intentional walk, and then Rod Barajas (in to play first because Overbay had been run for) struck out. Ugly with a capital ugh.
It was reminiscent of the 14-inning game with the Rangers back on April 16th, when the Jays rallied with three in the bottom of the 8th to tie it and Joe Inglett couldn’t get the suicide squeeze down in the bottom of the 10th that would have won it.
This time, there was no A.J. Burnett coming out of the ‘pen, it was Shawn Camp, who could have picked a much better time for his first normal human outing of the season. Camp had been fantasmic since being called up from Syracuse, allowing two hits and no walks while striking out 7 in 5 2/3 innings, but tonight the grounders found holes, the Jays couldn’t execute a rundown and Alex Rios airmailed a throw home on a fly ball. All before the two-out Slam by Dioner Navarro on a 3-2 pitch made it academic. Not that it probably wasn’t already. You can’t hang this one on Camp, not at all. At some point the overwhelming craptacularity of the hitters has to turn around. Honest, it will. It’s just getting harder and harder to believe as each day goes by.
There will be a new face on the squad tomorrow night in Cleveland. David Eckstein and John McDonald are both on the DL, but only one has been replaced. There will be a ton of stories Friday morning about who might be coming up or coming over, but my (figurative) money is on Brad Wilkerson.
Released by the Mariners last week after starting the season .232/.348/.304, Wilkerson has long been a guy that J.P. Ricciardi has liked. In fact, Ricciardi almost traded Rios for him once upon a time. He’s a left-handed bat, but when he’s doing well, he’s actually a better hitter against left-handed pitching. Problem is that he hasn’t done really well since ripping up his shoulder back when he was with the Expos in 2004. Of course, had he been doing really well since, he wouldn’t be available for free.
There has been discussion in the comments section about who this new bat would be, and I said that I’d prefer to take a shot with a guy like Jason Botts over Wilkerson, because Wilkerson hasn’t been good for so long, but Botts cleared waivers today, so the Jays obviously didn’t think the same thing. My guess is that Wilkerson is in there playing left tomorrow night in Cleveland, with Shannon Stewart DHing.
Yes, Stewart looked terrible tonight, but you can’t pin this thing on him. The Jays were 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position, and outside the 9th inning, were terrible. Matt Stairs said after the game that in that 10th inning situation with Rios at third and one out, he himself “sucked a**”, but I don’t think Stairs alone should bear the sins of the multitude. They all did, and they all have most of the season. It’s embarrassing already.
Still, a 5-2 homestand off a 2-7 road trip is pretty good stuff. But what a disgusting way to close it out.
Comments are encouraged, and since the Jays are hitting the road I’ll have a little more time in my day, so I’ll be able to get to them earlier on (hopefully) – let’s keep the JaysTalk going 24/7!
Thursday, May 8th, 2008
12:15 AM Eastern
For 8 2/3 innings, that was one of the single greatest pitching performances I have ever seen, maybe the best one I’ve ever seen live. I tend to use the word phenomenal a lot, but in this case, I don’t think even that word is strong enough. Marcum had the Rays eating out of his hands all night long, giving up just one hard-hit ball through the first 27 hitters he faced, and winding up one batter away from pitching a complete game one-hitter while facing only one hitter over the minimum.
It was phenomelievable, incredisome, I can’t even make up enough words to describe how good he was. And there was no New Kids music.
I’m loath to put too much on a small sample size, as most of you well know, so Marcum’s season so far, having pitched less than 50 innings, can’t have me set to get his Cooperstown plaque ready. BUT – since joining the rotation 51 weeks ago, throwing six no-hit innings against the then-Devil Rays, here are Marcum’s numbers over 32 starts:
15-6, 3.68 ERA, 1.149 WHIP. 190 2/3 IP, 160 h, 59 bb, 144 k
Them’s numbers is pretty good.
Marcum seems to have raised things to a whole ‘nother level with his performance this season, and I completely understand those of you who are ready for the coronation. I’d like to see him keep it up for an entire season, and I’m really looking forward to watching him try.
He does so many things so well, and John Gibbons was bang-on in the spring when he said that he will overpower hitters without being overpowering. Today, there were two ground balls right down each foul line for two of the four hits he allowed, as well as an infield chopper. The two hard-hit balls were Akinori Iwamura’s belt to centre that Vernon Wells hauled in with a great effort in the 7th, and the B.J. Upton double to right-centre that sent Marcum to the showers in the 9th. Two hard-hit balls indeed, but he faced 30 batters. It was, almost by definition, a “holy crap” performance.
The offense finally woke up, too, though it sure took its sweet time. Still, it was great to see four hits in a row, a big home run at the right time by Scott Rolen, a bunch of hard-hit ground balls getting through, and how about that Lyle Overbay? A double for a second straight game, along with a walk and a hard-hit fly ball to the warning track of the opposite field.
Great news about both David Eckstein and John McDonald before the game, too! The MRI on Eckstein’s hip flexor was clean, and he may be back by the weekend or the beginning of next week. McDonald came in feeling great this afternoon, and will take full batting practice tomorrow to test the ankle injury that I thought was going to put him out for about six weeks, at least. He thinks he might be in the line-up for the series finale!
It was a good session after the game with J.P. Ricciardi, as well, the first one where we were actually face-to-face. It didn’t get as heated as it did last week, but I guess that’s what happens when the team goes 6-1 between appearances. Among the things J.P. said were that he expects to complete his contract, which expires after the 2010 season (so no falling on his sword if the team doesn’t compete this year, though who could reasonably have expected that he would), and that he would be amenable to trading a prospect or prospects for a big bat if the deal was right later on in the season. I’m pretty sure you can hear the whole show somewhere on this very website, if you’re so inclined. If you’re not, you should be.
Comments are encouraged, but in an effort to decrease the now huge potential of me burning out from spending so much time here, I’m not going to repeat myself in the comments section. There are some questions that I have answered twice, some I have answered five times, some I feel like I have answered over 100 times.
I completely understand some of the repeat questions in the comments section, because the comments only go up two or three times a day, and often 30-70 at a time, but if there’s a repeat question in there, I’ll simply reply with “asked and answered” or something along those lines. That’s not me being rude, I’m just pointing out that you’ll find the answer somewhere else on the site, either higher up in that day’s comments or the day before or so on.
Lastly, I don’t get the seemingly unrestrained glee about the fact that Reed Johnson’s numbers have come back down to earth after his hot start. Sure, it’s beginning to show that those of us who think Johnson is a pretty average hitter are right, but come on. I don’t want to get all Griff on you, because I don’t believe you keep a player around because he’s a “good guy” if you can get someone who is a better player, but Reed’s a human being, and a really terrific guy, who is struggling pretty badly right now. It’s pretty unseemly to actually be happy about that.
Wednesday, May 7th, 2008
8:15 AM Eastern
So Monday night it was revealed that John McDonald would be the defensive substitute for David Eckstein late in games in which the Blue Jays held the lead, and Tuesday night, McDonald suffered an apparent high right ankle sprain, which will knock him out of action for a while.
The play on which McDonald was injured didn’t look all that bad, but his reaction did. Writhing in pain on the turf, a look of sheer agony on his face, but still remembering to flip the ball to second base after the initial shock of pain. It hurt to watch, you never want to see anyone rolling around on the ground in intense pain, but especially a guy like Johnny Mac. Without knowing much at all – there will be further tests today – I’m going to say that McDonald will probably be out about six weeks, which probably gets him back in the line-up no sooner than the middle of June. It’s a blow to the Jays, for sure, they lose a massive weapon they were only beginning to figure out how to use properly. It’s eerily reminiscent of late May 2006, when McDonald won increased playing time at shortstop and then (I think) pulled a groin muscle and had to go on the disabled list.
The Jays will have to survive without him, and it’ll likely be Jorge Velandia who comes up to back up David Eckstein once Eckstein is healthy. Velandia hasn’t had a great deal of success in the bigs – he’s a career .188/.275/.271 over parts of seven seasons with the Padres, A’s, Mets and Devil Rays. Last year, however, though in only 50 at-bats, he hit .320/.424/.520, and for Syracuse this season, he’s at .287/.385/.426 – not bad for a back-up.
Of course, he may be the starter for a few days, because Eckstein strained a hip flexor going out to try to grab Dioner Navarro’s little looper into short left field in the 3rd inning. I knew something was up with Eckstein when, on Scott Rolen’s sac fly in the bottom of that frame, he jogged home from third. That guy doesn’t even jog from his fridge to his couch. Hopefully, he’ll only miss a couple of days. I don’t think Marco Scutaro is an answer at shortstop for the time being.
It was nice to see Brian Tallet back, the nearly two weeks off didn’t seem to hurt him much, and how about that Lyle Overbay? 2-for-2 with a double off the top of the wall in dead centre, a sac fly to deep left, a walk and two RBIs. You guys are all right, he’s gotta go.
I leave you with this: I almost collapsed in hysterics last night when I heard A.J. Burnett’s new entrance music, specifically requested by the big righty. It was that # 1 smash from way back in 1989 – “Hangin’ Tough” by New Kids on the Block. It would seem to me that the New Kids, and their evil offspring , the Backstreet Boys, N’Sync, 98 degrees and heck, maybe even Hanson, stand in just about diametric opposition to pretty much everything a professional athlete wants to portray.
The New Kids? Seriously?
Comments are encouraged – and remember, it’s Wednesdays with J.P. tonight!
Tuesday, May 6th, 2008
1:15 AM Eastern
David Eckstein at the bottom of the line-up? John McDonald as a defensive replacement in the ninth inning? Was I managing the game tonight? Wait a minute, let me check……………no, Rios was leading off, not Overbay, so it wasn’t me.
I was very pleased to see that John Gibbons came to the right decision and moved Eckstein down to the 9-hole, where I have been suggesting that his bat belongs ever since the Blue Jays acquired him in December of last year. He simply doesn’t get on base enough to warrant being used in one of the top two spots in the order, recent slump or otherwise. Now that he’s hitting ninth, though, we can open the debate as to whether or not the Jays would be better suited starting McDonald and batting him ninth, but I continue to believe that this team needs as much offense as it can get, so I’m happy to have Eckstein in there for the first seven innings. I’m also thrilled by the fact that it appears Gibbons will now use McDonald on a regular basis for defense late in games which the Blue Jays lead.
It took them almost six weeks to come around, but they did. For those of you who feel this move reaffirms the fact that the Jays “have no plan”, the truth is that it’s OK to adjust what you’re doing in an effort to be better, and this move makes the team better.
Does moving Adam Lind to the bench and Shannon Stewart into left field every day make the Jays better, though? The jury is still out on this one. It seems that the Jays pulled the chute on Lind very early here, ending his run as the left fielder just six games in after a 1-for-19 start. The move has a dual purpose, though, I think. It was as much about Stewart as it was about Lind.
Shannon had been scuffling along this season, hitting just .227/.316/.273 going into the game, though he has been wiping the floor with left-handed pitchers. Gibbons said before the game that he felt that in order to get Stewart going, he had to starting using him more, and hitting him at the top of the line-up. The move paid immediate dividends, with Shannon going 3-for-4 with a pair of singles and a triple, and lo and behold he’s now hitting .257/.338/.329 for an OPS of .667 (which happens to be ten whole points lower than Reed Johnson’s – horrible decision they made).
If Stewart gets back to being Stewart, the .300/.360/.430 guy he’s always been, then it’s a good move. Remember, Lind was supposed to spend this entire year at Syracuse anyway, and come back next year to be the every day left fielder. This can still happen, though you have to wonder how much holding him down in Syracuse for a week after Frank Thomas was released had an effect on stalling his progress. He was red hot before the stiff neck/extra week potentially to save money in 2010. Lind won’t stick around here to sit on the bench. He’ll be sent back to Syracuse within the week, and the Jays will call up someone like Joe Inglett or Buck Coats, or maybe pick up a guy like Jason Botts or deal for a lefty-masher to platoon with Stairs at DH. They are facing three lefties in four days in Cleveland next weekend.
Dustin McGowan? Unbelieveable. A great outing as the rotation continues to play “Can You Top This?” He was in trouble only once, in the third, when Juan Uribe led off with an infield chop single and Toby Hall followed with a ground-ball double right down the left-field line. Hall calls the Jays’ Shawn Camp “cupcakes”, by the way. Just thought you should know that. They were teammates in Tampa Bay.
With the top of the line-up up and runners at second and third and none out in a 0-0 game, McGowan got Orlando Cabrera to ground to short (with the Jays playing the infield back, Uribe should have scored. He thought about it, then turned back. Oops.) and Carlos Quentin to pop to shallow right, and then struck out Jim Thome. There wasn’t another real threat until the nervous ninth.
Poor Thome, by the way. He’s one of my all-time favourites, both as a person and as a player, and he went 2-for-15 in the series with two singles, a walk and eight strikeouts.
B.J. Ryan, released from the shackles of “no back-to-back appearances” came in to work the ninth and was scary as all get out. Scaring the Jays and their fans, that is. After a lead-off groundout, he walked Paul Konerko, Jermaine Dye and Nick Swisher to load the bases. Brad Arnsberg came out to settle him down, or ease the tension, or tell a dirty joke, whatever, it worked. He probably said something like, “Beej (they’re on familiar enough terms that Arnie doesn’t have to call him THE Beej), it’d probably be a good idea to get this guy to hit a one-bounce comebacker to the mound. After all, he’s only Pablo Freakin’ Ozuna.” Ryan did just that, and as easy as a 1-2-3 double play, the shutout was preserved, the game was over, and the Jays had a four-game sweep and a five-game win streak.
Did I mention that Matt Stairs homered? He’s a really good hitter, by the way.
Some notes of concern – over the five-game win streak, the Jays have scored just 15 runs and are 8-for-42 (.190) with runners in scoring position. Baby steps, though. It’s better than .079.
In his shaky inning of work, Ryan threw 28 pitches and only 12 of them were strikes.
Vernon Wells and Aaron Hill could only muster a double each – they’re killing this team.
John McDonald didn’t make a single play on defense in the ninth.
We end on a good note – the starting pitching ridiculosity. With McGowan’s outing today, here is what the Jays’ starters have done over the last nine games:
6-2, 1.09 ERA, 0.72 WHIP.
66 1/3 innings pitched (an average of 7.37 IP/start), 35 hits allowed, 13 walks, 41 strikeouts – EIGHT earned runs.
That’s “Holy Crap” level performance, and through almost two full turns in the rotation! A.J. Burnett gets to finish off the second turn when the Rays come to town.
Comments are encouraged, though none of April’s Chicken Littles have been around for a while. Let’s keep The JaysTalk going 24/7!
Sunday, May 4th, 2008
11:45 PM Eastern
I just finished doing a roundtable discussion with the boys from Drunk Jays Fans on their new podcast, and had a great time. I apologize for not doing this sooner, but I need to give a lot of credit to so many terrific amateur Blue Jays blogs out there. And please don’t take that the wrong way – by amateur I mean you guys do it for free, out of the love for the game, no negative connotations. Chances are you bloggists drive a heck of a lot of traffic to this site, and for that I’m quite grateful. I’m also not worthy of much of the praise that you bestow, I’m just an arrogant know-it-all who’s mean to right-thinking folk on the radio.
I feel badly about listing the blogs I enjoy, because I don’t want to leave anyone out, but aside from my fellow (though they would likely quarrel with me including myself in their company) journalists’ work, I enjoy the Drunks, the Tao of Stieb, the Southpaw, Hum and Chuck and others. Like I said, I don’t want to forget anyone, but those are usually at the top of my list. Good, fun reads all, insightful and definitely not contributing to the downfall of our society – at least, not in a bad way.
Onto the baseball, and hidden in the one-run win over the White Sox was a jaw-dropping performance from Roy Halladay. We know to expect brilliance whensoever he taketh the mound, but this one was special. When you look at his line, you see 7 1/3 innings, 3 runs (1 earned) on three hits, no walks, a hit batsman and seven strikeouts. That’s an extraordinary day on the mound, but how about this? Throw out the fourth inning.
Do that, and all of a sudden the line becomes 6 1/3 innings, six strikeouts and nothing else. Outside the fourth, Halladay was perfect.
Now, I know you can’t cherry-pick like that; what to leave in, what to leave out (you’d be running against the wind), but it’s noteworthy that inside that performance was such sheer domination.
More brilliance from Jesse Carlson, striking out Nick Swisher and Jim Thome around a bad-hop double off Scott Rolen’s left wrist, and a 1-2-3 ninth shared by Jeremy Accardo and Snakeface. I wouldn’t have had a problem with sending Carlson back out for the 9th, the way he’s been going you kind of want to ride the wave as long as you can, but having the righty come out for Paul Konerko and Jermaine Dye was the right call.
The offense looked extremely sharp for the first three innings, with Matt Stairs doubling twice – once to score a pair with two out – Rios pounding a two-bagger into the gap in right-centre, Hill smacking a double of his own down the left-field line and Wells and Zaun pitching in with sharp base hits – Vernon’s with two out to drive in a run.
And how about the picture-perfect first run of the ballgame for the home side? Stairs leads off the second with a double, Wells gets him to third with a grounder to the right side, and the struggling (give me a break!) Lyle Overbay follows with a sac fly to deep left. I’m assuming, from a lot of the comments I get, that several Jays fans may have collapsed in sheer rapture at that point. It was nicely done, though.
After that third, the offense completely dried up. While Halladay was perfect for 6 1/3 around that rough 4th inning, Jose Contreras took it home by retiring the last 16 Blue Jays he faced. Not a sniff after the third. They had four by then, though, their highest run total after three innings since way back on April 15th, when they led 5-1 after three on the way to an 11-3 win in Baltimore.
So, how’s the pitching doing? The last time a Jays’ starter gave up more than two earned runs was April 25th, when A.J. Burnett surrendered three earnies in the “Rolen debut/Eckstein drops the throw from Downs” game. The night before that was the last time a Jays’ starter failed to record a quality start. Those two games, by the way, were also the nights of the last recorded sightings of Jason Frasor and Brian Tallet, respectively.
The game could have turned on two plays. First, the incredible (and I don’t mean that in a good way) decision by Alex Rios to take a hard step towards third base on a David Eckstein grounder to short that was about a step to his right. He quickly decided to reverse his field, and rammed into Sox’ shortstop Orlando Cabrera on his way back to second. Cabrera threw to first to retire Eckstein, and then argued about whether he had tagged Rios.
I have to agree with second-base ump Dale Scott, and I had a better view than he did because he was behind the play. To the naked eye, it looked like the two of them bumped, hard, but that Cabrera’s glove was nowhere near Rios during the bumpage. Replays showed that the glove did brush against Rios’ knee, meaning Alex should have been out, but the way they came together, I’d be stunned if Cabrera even felt that happen. He should have tagged him, with a clear, deliberate motion, and then thrown to first, and he certainly had enough time to do that. Thus reprieved, the Jays went on to score three runs in the inning, helped by a very heady dive back into third by Zaun on Rolen’s liner to Joe Crede.
The other play that could have turned things around was the game’s lone error. After Halladay’s perfecto was ended by a Nick Swisher gapper to right-centre for a ground-rule double, Cabrera hit a bouncer to short that Eckstein charged in for, made a really nice play to grab on a short-hop, then threw away. The throw sailed, and pulled Overbay off first base towards the plate, and he couldn’t tag Cabrera as he ran by. A couple of singles followed, and the White Sox wound up with three, only one of them earned. I know Eckstein doesn’t have a great arm, but he rushed there when he didn’t have to. He should have tried to stop and set and make a good throw, and still would have gotten Cabrera. It’s not fair to point to every mistake Eck makes and say that John McDonald would have made that play, by the way. He probably would have, but it’s still not fair.
Two other things to mention before I go:
1 – Adam Lind made things fun going after Joe Crede’s fly ball to the track with two out in the 7th. He got completely turned around but recovered to make the catch. Lind has become a solid left fielder, so that was unusual to see. I really hope that he’s not taking his at-bats out with him to the field, and I doubt he is. Chances are it was just a momentary lapse.
B – I’m continuing to keep an eye on how Marty Pevey has been looking coaching third, and there have been a few occasions where he hasn’t looked good at all. One of them was in the third inning today, when Rios doubled with Zaun at first. Zaun came around second, picked up Marty, and got to third, and Pevey still hadn’t made a signal yet to direct Zaun whether to stop or keep coming. He finally threw up a stop sign with Zaun about 3-5 feet past third, and Zaun slammed on the brakes. So did Rios, who was a third of the way to third base, and he managed to scramble back to second safely because both middle infielders were in short centre. Had Konerko been following Rios to second, he’d have been meatcake.
Now, Pevey may have a system set up with his baserunners where they know that they should keep coming until they see a sign one way or the other, but I haven’t seen too many third-base coaches do that. It seemed to me that he just hadn’t made up his mind yet. I talked to someone who saw Pevey do a lot of coaching third with Syracuse, and he described Marty as an awful third-base coach, so we might be in for some adventures down there. Hopefully not, though.
Comments are encouraged, as always – let’s keep the JaysTalk going 24/7, but can we drop the “Reed Johnson and/or Frank Thomas should still be here” and “Lyle Overbay sucks” stuff please? It’s getting ridiculous.
Saturday, May 3rd, 2008
10:45 PM Eastern
Not much of a post here on a Saturday night, but I did want to make note of a few things. The Blue Jays continue to make baby steps towards an offensive recovery, counting 12 hits in today’s win and going 3-for-13 with runners in scoring position. While that last number seems unimpressive, it’s a .231 batting average, up substantially from the .092 run they were on in their last 87 shots coming into the game.
They scored in the first inning again, a big two-out single by Vernon Wells cashing the run, and didn’t need an error for help this time. At least, not at that point they didn’t. Wells wound up with three hits on the day, he’s 5-for-his-last-8 and heating up. Two of his hits today were to the right side of second base, and if he’s going to start using the whole field, that can only be a good thing.
Even though there were a couple of occasions where they had the chance to do some serious damage, especially the man on third, none out situation in the 8th with the 2-3-4 hitters up, and failed miserably, they still managed to put up five runs. Yes, three of them were unearned, but the last two of those three scored on a two-out hit after the error, which is something the Jays haven’t been getting at all for a couple of weeks.
Jesse Litsch was spectacular, continuing the now seven straight start run for the rotation in which no starter has given up more than two earned runs. The only time that the starter failed to take the game to the eighth inning was Friday night when the puketastic Shaun Marcum went 6 2/3 on fumes (and not the good kind) in slamming the door shut on Chicago. Who would have thought that Litsch would be leading the team in wins on May 3rd?
B.J. Ryan picked up the save using the same balk move that he used in Boston, but with no call this time. As much as David Eckstein let him down simply by not being John McDonald on the Paul Konerko single up the middle with one out, Alex Rios picked Ryan up with a tremendous running catch in the gap on a Jermaine Dye rocket that I thought was a definite RBI double off the bat. Ryan topped out at 88 today after pitching two days ago, so that should serve as a gentle warning to those who are ready to have him out there on back-to-back days.
Scott Rolen, the best Blue Jay ever, spent the afternoon as a spectator, watching as an active player for the first time since joining the club. Stunningly, they won anyway, and scored five runs in the bargain. Just goes to show you that even with a struggling offense, you can sit a regular contributor and win a game.
Comments are always welcome, how else do you get a 24/7 JaysTalk?
Friday, May 2nd, 2008
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.
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