11:50 PM Eastern – SOFTBALL UPDATE!
We won again, 17-11, and your intrepid reporter extended the streak to eight consecutive at-bats with a hit, thanks to a pair of singles and a double. The streak ended with a double-play grounder with runners at first and second, but the shortstop went to third, for some reason, sparing me the embarrassment. I walked in my final PA to end the days 3-for-4 with the base on balls.
Speaking of embarrassment, I can’t not bring this up. You know when you get to be a grownup and you play sports in your spare time, hanging on to the innocent pleasures of your youth, spending time with your buddies, there’s always that one guy who thinks he’d be in the pros if his high school coach didn’t hate him or if he didn’t hurt his elbow in some freak animal husbandry accident, so he plays with a huge chip on his shoulder, as though there are scouts in the stands? We played against one of those tonight. I’m not going to mention his name (Jason Manso), but he was on first with one out and their guy hit a slowish roller to second. The throw came to me, no chance for the double play, so I came off the bag on the second-base side, towards right field. He veers off and spikes me in the ankle – the LEFT ankle, which is even farther from the bag. I mean honestly, a bunch of guys in their 30s and 40s and the dude does the old-guy equivalent of trying to Ray Fosse me. What kind of piece of Samsonite does it take to actually try to hurt someone in an old-guy softball game? The good news for him, though, was that his hard-nosed style of play really impressed the scouts in the stands, and he was immediately signed to a pro contract. So all’s well that ends well, I guess.
8:20 PM Eastern
At 4:00 this afternoon, I was fully prepared pull out some Huey Lewis & The News and title this post “If This Is It.” Because after the seventh inning, heck, even after the eighth of this series finale in Milwaukee, I was convinced that today’s game would be John Gibbons’ last as Blue Jays manager.
After a no-show in the series opener on Tuesday, and a not-good-enough performance in losing the second game, the Jays were about to be no-hit by David Freaking Bush. That would be the very same ex-Jay David Bush who, going into this game, had allowed 97 baserunners in 70 2/3 innings, including 15 home runs, while striking out only 40, posting an ERA over 5.00 and going 2-7 (see that? Appropriate context for use of W-L!).
Bush was brilliant, though who knows if it was more him or more the Jays? He retired the first 18 hitters he faced before walking Gregg Zaun, and carried the no-no into the 8th, when Lyle Overbay led off with what should have been a line single to left. Given the circumstance (and the 8-0 lead), the Hebrew Hammer laid out for the liner, and it got past him for a leadoff triple, sparing the Blue Jays the enormous humiliation that goes with being no-hit by a pitcher who can best be described as pedestrian.
Not that Bush hadn’t been in that situation before. In his third career start, he carried a no-hitter into the 8th for the Jays against Oakland, and Damian Miller broke it up with one out. Miller would single again, in the 14th, to drive in the winning run in a 1-0 A’s victory.
So we’d seen Bush do this before, but it very obviously felt different this time. One, because he was doing it TO the Jays, rather than FOR them; and B, because The Sword of Damocles is hanging by a thread over the head of the Jays’ manager as they fall deeper and deeper into the chasm that had heretofore been almost exclusively the domain of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
Overbay’s triple, and the subsequent RBI single by Alex Rios, got the Jays on the board, but did nothing for Gibby. The 9th inning might have.
I figured going into this game that, as incredibly unfair as it would be, Gibby was all but done. The first seven innings, if anything, made that assessment even firmer in my mind. Not because of A.J. Burnett getting lit up again, though he was just awful. Frankly, I was surprised he didn’t get thrown out in the 3rd after showing up home plate ump Rob Drake while they debated the off-the-plateness of a 2-0 pitch he threw to Corey Hart that was called a ball. And not because of Rios not knowing the ground rules and standing in the right-field corner with his hands up, looking at the baseball that was stuck between the padding of the wall and the ground as Prince Fielder circled the bases.
It was, of course, the offense. How many ways are there to say it? For the FIFTH straight game, the Jays didn’t get a hit in the first three innings. It should be noted that the first trip through is the only time you get the hitters lined up the way you want them, start to finishish. This time they got nothing until the 8th. And as so many people have said over the last little while, there was no indication that they’d be able to do anything at all.
Then a miracle happened. Almost.
It was as though, down 8-1 with a runner on first and two out in the top of the 9th, the hitters suddenly awoke to the idea that their collective incompetence was about to cost a man they admire and respect his livelihood. And with two out and a runner on, down by seven, they flipped the switch to the extent that we have rarely, if ever, seen them flip it this season.
Overbay homered to dead centre, and Rios followed with a ground single to right. After a pair of walks, Mighty Joe Inglett (who has never met a 95 mph fastball he couldn’t crush) confused the smell of bratwurst for salami, and ripped one into the seats with the bases juiced. Rod Barajas followed with an infield single. Rod Barajas followed with an infield single. I’m sorry, I had to type that in twice because I don’t think I’ll ever get the chance again. It seemed as though the fates were conspiring, and that the Jays were on the way to one of the most improbable comebacks in history. But Matt Stairs, who started the inning with a single, struck out to end it.
Did a six-run 9th inning save John Gibbons’ job? I don’t know. J.P. Ricciardi had always planned to meet the team in Pittsburgh on Friday. Maybe he’ll deliver the news in the morning and Brian Butterfield or Marty Pevey will have the reins for the weekend series and the immediate future. But I hope not. I hope the Jays woke up to what they’re actually able to do, and that the new rock bottom, reached after Vernon Wells popped up to end the 7th, will lead to a new revival that reflects what happened in May, post-Cleveland, and that this time they’ll be able to sustain it.
I know they’ve got it in them.
No The JaysTalk today – we weren’t going to be able to have phones once 5:00 pm Eastern hit, and who’s kidding who, you’d rather listen to McCown than to me going through the scoreboard for half an hour. I understand, I can deal with it.
I’m sorry as well that I wasn’t able to get to the comments today. The internet was down at the Rogers Campus for a large part of the afternoon, and at the home office as well after I got back. As I write this, there are 163 comments waiting to be moderated, and I’ll get to most of them tonight when I get home from softball – earlier if we get rained out. There will be a softball update as well, for you die-hards.
Comments, as always, are encouraged.