1:35 AM Eastern
I swear, I half expected that when I walked out onto the field at the Dome after the pre-game media conference with Cito Gaston, the old AstroTurf would be back. It was a surreal experience, a home game with Gaston at the helm. I hadn’t covered one of those since I was back up the dial at the big 6-8, and I was way more of a blend-into-the-background type then, as someone who would only cover a game or two per homestand.
Cito talked about his hitting philosophy before the game, saying that he wants his guys to go up with a plan in mind, looking for a specific pitch, or a pitch in a specific zone. He said that if you go up looking fastball and you get a curve, then start to think “hmmm, I might see another curveball here” then look for that and get a fastball, well, you’re sorta screwed. At the very least, if you’d stuck to the plan, fastball or curveball, you would have gotten your pitch once.
For those of you who talked about Cito being a more active guy during the game than John Gibbons (which I dismissed as revisionist history, because it is), he said that if anything, he’s MORE relaxed and laid-back now than he was the first time around.
He also said that shortstop is the one position that’s the most up in the air. He hasn’t yet decided between David Eckstein, John McDonald and Marco Scutaro. All indications to this point are that he favours Scoot, who didn’t disappoint tonight with a four-hit game (three hits in the first two innings!) and started a terrific double play to end the second inning. Scutaro has led off each of Gaston’s four games – two against starting lefties, two against righties – and has hit .353/.450/.353 (though before tonight, it was .182/.308/.182, how’s that for sample sizes?). If Scutaro is the shortstop, and he’s not yet but I can’t imagine the line-up will change after tonight, then the Jays really have no use at all for David Eckstein. I mean, he’d be a fine back-up, but what they could get for him on the trade market would be worth more than what he would be worth to them. If that’s the call Cito is going to make, then it would be incumbent upon J.P. Ricciardi to start offering Eck around to see what he can get back. And Cito made no bones about the fact that he’s in complete control of the on-field personnel.
Eckstein was in a good mood today, despite not being in the line-up. He even asked me how the old-man softball game went while the Jays were away.
Once the game started, the Jays got to pounding, sending 11 men to the plate in a six-run first and 10 more to bat in a five-run second. Five of the first-inning runs scored with two out, on homers by Scott Rolen and Gregg Zaun, and Alex Rios crushed a homer to left-centre to lead off the second – his first big fly since May 1st.
Rolen’s shot was on the first pitch after Stairs’ sac line-drive opened the scoring.
The last time the Jays batted around in the first two innings of a game? As we noted on the broadcast, it was May 26, 1997, when the Jays sent nine men to the plate in each of the first two and scored four runs twice en route to an 8-1 win over Texas at SkyDome. Cito was the manager that day, too. That would be the horrible offensive Jays team that scored only 654 runs that season and hit just .244/.310/.389. Only two Jays hit more than 16 home runs that year. So it’s not great company in which to be lumped.
Still, the offense is definitely showing signs, but let’s not everybody jump on the “Cito has fixed things” bandwagon just yet. The Jays have scored 22 runs in the last two games, but those games were started by a couple of guys having awful seasons. Of course, as I have said before, they spent a lot of time earlier on this year making some very bad pitchers look pretty damn good.
How amazing is this – after the second inning, the Jays had matched their season high for total bases in a game. That, if nothing else, should explain just how far below its level the offense has been.
As for the Adam Dunn thing, he seemed to have a cheering section of sorts somewhere down the third-base side, but it wasn’t particularly big. There was a much bigger ovation for Ken Griffey, Jr. when he followed Dunn into the batters’ box in the first. Dunn went 1-for-3 with a walk and a double and played a sub-par left field. Fine by me, I’d still take him in a heartbeat.
Interestingly enough, the 1989 Jays were also 37-41 after 78 games, and they wound up with 89 wins and a division title. That won’t be enough to win the East this year, but it should be enough for the wild card. I’m not saying, I’m just saying.
Here’s tonight’s extendo edition of The JaysTalk for your listening pleasure:
Comments are encouraged, as always, there would be no 24/7 JaysTalk without you!