11:15 PM Eastern
Before the game, who in his or her right mind wouldn’t have thought that the Blue Jays would have trouble scoring more than one or two runs tonight? Edinson Volquez rode in to town leading the majors in ERA, strikeouts and opponents’ batting average, with a WHIP of 1.17, and Lord knows the Jays have had a hard time putting together any offense against even mediocre pitchers. Not tonight, though.
It was an ominous beginning for Volquez – he walked Matt Stairs to lead off the second, and Scott Rolen followed by going deep, a laser beam into the 100 level in left field. It was the first homer that Volquez had given up to a right-handed hitter this season in 17 appearances (16 starts). The game would feature some other firsts (of the season) for the young righty: First time he failed to make it out of the 5th inning, first time he’d given up more than three runs (he gave up seven, five earned) and first time he didn’t strike anybody out. This was a terrific building-block game for the Blue Jays’ offense. Their fourth in a row, kind of.
The Jays scored three runs in the 3rd inning, with only one hit! They caught a break when Jerry Hairston, Jr. didn’t touch second thanks to Volquez’ high throw on a potential double-play ball by Rios, and second base ump Joe West actually noticed (good on him – most umps wouldn’t), but they took advantage of a couple of walks, a hit batsman, and a CLUTCH TWO-OUT SINGLE BY LYLE OVERBAY (sorry, I had to) to turn a 2-0 lead into a 5-0 lead. Overbay, it should be noted, has now come through with a big hit twice in the last three opportunities he’s had to do so.
How many innings have we seen this year wherein the Jays get multiple hits and walks, and even a home run and only score a run? This was good. So was the 5th, when they sent Volquez to the showers with three doubles in four hitters. Vernon Wells had the second one, driving in Alex Rios for his second RBI of the night and career 614th. Wells passed Tony Fernandez for 5th on the Jays’ all-time list.
Jesse Litsch pitched the way Volquez was supposed to, facing one batter over the minimum through five and going eight strong innings, allowing just three hits, walking only one and setting a career high with six strikeouts. Given the fact that the Reds’ line-up was loaded with good left-handed hitters like Ken Griffey, Jr., Adam Dunn, Joey Votto and Jay Bruce, and other left-handed hitters like Jerry Hairston, Jr., Corey Patterson and Paul Bako, this was certainly unexpected. Coming into the game, lefties were hitting .302 against that smooth son of a Litsch. Tonight? .143.
I feel bad for Votto, especially. He comes home for the first time in his big-league career, probably won’t be back for six years, and goes home pretty much empty-handed. He’s going to be a great hitter, and will serve our country well in future World Baseball Festivals, but in this series he was held to just one double in 11 at-bats, with two walks.
After the game, it was Wednesdays with J.P.; The Thursday Edition, and after we began the show by saying that what’s Dunn is Dunn, we got down to some baseball talk. Here it is, for your listening pleasure:
Among some of the highlights, J.P. said that he has complete autonomy over all baseball decisions, and that after getting to know Cito realized that he was the guy to take over the club, better than other big names like Buck Showalter and Bobby Valentine, because Gaston was familiar with the players. Ricciardi likened Cito to the late Bobby Mattick, who he thought of as kind of a wizened sage in the time they got to spend together.
J.P. agreed with the opinion that I’ve put out here several times that a coach can’t have the kind of effect on a hitter that many seem to think Gary Denbo did here. Granted, he has a bias, since he hired Denbo, but he also hired all these hitters (yes, Wells and Rios beat him here, but they’re now operating under contracts to which he signed them). But like he said, these guys are all adults, they’re not high-schoolers who will jump when they’re told to.
Aaron Hill is going to Florida on Monday to begin light workouts if he stays OK through the weekend. That would put him a couple of days ahead of the two weeks of nothing prescribed by the University of Pittsburgh docs last week. J.P. said the fog is starting to clear, and he was bang-on when he talked about Hill being glassy-eyed and not looking right last week. It was painfully, and sadly, obvious. Hopefully he looks better now. He’s in town, but hasn’t been around the ballpark.
Lastly, Ricciardi didn’t sound sold on Joe Inglett, though he knows he can’t ever send him to the minors again. He said that Inglett, and players of his ilk, “will never get the benefit of the doubt” since he’s been long since labeled a back-up, or even a AAA lifer. Gaston loves what he’s seen out of him so far, though, and how could he not?
I’m seriously looking forward to seeing Cito and the gang in the baby blues tomorrow night. With Bobby Cox in town, as well. I hope someone remembers to fly the U.S. flag upside down!
Comments are encouraged, as always. I caught up today – thanks for your patience!