1:50 AM Eastern
Sorry for the late post, but I had to rush home after The Wednesdays with J.P. to get a Fat Elvis game in (complete game for Roy Halladay, 3-1 win to push the ol’ ballclub to 30-11) and then cook up some lunch for the girlies for tomorrow before sitting down to do this.
I had thought that Shaun Marcum had been improving start-to-start since coming off the disabled list, but tonight he sent the improvement curve into the stratosphere. He looked just like the old Marcum we knew and loved, taking a no-hitter into the 6th, making hitters look silly with his change-up, throwing the fastball right where he wanted it. It was great to see – hopefully he’s got his stuff together for the rest of the season. If Marcum can join Halladay and Burnett to form a big three the rest of the way, the Jays will be a handful for whomsoever they face. Remember, when Marcum got hurt (the day before Gibby’s last game), Burnett hadn’t yet taken off. He went out the next day and got hammered, and since then has the 3.28 ERA and 1.26 WHIP and more than a strikeout an inning and opponents’ OPS of .700. So the Jays have never had three starters clicking on all cylinders at any point this season. It seems as though they finally may.
Stunningly, the Jays didn’t roll over against a lefty making his major-league debut, although the game was eerily reminiscent of the last time the same scenario happened against Oakland. This time, Gio Gonzalez (who had been involved in trades for Jim Thome, Freddy Garcia and Nick Swisher) retired the first two hitters before giving up a ringing double to Alex Rios down the left-field line. After walking Lyle Overbay, Rod Barajas took Gonzalez to the proverbial Powder River, destroying a 90 mph heater into the 200-level in left. Adam Lind followed with a single, and then Gonzalez didn’t give up another hit until the 7th inning.
The last time a lefty A’s starter made his major-league debut in Toronto was back on April 9th, when Greg Smith gave up a three-spot in the first, then allowed just one more hit until leaving going into the 7th. That night, though, the Jays didn’t add on, and the A’s torched the bullpen for four runs in the 9th and won 6-3. Tonight, there were a couple of add-on runs, and the bullpen threw two hitless innings behind Marcum.
John McDonald flashed the leather again – what else is new? – with two terrific plays in the 7th. With the bases loaded and none out, Mark Ellis hit a grounder to Mac, who charged in for it as Carlos Gonzalez was passing in front of him on the way to third. Unfazed, Mac picked up the grounder and fired home on the run to nail Frank Thomas. Barajas, not having to worry about making a tag, put the squeeze on the short-hop for the inning’s first out. Next up was Jack Hannahan, who grounded to second. Marco Scutaro wasn’t exactly quick flipping to McDonald, who took the throw with Ellis about to crush him, but Johnny Mac sailed over the runner and made a strong throw to first to complete the DP and end the inning.
Before the game, Cito Gaston said that he’d love to have McDonald play shortstop every day, but the rest of the team has to be hitting well enough to support the bat. After the game, J.P. Ricciardi said that even though the Jays are now 14-8 when Mac starts, more offense is needed from that position than what John provides.
The one major revelation that came on Wednesdays with J.P. was that if Ricciardi is back in 2009, Cito Gaston has a job. It had always been thought that Cito would likely stick around, but there had been no official word until tonight, when J.P. said “Cito Gaston will definitely be the manager next year.” You can hear it all right here:
The best part may well have been when J.P. said he’d love to get into a round-table debate with some of his critics in the media. I wonder if we could set that up on Prime Time someday?
Rational, reasonable comments are always welcome!