1:05 AM Eastern
See what I did there? The centrefielder hits a Grand Slam to provide all the offense in the Jays’ third straight win (and 7th in 10), but he was DHing. The guy who was playing centrefield deserves a good slamming for dropping a very catchable fly ball with one out in the 9th, making the game far more of a nailbiter than it should have been.
First, the good. Vernon Wells, in his 4th game back, becomes just the third Blue Jay in double digits in homers by hitting that none-out, first-pitch Slam off Kenny Rogers in the 3rd inning. This comes after back-to-back two-hit games and a return game in which he went 0-for-4 but hit two absolute ropes. He’s now within one RBI of the team lead, despite missing two months. By the way, the last time the Jays lost a game in which Wells got a hit was July 6th!
More good – David Purcey. For the first time, he looked comfortable and confident and he had a terrific offensive team tied up in knots in his rain-shortened six innings of two-hitter. Talk about a team that shakes its collective head when it gets spanked by a lefty, Purcey held noted lefty-crushers Magglio Ordonez, Miguel Cabrera and Gary Sheffield to just one soft line single between them. He’ll get about another eight starts this season, and if continues to show well, could be the answer in the 4th spot next season.
As for the bad? Well, the REALLY bad was Scott Downs spraining his right ankle on the wet grass while running to cover home plate on an Ordonez single in the bottom of the 9th. J.P. Ricciardi actually read the text message about Downs’ status aloud on the air as he himself was seeing it for the first time, which was a pretty cool radio moment. You can hear it below, but the gist is that the x-rays were negative and they’ll rest him for two or three days then re-evaluate. It didn’t look like a huge sprain, but a leg injury to a pitcher is certainly not something with which one would want to mess. It wouldn’t surprise me if we didn’t see him again until the middle of September. Then again, he had the gout last year (I think, might have been the year before) and it only knocked him out for one day, so you never know. Never mind the fact that it was surprising to see Downs out there in the first place. With a four-run lead, and Downs having thrown two days in a row, where was Shawn Camp to face three straight righties, with Downs and League ready in case of trouble?
Downs has been the shining star of baseball’s best bullpen, with his 1.25 ERA and 1.06 WHIP, .199 opponents’ batting average and .543 opponents’ OPS heading into tonight’s game. He’s been durable and dependable, with 54 appearances in 121 games, and the Jays will miss him dearly. They’re going to need Brandon League to continue to pitch the way he has lately (last 12 appearances – 0.69 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, .174 opp BA, .261 opp SLG) and Jesse Carlson to keep up the resurgence he’s had in the last month (1.84 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, .220 opp BA, .260 opp SLG) – at least for starters. Downs has developed into one of the best short relievers in the game, but of course, he was drafted by Gord Ash. No, wait – he was claimed on waivers by J.P. Ricciardi, who needs to be fired.
The not-as-bad-as-maybe-losing-Downs-for-a-while-but-still-pretty-horrendous was, of course, the Matt Joyce deep fly that Rios dropped on the track in the bottom of the 9th. There was one on, one out, a run already in and the Jays had a three-run lead. Alan Ashby said it best on the broadcast – when Joyce hit it, Rios thought it was gone, so he kind of turned and jogged towards it as kind of that courtesy “I’m not going to just watch, but I’m not going to do much”. When Rios saw that it wasn’t going to get out since, stunningly, it’s 420 feet to centre in Detroit, he turned on the jets and actually made it there, but had to try to make a basket catch and just plain dropped it. Physical errors happen, they’re excusable, but physical errors that come as a result of mental errors are a whole ‘nother story altogether.
I have to admit, I was floored when no one broached the subject with J.P. until the last or next-to-last caller, and Ricciardi basically did the over-the-phone equivalent of throwing his hands up in the air in exasperation. You can hear it right here:
Jesse Litsch will make his return to the rotation for the day-game finale of the series, with the Jays looking for their fourth four-game sweep of the season! And don’t look now, but they’re only two games behind the Yankees. But the Yankees have been decimated by injury, of course – though I thought injuries didn’t matter.
Rational, reasonable comments are always welcome!