5:20 PM Eastern
I’m not really sure anyone could have seen this coming. On the day Shaun Marcum gets sent down to Syracuse – a stunning move, given that Marcum was leading the American League in WHIP and opponents’ batting average when he was injured in June and had seemingly overcome a rough beginning to his return before losing the plate in the 4th inning last night – Jesse Litsch goes out and throws down zeroes for the second straight outing and the Jays’ offense explodes for the third time in a week.
Since Litsch returned from AAA, he has started twice and has yet to be scored upon, throwing 13 shutout innings having allowed seven hits with five walks and seven strikeouts. Maybe the Jays are hoping for similar returns from Marcum, but Litsch had three starts for the Chiefs, and Marcum will only get two at the most, since the Chiefs’ season ends September 1st. Should Marcum come back as a September call-up, which is no guarantee (he was overheard telling people that he’d see them in the spring as he packed his stuff in the clubhouse), he’d still be eligible for the playoffs should the Jays pull off the miracle, since the Jays will have roster flexibility to add to the post-season roster thanks to the injuries to Casey Janssen, Dustin McGowan and maybe even Scott Rolen, if he doesn’t come back.
Marcum’s demotion shocked the heck out of me. It’s funny, after his first terrific start since returning from the disabled list after the all-star break following three rough outings (seven innings of three-hitter in a 5-1 win over Oakland), Marcum mused that he was worried that if he didn’t start pitching well, he’d be a candidate to go down to AAA and the gathered assemblage just rolled its collective eyes. Nobody thought that the Jays would ever consider taking that step, but it seems Marcum was pretty prescient.
I think there’s a story behind this story, though. Marcum had pitched well in picking up three straight wins before yesterday – the third win wasn’t his best work, but he still only allowed a run on five hits in five innings – and he was fine through the first three innings last night before falling apart in the 4th. Is he giving them any less than David Purcey is at this point? Weren’t the Jays so shaky about having John Parrish in the rotation that they promoted Scott Richmond just to move the lefty to the bullpen? Now Parrish is back to take Marcum’s place. Something is definitely up – I’m hearing that Marcum may have been in need of an attitude adjustment, which surprises me a bit. He’s always seemed loose and relaxed to me, but there are whispers that his britches have been getting kind of small, as it were.
As for today’s offensive explosion, this is something that Jays’ fans could get used to pretty easily. So they didn’t get up to 20 hits today, but they scored double-digit runs for the third time in six games, and cranked out seven extra-base hits – four doubles and three homers. Vernon Wells went deep twice among his four hits to take sole possession of the team’s home run lead among people who have actually hit a home run with the Blue Jays. Both home runs came on the first pitch, by the way.
Even Kevin Mench got in on the action, with a pair of doubles as part of a three-hit afternoon, jacking up his batting average by 20 points. The only Jay who didn’t reach base as part of the rout was the new guy, Jose Bautista, but he contributed a sacrifice fly in the second inning to up the lead to 3-0, and showed a terrific throwing arm from third base. He also made a nice running catch on a foul pop by Jacoby Ellsbury to end the 4th, going back towards the left-field stands to haul it in over his shoulder.
Speaking of nice running catches, that Wells fellow reminded the almost 45,000 gathered that he’s one of the best in the business on the defensive side with a pair of outstanding grabs, robbing Jason Bay of a pair of doubles. The first catch was simply incredible, Willie Mays-esque, and Wells didn’t even use his glove. He caught the ball somewhere in the crook of his wrist, arm and elbow as he ran with his back to the plate. The second catch looked a lot easier, but Wells had to go a long way in a very short amount of time to run the ball down at the wall in left-centre.
Brandon League and B.J. Ryan finished up with an inning each, despite the 11-run advantage, but that’s fine. Neither pitched yesterday, both will still be available tomorrow, and the Jays are off Monday. Perfect time to give those two some work.
If you read back in the archives, you’ll see that I said (especially to those who claimed at the time that the Jays’ hitters weren’t any good, had never been any good and would never be any good) that things would turn around, the hitters would get back closer to their career numbers and that Cito Gaston would get the lion’s share of the credit for that and, lo and behold, it has happened. As much temptation as there is to get on the Cito bandwagon, these guys were always this good, they just simply had to start hitting. That’s not to say that I don’t think Cito is doing a good job, he is. It’s just that it’s impossible to say that they wouldn’t have done this without the change, or that they would have been playing this well from the get-go had Gaston been in charge all season. As a caller to The JaysTalk mentioned, the Jays went on a 14-4 run under John Gibbons in May just when they looked as dead as they have at any point this season.
Speaking of The JaysTalk, here it is for your listening pleasure:
Tomorrow, remember the pre-pre-game show at noon Eastern on the Fan590 and this very website, and at 7:05 PM Eastern, we’ll have The Blue Jays This Week!