11:50 PM Eastern
How about those Blue Jays? A couple of huge two-out hits, some bend-but-don’t-break starting pitching, and the tenacity and guttitude to add on runs after the game gets close. Put it all together and you get a road win over a huge nemesis that also happened to have the best home record in baseball going into the game.
Luck was a factor, it always is, and so were injuries. Evan Longoria most assuredly makes the play on the Vernon Wells grounder into the 5-6 hole that somehow clanked off the glove of Willy Aybar for a two-out RBI single to give the Jays an insurance run in the 7th. Dioner Navarro goes down in the 6th with hamstring cramps, leaving Shawn (.226/.309/.404)Riggans to hit with the go-ahead run at second and two out. The Jays, though, took advantage of the breaks handed them, which they haven’t always been able to do this year.
Once again, Roy Halladay had a hard time with the Rays, who worked him for 111 pitches over six innings, his shortest outing since the last time he pitched against T-Bay, when he also only went six. Halladay has only had one start this season against a team other than the Rays in which he’s failed to throw a pitch in the seventh inning, and that was against the Cubs back in June, when he went five in a 6-1 loss. Regardless, he managed to wriggle out of the trouble into which he got himself in the 6th inning. Eric Hinske made him pay for hitting Aybar with a 1-2 pitch with two on and two out by stroking a two-run single, but then the aforementioned Riggans strode to the plate and struck out to end the inning.
Immediately, the Jays got one of the runs back, on that Aybar play mentioned above. That James Shields just can’t hold a team down when his own has just scored. He’s just as bad as A.J. Burnett.
Good for Wells, by the way, for keeping his hot streak going. With the 3-for-5 tonight he’s now 9-for-his-last-14 with three homers and six runs scored, and he’s driven in three runs in each of his last three games to move into a tie for the club RBI lead with Alex Rios. Rod Barajas went deep as well, but more impressive was The Captain’s work on the basepaths. Not only did he beat out an infield single in the 4th (it deflected off Shields towards centrefield, but Akinori Iwamura got to it), but he also went first to second on a relatively routine (but slow) grounder to second later in the inning. Even though Barajas is incredibly lacking in footspeed, he can do the routine things, which puts him one level higher than Frank Thomas as a baserunner – and I wasn’t sure about that earlier in the season.
I’m not quite sure why B.J. Ryan came into the game to work the 9th in a non-save situation against the bottom of the Tampa Bay line-up. I understand that he was warming up since it was a save situation before Wells hit his homer with two out in the 9th, but I would think that this is a road trip on which Ryan might be pressed into pressure-packed duty quite a bit, and using him tonight means that he won’t be available Thursday if he’s needed to close one down tomorrow. With a four-run lead, the best bullpen in baseball, and the bottom of the line-up up, Brian Tallet or even Jason Frasor wouldn’t have been a poor choice. Or heck, Scott Downs had only thrown five pitches in retiring the side in order in the 8th, let him come out and get the save. I hope that decision doesn’t come back to bite Cito.
Scott Rolen was activated off the disabled list before the game, but didn’t play. He may be in the line-up tomorrow and it’ll be interesting to see if there’s any more flexibility in that busted shoulder. With Rolen back, the Jays now have three back-up infielders in David Eckstein, Jose Bautista and whoever isn’t starting of Joe Inglett and Marco Scutaro, which brings up the question – why would they give up Robinzon Diaz in order to bring in Bautista?
I guess the question is, are the Jays worried about the health of both Rolen and Aaron Hill so much for next season that they felt the need to buy insurance with Bautista, or had Diaz fallen off so much in their thoughts that they could afford to move him for something that they really don’t seem to need?
I wonder. I know Diaz has had a rough season with the bat, and I know that he’d been passed on the organizational catching depth chart by both J.P. Arencibia and Brian Jeroloman, but couldn’t he have been that same third baseman against lefties that Bautista will wind up being if Rolen can’t play? I’m not sure.
Perhaps the thinking was that Diaz, as a hitter, has always been a high average, low OBP, low slugging kind of guy, and for a catcher, that’s not bad. For a guy you have to move out from behind the plate, maybe you look to do better.
The move, now that we know it’s Diaz, still strikes me as odd. It seems to me as though they’re giving up something that could be useful down the road in exchange for something they didn’t really need. It’s not like Bautista makes the team over Scutaro (even though he’s a better bat) because they like the fact that Scoot can play shortstop, and Bautista can’t. If it’s a choice between Bautista and Inglett, I take Inglett. Sure, Bautista will do more for them than Eckstein, but how many back-up infielders can you have?
By the way, the reason Diaz was a “player to be named later” in the trade was because he hadn’t cleared waivers when the trade was made. The Jays claimed Bautista, the teams settled on Diaz as compensation, and then the Jays had to put Diaz on waivers. It may show the overall value of Diaz that not a single team in the American League put in a claim on him, nor did the Nationals or Padres.
Oh, and in case you missed it, Cito Gaston said that Jeremy Accardo still isn’t right, and Jerry Howarth mentioned on the pre-game that privately, Gaston has acknowledged that Accardo is done for the year.
Here’s tonight’s edition of The JaysTalk, for your listening pleasure:
Reasonable, rational comments are always welcome!