VOTE FOR TOM CHEEK – DETAILS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE POST!
1:35 AM Eastern
It was a roller-coaster day for Jays fans, with Travis Snider’s coming-out party in the opener and the old offense rearing its ugly head in the nightcap, and the upshot is that the Blue Jays really can’t afford more than one more loss the rest of the season, and it can’t be to Boston.
What the Jays have to hope for now is to begin a seven-game win streak with Roy Halladay in the finale in Boston, and for that to also begin a seven-game losing streak for the Red Sox. Of course, the Jays and Sox will play four times in those seven games, and the other three have the Jays home to the pitiful Orioles and the Red Sox playing in Tampa Bay (well, not actually in the bay, though that would be really cool), where they’re 0-6 so far this season.
The opener was everything the Jays could have hoped for. A.J. Burnett continued to be perfect both against the Red Sox (now 5-0 lifetime) and on three days’ rest (now 4-0 lifetime). He was fantastic, taking a three-hit shutout into the 7th, when he struck out Scarborough’s George Kottaras (in his first big-league AB) but the ball got away from Rod Barajas, allowing the rookie to reach. Burnett then got a double play grounder from Jacoby Ellsbury, but Joe Inglett couldn’t handle the throw. Jesse Carlson came on to finish the inning and the unearned run scored, but that was it.
Offensively, aside from another edition of the baserunning follies in the 4th inning, the Jays were very good, especially Snider. The 20 year-old went deep with two on in the 5th, then hit a ground-rule double to right-centre in the 6th to cash two more. He tied the club record for rookies with five RBIs in the game (nine others have done so) and is the youngest Blue Jay ever to accomplish that feat.
Scott Rolen contributed a pair of hits and scored twice. He’s really turned it on on this road trip. Since starting that doubleheader in Chicago 0-for-5, he’s 7-for-19 with two doubles and a homer, hitting .368/.429/.632. Maybe he’s not so done after all.
The nightcap was a whole ‘nother story. Jesse Litsch had a shaky first inning, with one wild pitch scoring a pair of runs as Litsch and Gregg Zaun played Alphonse and Gaston trying to get the ball back and forth to each other, but after that Litsch settled down and the offense came to life with five runs in the second. A Jed Lowrie error that loaded the bases with one out helped a lot, but it was followed by Travis Snider drawing a walk, then a two-run double by Joe Inglett, a Marco Scutaro sac fly and a bloop RBI single by Alex Rios. Then it stopped.
After the second inning, the Blue Jays had three baserunners, on two ground-ball singles and an error, and all were erased by double-play grounders. They hit THREE balls out of the infield over the last seven innings. This offensive strategy didn’t really leave the pitching staff much room for error – and where have we heard that before?
The bullpen management was curious, to say the least. Litsch was allowed to come out to start the 6th, which was fine, but the leash should have been as short as humanly possible, given that his pitch count was up and he was going on short rest for the first time in his career. Instead, he was allowed to give up a double off the wall, then a four-pitch walk, then a soft line single which loaded the bases with nobody out. All that before even a visit to the mound. Jed Lowrie then took him to deep right for a sac fly, and that was it.
In came Jesse Carlson, who had thrown 12 pitches in the opener after not having pitched since Tuesday. He was brought in to face the lefty Alex Cora, but got pinch-hitter Mike Lowell to line out softly to second and was yanked with Kevin Cash (!) coming up. I didn’t get that at all.
I also didn’t get Brandon League only being allowed to face three hitters – he got Crisp on a second-pitch grounder to second to end the 6th, and was taken out for Downs with a runner on second and one out in the 7th, David Ortiz coming to the plate. Now, I understand wanting to go with a lefty against Ortiz, especially when he’s the tying run, but I don’t get asking Downs to get five important outs when he’s been so shaky lately and Cito has said that he thinks his ankle might be bothering him and he might be tiring a bit. And it had to be Downs until Ryan came out in the 9th, because Carlson and League were done.
So Downs came on and was shaky again, walking Ortiz, giving up the grounder to score one, and then after getting out of the 7th, allowing three hits in the 8th including the swinging bunt by Ellsbury on which Downs tripped and fell flat on his face on his way to try to get the ball. That allowed the go-ahead run to score with two out, and sealed the Jays’ fate.
In his last six appearances, Downs has allowed five runs on nine hits and six walks, striking out only two, in just six innings. That’s a 7.50 ERA and 2.50 WHIP. He’s also allowed ALL SIX of his inherited runners to score over that span.
For the first five months of the season, Downs was unquestionably the best thing going in the best bullpen in baseball. Now he’s the worst they’ve got. Something is wrong, and until he gets things straightened out he shouldn’t be used in high-leverage situations anymore, especially with the Jays in the position they’re in, unable to afford another loss.
The fact that he re-injured the right ankle he hurt in Detroit exactly a month ago may make it all academic, anyway.
Before I finish, I just have to mention the spit-eating grin that Bartolo Colon had on his face in the 5th inning, when an Alex Rios comebacker bounced directly into Colon’s glove while he had his back turned. When Colon realized he had the ball, he was facing shortstop Alex Cora, and paused to give him a smile that said “dig the hell out of me” before turning to throw Rios out. It was hilarious, and it was cool to see that Colon could appreciate the sheer absurdity of the play he made despite the fact that he was down three runs in the middle of the big game.
Since it was a doubleheader, we double your JaysTalkic pleasure!
Here’s the first:
And here’s the second:
Remember, today and every day in the month of September, please vote for Tom Cheek and ONLY for Tom Cheek to be on the ballot for the Ford C. Frick Award to gain entry into the broadcasters’ wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. It’ll make more of an impact on the voters if Tom alone gets the overwhelming majority of the votes. Just click on this link:http://web.baseballhalloffame.org/awards/frick_2008/vote.jsp
It’s a bit of a pain to fill out all the info, but it only takes two minutes at the most, and Tom Cheek was certainly worth your time. Thank you.
Rational, reasonable comments are always welcome!