Archive for May, 2010
Monday, May 31st, 2010
11:32 PM Eastern
Now that’s the way you want to start a nine-game run against the only two teams in the league that are ahead of you in the standings. The Jays struck early against longtime nemesis Matt Garza and Brandon Morrow made it stand up all the way into the 8th.
Morrow was sensational, but not in the manner in which we’re used to him being sensational (in those starts in which he is sensational, that is). He came into the game with 65 strikeouts in 50 innings so far this season and increased his K count by just one. And yet, he took a no-hitter into the 6th, had a two-hit shutout through seven and saw the light of the eighth inning for the first time as a Blue Jay. Pitch efficiency is a wonderful thing, and Morrow used just 86 pitches to get through the first seven innings.
How talented is this guy that he can go from a strikeout thrower to a pitcher’s pitcher from one start to the next, and do it against the team with the best record in the majors? Morrow is some kind of talent, no question, though you can rest assured that there will still be a few bumps along the road to out-and-out awesomeness.
As for the sticks, the Jays only homered once, so they finished the month of May with 54 big flies – four shy of the all-time major-league record for home runs in a month, but the one jack was rather big. Adam Lind went deep in the first inning, an opposite-field laser beam into the Blue Jays’ bullpen to give the home side the early 2-0 lead. Aaron Hill scored ahead of Lind in what was a “Revenge of the BABIP” night for Hill. He had three hits, none of which were struck solidly. Two ground balls that found holes and a little looper at which he threw his bat and knocked into short centrefield. The latter drove in the Jays’ other run – one of Fred Lewis’ two doubles.
Kevin Gregg made the ninth inning awfully nervous, giving up a one-out triple to Evan Longoria, but give Longoria props for aggressiveness. The gapper to the wall in right-centre didn’t look like three bases off the bat, and most players would have stopped at second, especially since they represented the tying run in the 9th, but Longoria never hesitated. Even with the fantastic throwing arms of Jose Bautista and Hill performing the relay, he knew he had the speed to make it to third, and he did. Carlos Pena then walked on four pitches, though I’m thinking two of those pitches were strikes if someone other than Joe “The Games Take Too Long So I’m Going To Have A Really Small Strike Zone” West was umpiring.
With runners on the corners and one out, the Jays decided to play the infield in to cut the run off at the plate. I would have gone the other way, hanging back and hoping to get the double play ground ball that ends the game – especially since catcher John Jaso was at the plate. Jaso provided the grounder, but with the infield in, Alex Gonzalez came home and for the second time in a week, threw out a runner at the plate in the 9th inning. If they play my way, the game’s over then, but it didn’t last much longer as Gregg got Gabe Kapler to hit another grounder to short and that was that.
It was another exciting, well-played, fun game, and if they provide eight more of those as the ENORMOUS NINE continues, then it’s going to be a blast to watch.
Here’s tonight’s edition of The JaysTalk, for your listening pleasure:
Tomorrow, Brian Tallet returns for his one-off start before Jesse Litsch takes over the fifth spot in the rotation and faces Jeff Niemann, who outpointed Ricky Romero in Rookie of the Year balloting last season and is 5-0 to start this year with a 1.05 WHIP. Very impressive. Josh Roenicke was optioned to Vegas to make room for Tallet – he has closer stuff, but he needs to learn to throw strikes on a consistent basis. He was doing it in Vegas earlier this season, with just one walk and eight strikeouts in 8 2/3 innings before his call-up, but couldn’t do it here, walking 11 in 12 2/3. Maybe next time – and there will certainly be a next time.
Here’s the transcript of tonight’s edition of “Miked Up LIVE!”
Sunday, May 30th, 2010
9:22 PM Eastern
Back in the days of the original Not Ready For Prime Time Players, there was a Saturday Night Live horror movie send-up about a house guest who overstayed his welcome, “The Thing That Wouldn’t Leave”. Sadly for the Blue Jays, the Baltimore Orioles couldn’t get out of town fast enough.
Ricky Romero went the route on a six-hitter and got more than enough offense in the bottom of the first to become the third Jays’ starter to record his fifth win of the season as the Jays completed a sweep of the MLB-worst O’s – the Jays are now 6-0 against the Baltimores this year, with a mere dozen games to go against them.
It really was no contest, this weekend series, as the Jays outscored the Orioles 16-3, with the visitors only actually managing to score in two of the 27 innings in which they came to bat.
That’s one bad team that has just cleared out of here, and one wonders if they’ll take advantage of their off-day tomorrow to finally put poor Dave Trembley out of his misery. Really, the deck has been stacked against Trembley from the get-go. I’m a huge fan of his – he’s a terrific guy, very giving of his time, bright and knows the game awfully well, and he turned the O’s around for a brief period upon taking the reins from the dismissed Sam Perlozzo. The O’s were 11 games under .500 with Perlozzo to start 2007, then Trembley took over and they went 29-25, so he was rewarded with a contract extension. That night, the Rangers scored 30 runs on the Orioles – it was their way of congratulating Trembley, I guess. I feel bad for the guy, it’s only a matter of time.
With the Orioles having left (against the Jays’ wishes, I’m sure), it’s time for the ENORMOUS NINE. The next nine games of the schedule – the masters of sensationalistic hype will declare – will tell the tale of the 2010 Blue Jays. Three games against the Tampa Bay Rays, the team with the best record in the majors but losers of five of their last seven, followed by three with the New York Yankees and then off on the road for three more with the D-Rays. The Jays will show their true colours, they’ll say, and vanish from their pretense of contention for good.
I’m not sure if you’ve guessed yet, but I don’t buy it. Whether the Jays go 2-7, 4-5 or 7-2 over the next nine games, the season will continue and they’ll likely be within three games of a playoff spot no matter what. That would still constitute being very much in the race in the second week of June. If they spit the bit, it doesn’t mean they can’t play with the big boys, just as if they go out and beat the crap out of T-Bay and the Yanks it doesn’t mean that they’re legit contenders who will be there until the very end. It’s just a small snapshot of the season, but it should be awfully fun to watch.
I expect the Jays to compete in every one of the nine games, win or lose, as they have in nearly every one of the 52 games that we’ve seen so far.
Meanwhile, they hit another three home runs today and if they hit five tomorrow, they’ll tie the all-time major-league record for home runs in a single month. They’ve already shattered the club record for homers in a month, and with his solo shot today, Jose Bautista tied both his career high for a whole season (16) and the Jays’ record for homers in any one month (12 – Carlos Delgado, Aug. 99; Jose Cruz, Jr., Aug. 01). It’s doubtful that five big flies will be coming against Matt Garza tomorrow night but hey, they’ve already beaten him once this season.
Cito Gaston announced before the game that Brian Tallet will be called up to make the start on Tuesday, on what would have been Dana Eveland’s day. Eveland continues float aimlessly in the ether, with the Jays taking full advantage of the 10-day period they have in which to trade, waive or release him. Tallet got knocked around in his one rehab start in Vegas, giving up eight runs on nine hits, two of them homers, and failing to make it out of the second inning, but Brad Mills and Marc Rzepczynski have been roughed up, too, and Jesse Litsch isn’t eligible to come off the disabled list yet.
There’s no guarantee that Tallet will get more than just the one start – it may be likeliest that he goes to the bullpen after Tuesday and the Jays activate Litsch or call up Rzepczynski the next time they’ll need a 5th starter, which looks as though it will be June 8th.
It appears the Jays will use all the June off-days to give the starters a breather, rather than drop to a four-man rotation (listen to my post-game interview with pitching coach Bruce Walton), and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. As much as I’d like to see Shaun Marcum, Romero and Brett Cecil go out there every fifth day no matter what, not one of them has spent an entire season in a big-league rotation, and if the choice is that they get an extra day or four over the course of this month or they get shut down the second week of September, I’ll take the former. The only unfortunate thing is that means that Romero will only get to pitch once during the ENORMOUS NINE, with that one start being on five days’ rest. The last game of the second T-Bay series is his regular day, but he’ll likely open up in Colorado instead, again with an extra day.
Brandon Morrow gets the start tomorrow, and now that Lyle Overbay is hitting (though I’m sure .295/.348/.590 over the past 16 games is not enough for plenty of fans – even when you throw in the four homers, 12 runs scored and 13 RBIs), it appears as though Morrow is angling towards becoming my next “Climb off him, already!” candidate. He’s only 25, in his first full season as a starting pitcher at any level and has the best stuff of anyone on the team, maybe even in the whole system. The leash on him is long, my friends, and there’s no reason to dread the days on which he’s scheduled to start.
Here’s this afternoon’s edition of The Super-Extendo JaysTalk, for your listening pleasure:
And here’s the transcript from this afternoon’s brief (2:05 thanks to Romero and Guthrie) edition of Miked Up LIVE!:
Saturday, May 29th, 2010
5:00 PM Eastern
….means no bloggage, except to marvel at the awesemnity that is Brett Cecil. Three straight terrific outings for the 23 year-old, and really only one all year in which he hasn’t been terrific. And he has bounced back from the Texas tail-kicking to win his next three starts, throwing 22 2/3 innings, allowing four earned runs on 13 hits, walking three and striking out 14. Those are sensational numbers.
Cecil faced the minimum through 5 2/3 innings before giving up a loud double to Cesar Izturis – one of only two hard-hit balls on the afternoon. After the double, Cecil gave up back to back singles, but both were ground balls, and there were the two runs – the second one only scoring because Fred Lewis made an awful throw to try to get the first one, missing the cut-off man and going way up the first-base line, allowing Julio Lugo to go to second. After Edwin Encarnacion’s throwing error, Cecil retired the next seven hitters he faced to get through the 8th. At 96 pitches (70 of them strikes – wow), I would have sent him back out for the 9th, but I can understand wanting to give Kevin Gregg the opportunity to collect a relatively low-pressure save.
With the two home runs from Lyle Overbay (climb off, already!) and one each from Aaron Hill and Vernon Wells, the Jays now have hit 85 home runs on the season, and 50 of them have come in the month of May. With two games to go, they’ve already established a club record for homers in any one month. The major-league record is 58, set by the 1987 Baltimore Orioles, whose home run leader wound up being Larry Sheets, with 31. Eddie Murray and Cal Ripken, Jr. were next, though, followed by Fred Lynn. That team wound up hitting 211 homers and finishing 31 games behind the first-place Tigers. Damn 1987 Tigers.
Here’s this afternoon’s edition of The JaysTalk, for your listening pleasure:
Tomorrow, the Jays go for the sweep behind Ricky Romero, facing O’s righty Jeremy Guthrie, who’s actually pretty good. It should be fun. We’re on at 12:30 PM Eastern with the pre-game, Jerry will talk to Cito and I’ll have Jose Bautista. Join us, won’t you?
And join us as well for “Miked Up LIVE!” – Jays conversation from first pitch to last. Here’s the transcript from today’s edition:
Friday, May 28th, 2010
10:53 PM Eastern
Except to say that Shaun Marcum went 5-0 in May with each of the five wins coming after the Jays had lost. I’ll grant you, pitchers have no control over their win-loss record, so dig these peripherals: A WHIP of 1.026, an ERA of 1.85, a strikeout to walk ratio of 3.2:1. That’s one solid month and again – each of the wins came after a Blue Jays’ loss. He had one no-decision in there – and the Jays won that game, too.
Also, congrats to Vernon Wells for moving into second place on the Jays’ all-time homer list. He broke out of a tie with Joe Carter with number 204, a sixth-inning solo shot, and trails only Carlos Delgado. By 132.
Here’s this evening’s edition of The JaysTalk, for your listening pleasure:
Tomorrow, it’ll be Brett Cecil – having been re-spectacle-fied – taking on Chris Tillman in a battle of fantastic young pitching prospects. We’ll have the pre-game show at 12:30 PM Eastern and Jose Bautista has already confirmed that he’ll do the pre-game interview with me. I might bump him to Sunday, though, and talk to Marcum tomorrow.
Here’s the transcript of tonight’s edition of “Miked Up LIVE!”:
Wednesday, May 26th, 2010
12:45 AM Eastern
Well, that was certainly a fun way to end a road trip. Ninth-inning excitement and whatnot, and the way things played out definitely generated quite a bit of debate.
I have to admit that I was disappointed, but not surprised, by the calls for Jose Bautista to bunt in the top of the 9th after Bobby Abreu butchered a fly ball that allowed Alex Gonzalez to be standing at second with the tying run and nobody out. It’s funny, people accuse me of “hating on” Bautista because I’m not convinced that what he’s doing this season is his new normal, but then they want the guy bunting in the 9th inning when you’re down a run!
It’s insane to ask a .900+ OPS guy – the major-league leader in home runs – to lay down a bunt. As it turns out, he struck out, but John Buck then doubled in the tying run.
In the bottom of the 9th, Scott Downs came back out after an 8th inning in which he gave up three fly balls to the warning track and Mike Napoli led off with a looper that wasn’t hit nearly as well as the other three balls that fell in for a double. Mike Scioscia, as he is wont to do, sent Maicer Izturis up to bunt the potential winning run to third, and Izturis failed. He fouled off a couple of pitches to get himself into an 0-2 hole, but still managed to hit a ground ball to the right side to advance the runner.
At that point the decision was made to intentionally walk the bases loaded. Fine by me. The winning run is 90 feet away, you need to get yourself into a situation in which you can come home on any ground ball and force that runner out, and that’s what wound up happening.
With the infield in, Alex Gonzalez made a spectacular dive to his left and, sprawling on the ground, fired a strike to Jose Molina to nail Napoli at the plate. Molina then threw to first to try to double up Howie Kendrick because he hadn’t seen that Juan Rivera suddenly forgot how to run the bases and was standing at second, mouth agape, watching Gonzalez. Had Molina thrown the ball to third, the game might well still be going on right now. It’s tough to blame him, though. The automatic move is to throw to first there because out of all the runners, the batter is the one who gets the worst jump, and even if there were people screaming at him to throw to third (doubtful), there were also 35,000 other people just kind of screaming in general.
Bobby Abreu followed with the sweet redemption of a walk-off line single to left.
So the Jays close out the road trip at 3-5, which is just fine. Coming out ahead on a western road swing is phenomenal, breaking even is pretty good. Missing the break-even mark by one win is just fine and the Jays are 2 1/2 games out of a playoff spot – that far back only by virtue of the division in which they play.
Brandon Morrow wasn’t great, but he wasn’t awful, and he left in a 3-3 tie after five. He’s had 10 starts this year – four great, four ugly and two ok. He’s still only 25 and has the potential to easily be the best starter on a very, very good staff.
One more thing before I go. Edwin Encarnacion has been fantastic at the plate since coming off the disabled list, but in consecutive games now he has cost the Blue Jays a shot at a triple play with his defense. Tuesday night, with runners on first and second and none out, Encarnacion fielded a ground ball by Izturis, stepped on third, turned and fired the ball about five feet over the glove of a leaping Aaron Hill and into right field. A good throw there, and the Jays turn their first triple play since 1979.
Tonight, first and second and none out and Edwin botched his shot at redemption. Kendrick hit a ground ball directly over the third base bag that Encarnacion short-armed and saw go right off the fingers of his glove and down the left-field line. If he catches the ball, again, triple play. How many chances are they going to get?
Once Travis Snider comes back – though his wrist is still bothering him to the point where he’s not yet able to swing – Jose Bautista has to move back to third base. You don’t want to lose Encarnacion’s bat (though he is only hitting 9th – more of the continued what’s-up-with-thatness of the Cito Gaston school of lineup-building), so you can’t just bench him. The solution is that Encarnacion moves into a platoon with Lyle Overbay at first – he’s played there before with the Reds -and gets another game or two a week at third when Snider, Fred Lewis, Vernon Wells or Bautista gets a day off. That way, each of the four of them gets a day off every two weeks. So crazy it just might work? I know.
Here’s tonight’s edition of The JaysTalk – which extendo’d into The Night Shift with Roger Lajoie – for your listening pleasure:
And here’s the transcript of this evening’s edition of “Miked Up LIVE!” Interesting indeed that when things started cooking in the 9th, people actually started talking about the game!
Wednesday, May 26th, 2010
1:35 AM Eastern
Not only is it really late, but the game wasn’t especially enthralling tonight, which is a rarity for the Blue Jays this year. Still, they have a chance to finish this western swing 4-4, which is pretty strong, especially when you consider that there was a three-game losing streak in there.
Ricky Romero was far from his best tonight, but still better than his line looked. He was killed by a couple of soft hits and some shoddy defense behind him in the four-run second inning that, incredibly, put the game out of reach because the Jays couldn’t do anything against Ervin Santana but hit solo home runs – and even the six they hit Friday night in Arizona wouldn’t have been enough.
Jose Bautista, the major-league home run leader, is one home run shy of his career high.
Here’s tonight’s edition of The Late Night JaysTalk, for your listening pleasure:
And here’s the transcript from tonight’s “Miked Up LIVE!” Enjoy the in-depth discussion of such far-ranging topics including me running for political office, our failing educational system and, of course, One Night In Bangkok.
Tuesday, May 25th, 2010
2:02 AM Eastern
And with an extendo-JaysTalk, to boot! I live to serve you, the public, but there’s only so much one man can do.
So, I leave you with this – Brett Cecil is really, really good.
Here’s this morning’s edition of The Late Night JaysTalk, for your listening pleasure:
And here’s the transcript from tonight’s edition of “Miked Up LIVE!”:
Sunday, May 23rd, 2010
7:50 PM Eastern
Or at least, the dozen.
With Vernon Wells and Alex Gonzalez, two of their most prolific offensive producers, on the bench, the Jays exploded for 12 runs on a season-high17 hits, getting major contributions up and down the line-up – all the way down to the nine spot, in fact.
Yes, Jose Bautista homered and drove in four, Edwin Encarnacion went deep again, John McDonald went 2-for-4 and drove in two and Jose Molina chipped in with three hits for the second time in his last three games, but the pitchers were the most fun to watch at the plate.
When the game was still close – just 2-1 Jays – Shaun Marcum ripped an RBI double down the left-field line in the 4th, and Shawn Camp singled over short in his 7th inning at-bat. Marcum’s double was the first for a Blue Jays pitcher since Jeff Tam did it back in 2003. Even Casey Janssen came close to getting in on the action; he was on deck to hit for Scott Downs when Fred Lewis struck out to end the 9th.
Honestly, I’m not sure why Camp was allowed to swing the bat and why it was Janssen – as opposed to Wells or Gonzalez – who was on deck to hit in the 9th. Every chance he gets to talk about it, Cito Gaston says how much he hates having his pitchers hit. How, if given the choice, he would just send them up there with instructions to do their best statue impressions. And yet he lets Camp swing with an eight-run lead in the 7th, and gets Janssen ready to pinch-hit – something that would never happen in if the game had been in an A.L. park.
I don’t agree that pitchers at the plate need to be treated as though they’re pieces of glass, but you would have to think you lose the right to complain about pitchers hitting if you’re willing to do the things with your pitchers that Cito did today (Marcum excepted, of course – it was still a game then).
Edwin Encarnacion punctuated the trip to Arizona with yet another home run. He hit five in the three-game series and belted another one on Tuesday in his first game back off the DL. For the week, Eddie hit .368/.409/1.105 with six homers, seven runs scored and 10 RBIs. It appears as though the Jays will have the A.L. Player of the Week for the second straight week.
Adam Lind appears back in the swing of things, which is lovely. He had a single, a booming ground-rule double and a sac fly to the wall today. He’s hit .308/.296/.500 over the last week, which is a lot better than we’d been seeing out of him in a while. Onward and upward, one hopes, which only really leaves Aaron Hill to get out of the doldrums. Maybe a trip home is exactly what he needs to get back on track.
And one final note for the Overbay-haters. With a 2-for-5 day, Overbay is now at .348/.391/.581 over the last 11 games. Can everyone please climb off the guy’s back?
No news about Dana Eveland today, except that Cito said on the pre-game that with all the off-days coming up in June, he’s going to have to re-set his starting rotation and might drop to a four-man. Looking at the June schedule, the Jays will need a 5th starter on June 1st, but not again until the 12th and then the 26th. And there’s no point keeping Eveland around to start every two weeks, so we’re likely to see a roster move sometime soon, I would think.
With the Memorial Cup Final starting right after the game, there was no time for The JaysTalk this evening, but we’ll be back with some late night action tomorrow after the Jays’ opener against the Angels.
Here’s the transcript from this afternoon’s “Miked Up LIVE!”:
Saturday, May 22nd, 2010
11:45 PM Eastern
Except to say that it would surprise me if Dana Eveland started another game for the Blue Jays without having spent some good time in Las Vegas in the interim.
Here’s tonight’s edition of The JaysTalk, for your listening pleasure:
The series in Arizona wraps tomorrow afternoon, with Shaun Marcum once again taking the ball following a Jays loss. I’m thinking he can’t wait to swing the bat – that’s going to be fun to watch. We’re on at 3:30 PM Eastern for a 4:10 first pitch, at which point the live bloggage will begin yet again! Here’s the transcript from tonight’s edition of “Miked Up LIVE!” – the first one that was a little buggy, but we overcame:
Saturday, May 22nd, 2010
1:15 AM Eastern
This lack of weekend bloggage is interrupted by the Blue Jays hitting six home runs to open their series in Arizona – and losing.
It’s one off the major-league record for most homers in a loss (the Tigers did it twice, in 1995 and 2004) and since the home runs all happened with nobody on base, it was also one off the major-league record for most solo shots in a game (the Red Sox did that – against the Blue Jays, believe it or not, in July of 1977) .
Edwin Encarnacion got the start because Cito Gaston liked the fact that he was 2-for-5 lifetime against DBacks’ starter Dan Haren. A horrible way to make a decision, but the payoff was huge, with Eddie jacking three of the Jays’ six big flies – almost to the exact same spot in the left-field bleachers. Fred Lewis, Jose Bautista and Adam Lind (off the bench) also got in on the fun, with Encarnacion’s third and Lind’s coming back-to-back with two out in the 9th to get the Jays within two. Fred Lewis followed with a double off the wall in centrefield, but Aaron Hill flied out to end it.
Still, coming back from 6-1 down to get the tying run to the plate in the 9th is an impressive achievement, and it was more impressive the way the Jays got there. Tons of fun to watch, and far less heart-rending a loss than Thursday afternoon’s.
Dan Haren was reasonably impressive on the mound, despite giving up four of the Jays’ bombs, but he was even more impressive with a bat in his hands. Haren went 2-for-4 (he’s now hitting .414 on the season), doubling twice and driving in three. The first of his doubles, that made the score 6-1, was a Tony Fernandez special. With two on, Haren showed bunt, then pulled the bat back and ripped a line drive the other way that wound up getting all the way into the gap in right-centre. Very, very impressive. The Jays were the only team playing without the DH tonight.
Very unimpressive was Brandon Morrow’s pitching line, but he didn’t throw as poorly as that would indicate. He only walked one, for the second straight start, and that’s a great sign. Despite the 25-17 start, this is a development year for the Jays, and central to that development is figuring out whether Morrow can be a regular starter in the big leagues. Games like this one, and like last week’s at the Red Sox, are going to happen. If they can happen only every 6th or 7th start, the Jays have a real keeper.
Here’s tonight’s relatively brief edition of The Late Night JaysTalk, for your listening pleasure:
Saturday night the series continues, and if the Jays hit another six home runs, I’m thinking they’ll pull it out. Former DBack Dana Eveland will start, pitching for his life after consecutive crappy outings. We’ve got the pre-game at 7:30 Eastern with the first pitch set for 8:10. Join us, won’t you?
There will also be another edition of “Miked Up LIVE!” for your interactive enjoyment. Here’s the transcript from tonight’s chat: