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!