Archive for June, 2010
Wednesday, June 30th, 2010
11:22 PM Eastern
…..and the Blue Jays couldn’t be happier that it’s over. The Jays’ offensive flame-out continued in the final game of the month, as they managed only six hits and just one run, and for the first time this season, they’ve failed to go deep in three straight games.
That despite a welcome line-up shake-up that saw John Buck, the Jays’ leading hitter against left-handers, moved up to the 5th spot against Tribe portsider Aaron Laffey, Aaron Hill moved down to seventh, and Adam Lind given a seat on the bench.
Hill delivered a double off the wall with two out and nobody on in the 5th, starting a rally that saw the Jays load the bases but do no more, as Fred Lewis struck out to end it. The next time Hill came to the plate, it was to greet reliever Frank Hermann with runners on the corners and nobody out after Lyle Overbay had just picked up his 1,000th career hit, and he popped the first pitch up to second. Nick Green followed with an infield single to cash the Jays’ only run, then Lind came off the bench and struck out on three pitches, followed by another Lewis strikeout- this one after he fouled off four two-strike deliveries (and he actually fouled strike three into Carlos Santana’s glove).
The Green single was the last Blue Jay baserunner – their last eight hitters were retired in order.
Jesse Litsch rebounded from his rough start in Philly to provide six very strong innings. He gave up four hits, walked only two and looked terrific. He’s gone awful start-great start in his four outings so far this season, and less than 13 months removed from Tommy John that’s not unexpected. I figured on him being inconsistent for most of the rest of this season as his recovery from surgery continues, but I definitely didn’t expect him to be so literally up-and-down from start to start. I don’t expect it’ll continue – I doubt he’ll get knocked around next time out, I think we’ll see the inconsistency in other ways, even in the same start.
But make no mistake, Litsch doesn’t get nearly enough credit for his ability as a pitcher. This isn’t a guy whose future is as someone who might be a 5th starter in the big leagues. I don’t know if it’s his look or his unassuming nature, but fans – at least the ones from whom I hear – don’t seem to be willing to buy this guy as a legit big-league starter. This despite his great success at the big-league level as a 23 year-old, building off a very solid rookie season at 22. This guy’s good.
So June ends with the Blue Jays having gone 9-17 for the month to fall to just one game above the .500 mark. They’re eight games back in the East and seven games behind the wild card Red Sox. July doesn’t start off any easier – after tomorrow’s high-noon sweep-avoidance attempt in Cleveland, they visit the New York Yankees, who have the best record in baseball. The Jays then come home for a series with the A.L. Central-leading Twins, and one with baseball’s hottest team, the Red Sox, before they head into the all-star break and things ease up quite a bit.
Happy Canada Day, everybody!
Here’s tonight’s edition of The JaysTalk, for your listening pleasure:
And here’s the transcript from tonight’s edition of “Miked Up LIVE!”:
Tuesday, June 29th, 2010
11:30 PM Eastern
Well, that’s certainly not the way things were supposed to work out. The Jays were expected to enjoy their sojourn on the shores of Lake Erie, win three or four games, and then head back into the gauntlet and face the Yankees, Twins and Red Sox before the all-star break.
Instead, they drop a pair of one-run decisions to the third-worst team in the majors and now have to sweep a pair just to get a split.
Tonight’s was a tough one, partly because John McDonald made a throwing error that cost a couple of runs, and that’s something that’s so far out of the ordinary that you would never expect it. But Johnny Mac, making his 15th start of the season and fourth at third base, skipped a throw past Lyle Overbay with two on and two out in the first inning, allowing both runners to score and leaving the Jays down early instead of moving to the second with Brandon Morrow having worked his way out of a jam.
Interesting that all of the Indians’ first four runs scored as a result of rallies that started with two out and nobody on. Beyond interesting, though, I don’t know that there’s much you can do to explain it Certainly the Tribe hasn’t been a voracious, opportunistic team this year, and Morrow hasn’t been having trouble putting teams away lately.
The good news might seem to be that the Jays scored four runs without benefit of a home run, but the truth is they were handed two of those runs. Still, they actually had the runners on to take advantage of the wild pitch and dropped pop-up that allowed those runs to score, so that’s something. Two questions, though, about the shallow fly to right hit by Jose Bautista and dropped by Shin-Soo Choo with two out in the 7th inning, and I won’t have an answer to those questions until I see a replay, which wasn’t shown during the game and which I have yet to see: 1 – How was Bautista only able to get to first base, and B – should Alex Gonzalez have reasonably been expected to have scored from first on that play?
The answer to the first, I’m relatively sure, is that Bautista didn’t hustle out of the box, instead making a show of his frustration at having popped up in such a huge situation. This is one of the reasons that I love when players don’t show emotion after having not coming through, and when they just walk back to the dugout after striking out or put their heads down and run when they pop one up. A big show of frustration serves no purpose other than making sure everyone can see how upset you are with yourself.
The answer to the second is I don’t really know. Should a guy with slightly above-average speed score from first base on a shallow fly to right field, even with the advantage of two out? I’m having trouble thinking that the answer to that question is yes. It’s not like it was a 3-2 count and Gonzalez was running with the pitch. In that case, he absolutely scores, but I don’t think it’s reasonable to assume he should have here. I still want to see a replay, though.
The good news was that Adam Lind came through in a big situation – after looking terrible on a pair of change-ups earlier in the at-bat. With the bases loaded and two out, Vernon Wells having popped up on the first pitch in the at-bat before (again – Wells is a career .335 hitter (.930 OPS) when he puts the first pitch in play, and is hitting .350 this year), Lind swung and missed badly at the two Carmona changes, took a third in the dirt, then hit a rope to right field for a two-run single to get the Jays on the board. Baby steps, but that was a terrific in-at-bat adjustment and a very big hit.
For a second straight game, though, the pinch-runner of choice in the 9th inning of a one-run game was Nick Green. If DeWayne Wise isn’t hurt, then what the heck is going on?
By the way, this is the 5th time this season that the Blue Jays have gone consecutive games without hitting a home run. They have yet to extend that streak to three games. Oh, and Travis Snider will play in a game for the first time since May 14th – he’s going to suit up for the Gulf Coast Blue Jays tomorrow, and if all goes well will steadily move up through Dunedin and New Hampshire, returning to the big club after the all-star break (maybe earlier, who knows?).
Here’s tonight’s edition of The JaysTalk, for your listening pleasure:
And here’s the transcript from tonight’s edition of “Miked Up LIVE!”:
Tuesday, June 29th, 2010
10:42 AM Eastern
So much for a trip to Cleveland being the remedy for a team that’s been in an offensive funk for a month. We figured that after the Jays had run the gauntlet over three and a half weeks, seemingly facing a Cy Young candidate every night, a visit to one of the league’s worst teams might be the cure for what ails them.
It looked that way early, as Alex Gonzalez and Jose Bautista hit back-to-back doubles with one out in the first to open the scoring, and Vernon Wells followed with a single. But The Struggling Adam Lind and The Struggling Aaron Hill (seems to be their new first names) followed with a pop-up and a fly out and the inning was over. The Jays only got two runners past first base the rest of the night, the second one thanks to a wild pitch with two out in the ninth.
The Tribe tied it in the bottom of the first when Austin Kearns singled in young catching phenom Carlos Santana. It was a strange play in that John Buck kind of crept up to take a good, strong throw from Bautista in right, and had to reach back to try to tag the sliding runner as he scored. Had Buck stayed back, on the plate, and waited for the throw to arrive, he’d have been able to block Santana off the dish and more than likely record the out. It’s always faster to let the ball come to you than to go get the ball and try to reach back for the runner.
The second Indians’ run came in the 6th – Travis Hafner allowed himself to be hit by a pitch and moved to third on a Jhonny Peralta double. A groundout to second with the infield in produced the first out, then the Tribe executed a perfect suicide squeeze. Hafner took off, and Jayson Nix dropped a bunt down right back to the mound.
There’s nothing you can do to combat the suicide squeeze if it’s done properly. It’s a great play that assures a run being scored, but generally no more than that, and if it’s messed up, the runner is meatcake, but the Indians did it perfectly, and took a one-run lead with three innings to go. It held up, because the Blue Jays didn’t hit any home runs.
Those of you who are hoping the Jays will try to manufacture more runs might want to give that notion up for the rest of this season. After the game, the manager said “when (home runs) don’t come, there isn’t much you can do.” Now, I’m no fan of the sacrifice bunt, but there are certainly things you can do to try to get an offense moving when home runs aren’t coming. It’s not as though these players either hit the ball out of the park or strikeout every time up (even though they “are what they are”.)
There’s enough speed here to steal a base every once in a while – certainly more than the 34 the Jays have attempted to this point, last in the majors – and some hitting and running isn’t a bad idea, especially in an effort to get a slumping hitter to concentrate on nothing more than putting the next pitch in play. But this team doesn’t do that and, apparently, won’t. Which runs completely counter to the spring assertion by the very same manager that he was going to have to do a bunch of little things to score runs because of the way the offense was constructed.
Here’s last night’s edition of The JaysTalk, in which we delved deep into the “what do you do with The Struggling Adam Lind and Aaron Hill” conundrum, for your listening pleasure:
And here’s the transcript from last night’s “Miked Up LIVE!”:
Sunday, June 27th, 2010
10:14 PM Eastern
As in, the sooner the Blue Jays can put today’s game there, the better.
The Jays finished up their 2010 Interleague schedule with an embarrassing loss to the Phillies – a game that featured four errors leading to six unearned runs. Aaron Hill threw away a potential double play ball and couldn’t find an Alex Gonzalez throw on another double play chance and Jason Frasor had a runner hung up between third and home, but also threw the ball away. The fourth error was more a Joe West error – in that he didn’t see that Lyle Overbay kept his foot on the bag while stretching to catch an Alex Gonzalez throw that was high on the plate side of first. West called Ryan Howard safe, and Gonzalez was charged with a throwing error.
There was another error that wasn’t charged, though, to make up for that. Gonzalez bobbled John McDonald’s relay throw from the left-field corner (yes, McDonald was playing left – and he led off for the first time in his career, too). If Gonzalez gets the ball out of his glove cleanly, the Jays are out of the second inning down 2-0 instead of 4-0.
So without all the misplays – give the same space-time continuum which, as we all know, is impossible – the Jays lose by one instead of nine. Small comfort.
The bigger issue is that this team can’t score if they don’t hit the ball out of the park. The Jays went 2-4 this week, losing two of three to each of the Cards and Phillies, and over those six games cashed a grand total of TWO runs without making use of the long ball. That’s not right on so many levels, but that’s this offense, until Aaron Hill and Adam Lind come out of it.
The rear view mirror is also where we find interleague play, the Blue Jays having gone 7-11 against the National League this year, a game worse than last year’s 8-10. The Jays have never been better than two games over .500 in interleague, and they’ve only had a winning record three times in the 14 years since its inception.
The Jays now catch a break with a four-game set against the reeling Cleveland Indians, who just traded Russell (The Muscle) Branyan to Seattle to begin their mid-season dumpage. The Tribe is dead last in the Central, having lost seven of eight, and they’re the first under .500 team the Jays have faced since the Orioles left town on May 30th. Over their 24-game run of teams with a .500 record or better, the Jays went 10-14, and when they’re through with the Tribe, they’ll visit the Yankees then host the Twins and Red Sox to finish their run through the gauntlet.
They’ve done remarkably well, the Jays have, despite the recent toe-stubbage, and yet there’s an air of negativity and frustration among the fanbase and in the blogosphere. I set about to investigate that during this afternoon’s edition of The JaysTalk, and got several answers, but the one that resonated with me came from semi-regular caller Russ in New Jersey. Simply put, the Blue Jays are blowing it.
How so? They weren’t expected to do anything at all this year, and they’ve certainly exceeded expectations to this point! Very true, but this is the thing: Players from whom not much was expected are performing incredibly well, and vice-versa.
As Russ said, if I’d told you that in the last week of June, Shaun Marcum, Ricky Romero, Brandon Morrow and Brett Cecil would all be healthy and knocking on the door of being the top starting foursome in baseball, that Jose Bautista would be tied for the major-league home run lead, Alex Gonzalez and John Buck would be having career years and Vernon Wells would be back to his old self, where would you imagine the team would be?
Well, with the expected contributions from Aaron Hill, Adam Lind, Lyle Overbay and the bullpen, probably right in the thick of things. But they’re just outside the thick of things because none of those parts have produced to expected levels, never mind exceeded them. Scott Downs and Shawn Camp excepted – though Downs has had a couple of very ill-timed blow-ups despite his very good numbers overall.
It makes a lot of sense. I’m no fan of the tactical moves that come (or don’t come) out of the dugout on a regular basis, but I think most Jays fans are solidly in the corner of the manager. I think the frustration and negativity is coming from people who are seeing an opportunity slip away – whether or not that opportunity was ever actually real.
And now with the Red Sox having lost a third important component of their club for a while, with Victor Martinez breaking a thumb today, maybe that door edges open just a little more.
Here’s this afternoon’s edition of The JaysTalk, wherein you can get the full story of what I touched on above, for your listening pleasure:
And here’s the transcript from today’s edition of “Miked Up LIVE!”:
Saturday, June 26th, 2010
7:35 PM Eastern
Except to say that I misspoke (misblogged?) on this afternoon’s edition of “Miked Up LIVE!” when I mentioned that this was the third straight game in which Shawn Camp was used. He didn’t pitch yesterday, but did work the 9th in the Jays’ 5-0 win on Thursday as well as the 9th inning today.
One more interleague game to go!
Here’s this evening’s edition of The JaysTalk, for your listening pleasure:
And here’s the transcript of this evening’s edition of “Miked Up LIVE!” :
Saturday, June 26th, 2010
12:27 PM Eastern
With the Jays playing a home game in Philadelphia, facing Roy Halladay, the stage was set for strangeness, but we got more than we bargained for.
Jesse Litsch was ineffective, and lucky to get through four innings having allowed only two runs before the roof fell in in the fifth. I think we should be expecting a lot of inconsistency from Litsch this season – he won’t really be himself for a while, probably until next season, as he continues his recovery from Tommy John surgery.
I’m not sure if the strangest part of the night was seeing Adam Lind play first base for the first time in his professional career, seeing how well he handled it, or the fact that he was able to do so because the manager chose to concede the game in the 5th inning.
Granted, it was Roy Halladay on the other side and it was 8-0, but to throw in the towel while you still had 14 outs with which to play is a little quick on the trigger finger, don’t you think? When Lyle Overbay singled (his second hit of the night) with one out in the 5th, it put runners at first and third. Out came pinch-runner DeWayne Wise, bringing the white flag with him.
Sure, Wise is a speed upgrade on Overbay, and a defensive upgrade on Lind in the outfield, but he’s a major offensive downgrade on Overbay, and Lind is a major defensive downgrade on Overbay at first. Making that move might help the Jays get that run across in the 5th inning to make it 8-2, but it’s sure not going to help them get the further runs they need later in the game to continue any possible comeback.
We have seen the manager clear his bench early in the past, costing the Jays a potential comeback win in Arizona; in that game they were down 8-1 in the 7th inning when the reserves came in. You’d think the fact that they almost came back to win that one would have shown that you can get burned by taking that approach.
Yes, the offense as a whole was going a lot better back then, and this was Halladay, but the 5th inning is still awfully, awfully early to start pulling your starters. They need rest, it’s true, the regulars do play a lot – but who says a regular player can’t get a day off every couple of weeks, or even once a month? This manager doesn’t like to do that. Three more months. Three more months.
I have to say that Lind did a wonderful job at first base. He was flawless in fielding a trio of ground balls hit to him, the first of which was an awfully tough play that he had to pick right off the dirt on his backhand, and he even made a very good relay throw to second base to try to start a double play. Lind at first definitely opens up the Jays’ options once Overbay is gone, whether that be sooner or later. Even long-term if they’re more comfortable with him defensively at first than they are in the outfield.
Here’s last night’s edition of The JaysTalk, for your listening pleasure – I should note I was wrong when I said that all the stats count as the Blue Jays being at home, they don’t, which was nice to find out:
And here’s the transcript of last night’s edition of “Miked Up LIVE!”:
Friday, June 25th, 2010
2:06 AM Eastern
It took 72 games, but the line-up finally changed, and it took less than one turn through the batting order for the move to pay off.
As we close in on the halfway point of the season, the struggling Aaron Hill and Adam Lind have finally been moved out of two of the highest-leverage positions in the batting order, in order to give the Blue Jays a chance to score a few more runs while they work their way out of what has been a season-long slump for each.
Neither Hill nor Lind had started a game this year outside his regular spot in the line-up (second for Hill, third for Lind), but the line-up card in the clubhouse this afternoon showed Lind hitting fifth and Hill sixth, with Alex Gonzalez moved up to the second spot and major-league home run leader Jose Bautista batting third.
How immediate were the dividends, you ask? Well, with two out and nobody on in the first inning, Bautista singled to left and Vernon Wells and Lind followed with back-to-back home runs. Wells’ was a prodigious blast into the second deck just right of the foul pole down the left-field line, and Lind went oppo – clearing the in-wall scoreboard in left-centre.
The two clouts cashed three runs, which were two more than the Jays would need. For good measure, Wells added another 200-level shot his next time up. Not bad for the first two times he’d ever faced one of the National League’s best pitchers, Adam Wainwright.
In his second at-bat, Lind hit a hard ground single to right, and although he grounded out and struck out in his two subsequent at-bats, he looked far more relaxed and comfortable – far more like himself – than he has in a while. He took some terrific swings and didn’t let hittable pitches go by early in counts.
As for Hill, he managed an infield single in four trips, but did hit the ball hard a couple of times, including a fly out almost to the warning track in dead centre.
Brandon Morrow was the star of the show, shutting out the Cardinals on five hits through eight innings, walking just one and striking out eight. In talking to pitching coach Bruce Walton after the game, Pappy was impressed with how quickly Morrow has been able to transition from thrower to pitcher. There’s no guarantee he’ll stay on track, and when the going gets tough he may well try to get out of it by throwing harder and harder, but for now he seems to have realized that you don’t need to throw every pitch at 97 miles an hour to get people out.
Over his last five starts, Morrow has been fantastic, allowing just five runs in total. Over those five outings, he’s pitched 34 innings and has allowed 22 hits while walking 10, and he’s chalked up 27 strikeouts. That’s an ERA of 1.32 and a WHIP of 0.941. At 25 years of age and in his first year as a full-time starting pitcher, no one is expecting Morrow to be able to be consistently great, even though he seems to have all the stuff in the world. But that’s a glimpse of what he can do, and it includes starts against the high-octane Yankees, Rays and Cards as well as an outing in Colorado.
Man, this starting pitching is good, and every one of the five starters currently in the rotation has a chance to be sensational.
Tomorrow, the homestand continues, but in Philadelphia, and the Blue Jays will face Roy Halladay for the first time ever. That’s going to be weird. Halladay is still looking for his first win against an American League team as a National Leaguer. He’s faced the Yankees, Red Sox and Twins and gotten beaten up all three times, going 0-3 with a 6.86 ERA and a 1.576 WHIP. Very un-Doc-like. Amazingly, A.L. squads have an OPS of 1.002 against Halladay this year. But whether he gets lit up or throws another perfect game, it’s going to be a lot of fun to watch, and facing Jesse Litsch, the game is going to fly by if Litsch can even be half as good as he was Saturday against the Giants.
Here’s tonight’s edition of The JaysTalk, for your listening pleasure:
And here’s the link to tonight’s edition of “Miked Up LIVE!”:
Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010
11:20 PM Eastern
Unfortunately, Romero’s magic tonight didn’t result in getting him a much-deserved win, but such are the vagaries of the great game that we all seem to be willing to call baseball.
Romero did a fantastic duck-and-dive act in throwing eight shutout innings at the high-octane Cardinals, including three innings in which he performed a supreme Houdini. Before an out was even recorded in the game, St. Louis had the bases loaded thanks to a questionable Aaron Hill error (I thought Felipe Lopez might have beaten it out even had Hill gotten the ball out of the glove cleanly), an infield single by Matt Holliday and a line single to left by Albert Pujols. But Romero kept his composure and even steeled himself, getting Nick Stavinoha on a grounder to first that saw Lyle Overbay come home for the force out, then striking out David Freese and Colby Rasmus – even coming back from 3-1 down in the count – to get out of the inning.
In the second inning, the first two Cards’ hitters reached as well, on a walk and a single, but Romero coaxed a double-play groundball out of Brendan Ryan and then got Lopez to ground out. In the 8th, Romero gave up a broken-bat lead-off double to Pujols, but he worked his way out of that jam, as well.
He was brilliant, but the Blue Jays couldn’t score for him. Romero remains 6-3 while lowering his ERA to 2.85, which ranks him 7th in the American League. He’s been a no-decision MVP so far this season -tonight’s was Romero’s sixth no-decision of the season, and in those games, he has posted the following numbers: 42 IP, 36 hits, 10 runs, all earned, 18 walks, 31 K. That’s a 2.14 ERA and 1.286 WHIP. Simply put, that’s just stupid.
Amazingly, Romero threw eight shutout innings without ever having a 1-2-3 frame.
Kevin Gregg came on, in the traditional backwards-bullpen use in that situation, and couldn’t get the job done. Gregg had been on a bit of a hot streak lately, having retired the last nine batters he’d faced over three games, but Randy Winn singled to left after fouling off three two-strike pitches, and was still on first with two out when Lopez and Holliday each singled, Holliday’s on an off-balance swing at what was likely ball four that managed to get over shortstop and score the game’s only run.
As much as people are frustrated with Gregg giving up a run in the 9th – the Blue Jays didn’t score any runs. You rarely win a game in which you only get four hits, and you never win a game in which you don’t score a run.
As for the backwards-bullpenness, it was the right thing to do. Once the game was tied after eight innings, there was no longer a chance for the home team to be in a save situation, so you use your bullpen backwards, starting with your best reliever and working your way back – hopefully not needing to go too far back before your team scores. There is, of course, a large amount of debate to be had as to whether Kevin Gregg is the best reliever on this team (and it’s a debate not many, if any, on the Gregg side would win), but he’s the closer, which means the manager thinks he’s the best reliever, so he gets the ninth.
What it really comes down to is the fact that the Blue Jays didn’t score. They’re last in the AL in on-base percentage and went into tonight’s game only one percentage point ahead of the last-place Mariners in batting average. They lead the majors in home runs, but when they don’t hit the home runs, they have an awfully hard time scoring.
Big ups to Jose Bautista tonight – no home runs for the big-league leader, but he didn’t chase and wound up walking three times. That’s awfully tough to do against Chris Carpenter. Brandon Morrow, who has allowed a total of five runs over his last four starts, is charged with pounding back the St.Louis brooms – but he’s going to have a hard time if he has to pitch a shutout just to be tied going into the 9th.
Here’s tonight’s edition of The JaysTalk, in which I raged against the inclination of so many Blue Jays’ fans to boo the home team, for your listening pleasure:
And here’s the transcript from tonight’s “Miked Up LIVE!”:
Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010
11:20 PM Eastern
The Blue Jays have used quality starting pitching and the timely home run to win a big bunch of ballgames so far this season, but tonight the tables were turned. St. Louis got a solid start from Jaime Garcia – though it was his worst of the season, allowing three runs on six hits through six innings – and the Cards hit four homers and wound up in a romp.
The defining inning of the game didn’t include a big fly, though. With a runner on second and two out in the 5th, the Cards rallied with a couple of doubles and a two-run single around an intentional walk to Albert Pujols, who was otherwise 0-for-4 on the night. Matt Holliday had the first two-bagger – his third hit of the game to go with a single and a homer – and it was just a little floater to short left field that fell in in front of Fred Lewis. After the intentional pass, Ryan Ludwick ripped a liner to left on which Lewis almost made a spectacular, inning-ending grab.
A game of inches, it is, and illustrated beautifully on the other side by Adam Lind, who was 0-for-4 but should have had a pair of doubles. He was robbed on each side of the infield by beautiful diving stabs from Pujols and third baseman David Freese. Had Lind’s first grounder gotten through, in the 6th, it would have been a two-run double that brought Vernon Wells to the plate with the tying run.
Jarrett Hoffpauir’s Jays debut was a success. He went 1-for-3 with a single, scored a run and played flawless defense at third base – including a terrific grab of a hot shot by Ludwick in the 1st inning.
Poor Dustin McGowan. In case you hadn’t heard, the exploratory surgery on his right shoulder found a significant tear in the rotator cuff. They fixed it, and released the capsule to increase his range of motion, but it’ll be four to six months before he can pick up a baseball again, and if he ever does make it back to the bigs, count on it being at least three years between appearances.
Here’s tonight’s edition of The JaysTalk, for your listening pleasure:
And here’s the transcript from tonight’s iPED-fueled edition of “Miked Up LIVE!”:
Monday, June 21st, 2010
11:33 AM Eastern
Sorry for the lateness of this post, the blogs were down during and after the game yesterday so I couldn’t get in to write.
The Jays’ loss to the Giants prevented them from getting the sweep to cap a really entertaining weekend of baseball, but that wasn’t the story yesterday. Nor were Shaun Marcum’s gritty effort, John Buck’s big hits, Brian Tallet’s sixth-inning blow-up that essentially cost the Jays a chance at a win or Adam Lind’s 9th-inning double off a lefty.
There were only two stories yesterday: John McDonald’s 9th-inning home run and Edwin Encarnacion being sent down to Las Vegas after the game.
I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that McDonald is one of the all-time fan favourites among Blue Jays players. He’s right up there with Reed Johnson, Ernie Whitt and even some of the guys from the World Series teams. It’s definitely not a stretch to say that he’s the most grounded, sincere, warmest and most human of any professional athlete I have ever dealt with. We all grieved with him when he left the team to be with his ailing father as he lay on his deathbed, and we understood as he spent an extra few days at home with his family after his father passed away this week, delivering the eulogy at Jack McDonald’s funeral.
I talked to him about it before the game – unlike Jordan Bastian, who lost a parent to the same liver cancer that claimed Johnny Mac’s father, I still have both my parents and am very thankful for that, but I have lost all my grandparents, three of whom were around well into my 30s, two of whom passed away within three months of each other, and I was honoured to deliver two eulogies. McDonald told me that it was strange, but writing his father’s eulogy put a smile on his face, and I knew what he meant. When you go back through your encyclopaedia of memories, especially with someone with whom you had a great relationship, as the McDonald men had, you can’t help but smile and laugh even in a time of heavy grief. And the smiles come at the time when you absolutely need them the most.
It was great to have McDonald back – he said his father wanted him to be here on Father’s Day so that he could take part in a contest that awarded box seats to a bunch of people (and their fathers) who wrote 250-word essays about what their father means to them. The winners were on the field before the game watching batting practice and McDonald went up to talk to them before the game. As I was leaving the clubhouse, I saw another Blue Jays player walk up to Johnny Mac to offer support, and to say that if he needed someone to go with him to talk to the fan winners, he’d be happy to do it. McDonald said thanks, but no thanks, but I thought that was really touching. I don’t want to identify the player without his permission, because it wasn’t a conversation that I was “supposed” to hear, but I’ll tell you that it was one of the younger guys, and another of those about whom I think highly as a human being.
McDonald didn’t start the game, but came in along with Nick Green and DeWayne Wise when the bench was emptied in the 8th inning with the Blue Jays down 9-3. Johnny Mac came to the plate in the 9th with Fred Lewis on first and nobody out, and belted the second pitch he saw into the Jays’ bullpen in left for his first home run of the season.
It really was a magical moment. When the ball left the bat, I thought it was going to be caught by Andres Torres in left. Then I thought it might just get over his head, and how cool would a double be? Then I thought it was going to hit high off the wall, but it just carried and carried and made it out. On the wings of an angel, maybe? I don’t believe in that stuff, but man, some things just make you wonder. It couldn’t have happened to a better guy, in tribute to someone who, by all accounts, was a fantastic guy, McDonald pumped his fist as he rounded first, pointed to the heavens after he touched home plate, and disappeared into the tunnel after accepting congratulations from his teammates to share a good cry with Vernon Wells. He said the first thing he thought when the ball went out was that he couldn’t call his father to tell him about it. He also said that his dad always wanted him to hit for more power.
I said before that it was a magical moment, but just writing about it gives me goosebumps. I don’t think the word “magic” really does it justice.
Brian Butterfield was the coach-of-the-day for the post-game chat, and there was no question in talking to him that he was affected in a greater sense by Johnny Mac’s big fly. Here’s our conversation, for your listening pleasure:
The other news of the day was Edwin Encarnacion’s demotion. It was unexpected, but not undeserved. Encarnacion was the hero of Friday night’s win, driving in all three runs with a two-run broken-bat single and a go-ahead solo shot leading off the 8th inning, but even with that, he was just 10-for-69 since the Jays left Arizona back in mid-May, hitting .145/.280/.261 over that span. His defense is lacking – heck, just the other day Lyle Overbay saved him FOUR throwing errors in one game, and he seems not to understand the concept of hustle on the basepaths. Encarnacion was optioned to Las Vegas after the game, and replaced by Jarrett Hoffpauir, who has minimal major-league experience to go with the hot bat that he’s been swinging in AAA.
Hoffpauir will take over at third, and the next big-league game he plays will be his ninth; he hit .250/.438/.417 in a 16 plate-appearance cup of coffee with the Cardinals last year, getting in five games at second base and one at third. Hoffpauir has been absolutely raking with the 51s, though offensive stats from Vegas have to be taken with rather a large grain of salt. Still, those numbers are.328/.378/.532 with more walks (21) than strikeouts (15), as many doubles as strikeouts and nine home runs. He has already hit for the cycle twice this season. Hoffpauir hit .361/.391/.557 with runners in scoring position and .406/.452/.644 with runners on base in general. The caveat? He only hit .275/.323/.400 away from hitter-friendly Cashman Field.
I saw him play a few games in Spring Training and saw him boot a few routine plays, so there may not be a defensive upgrade – but at least once he gets the ball in his glove you won’t have to hold your breath while you wait to see if the throw will make it to first base.
There was no JaysTalk yesterday, because the clock forced us off the air too soon after an especially lengthy game, but we’ll make up for it as the homestand continues, I promise.
Here’s the transcript of yesterday afternoon’s edition of “Miked Up LIVE!”: