12:45 AM Eastern
Turns out the Rays had the Blue Jays right where they wanted them – leading by a run heading into the 9th.
It wasn’t as ugly as last night’s debacle – at the very least the Rays earned this one by swinging the bat, but it left as sour a taste in the mouths of Blue Jays fans.
Shaun Marcum was dealing through eight innings. He hadn’t allowed an earned run (with some help from Sean Rodriguez skipping over third base on the way home) and had retired seven hitters in a row, getting through the 7th and 8th innings on just 13 pitches combined. His pitch count was in the mid-90s, and given what had happened last night, there was no reason for him not to start the 9th. And he started the inning with back-up, with Scott Downs and Jason Frasor warming up at the beginning of the inning.
The inning started with a pair of very hard-hit singles by Sean Rodriguez and Ben Zobrist, and Marcum then got a ground ball to short from pinch-hitter John Jaso that wasn’t hit hard enough to turn a double play. Zobrist drilled Aaron Hill at second, preventing a throw to first, but there was one out.
Dioner Navarro followed with a safety squeeze, which was defended perfectly by Lyle Overbay until it was time to throw. Overbay had trouble getting the ball out of his glove and couldn’t get off a good throw home, so Rodriguez scored the tying run.
At that point, with runners at first and second and one out in a tie game and Marcum’s pitch count having reached 110, it was time to get the Jays’ starter out of the game. Instead, though, an old unwritten rule was followed – Marcum had pitched well enough to win (of that there is no doubt), so he needed to be given the opportunity to get out of the inning tied so he could still be the pitcher of record if the Jays scored in the bottom of the 9th, and get the win.
So he was left in to face Reid Brignac, who has struck out against Scott Downs in each of his two career appearances against him (irrelevant, but important to the manager), and Brignac doubled in the go-ahead run. Then Jason Frasor came in and walked B.J. Upton, and Downs came in and served up a grand slam to Carl Crawford. Game, set, match.
It’s too bad it ended that way, just as it’s too bad that Tuesday night’s game ended the way it did. I know a lot of fans don’t see it this way, but the fact that the Jays went into the 9th inning with the lead in all three games against the Rays is actually a terrific sign. Twice they didn’t hold the lead, but those things are rare events indeed. The Jays are now 27-4 this season when they take a lead into the 9th inning. There’s no doubt they can compete with the Rays, even though they’re 2-4 against them this year. Just like there’s no doubt they can compete with the Red Sox, even though they’re 1-5 against them this year (four one-run games and a two-run loss). Next up, the Yankees.
I mentioned at the beginning of tonight’s Miked Up LIVE! that I had had a lovely discussion with the manager before the game, and that it was probably the last time we’ll talk, and some of you wanted details. Here you go:
Before the game, I had a discussion with Cito Gaston about the things I pointed out in last night’s blog post – about how he’d painted himself into a corner by not holding Shawn Camp and Scott Downs back. In the pre-game media scrum, Cito mentioned that taking Gregg out for Rommie Lewis or David Purcey wasn’t an option, but that if he’d still had Downs or Camp or Frasor available, he would have made a move before the Rays had taken the lead. So I asked him why he had removed Camp after having him only throw six pitches, with the ninth hitter at the plate, two out and nobody on in the 8th. Cito’s answer was “Have you looked at the stats?”. I said no, but that I couldn’t have imagined that Brignac could have more than three at-bats against either Downs or Camp, so it wouldn’t matter. His answer, again, was “you should look at the stats.” So I did, and they showed that Brignac had never faced Camp, and that going into last night’s game, he had faced Downs once and struck out. Obviously, one at-bat means less than nothing. It’s the same as having had no history against him, like Camp had. Cito asked a few minutes later if I’d seen the stats, and I told him the numbers and he said “that’s right”. Still wanting a real answer, I said “but you trust Camp, right? You’ve used him against lefties.” At which point I was interrupted by the Jays’ communications staff, saying that a question had been asked and answered. I explained that I was just trying to point out that he could have had Downs for the 9th had he left Camp in, and then Cito told me to look at Downs’ stats against the Rays (I’m sure the Crawford slam only adds to that argument).
Downs stats against the Rays as a whole were irrelevant to the discussion, since Cito had already said that if he had had Downs available in the 9th, he’d have used him to bail out Gregg. But I didn’t get to make that point, because Cito went on to tell me that it’s a lot tougher in his seat and that he can’t just sit there and blurt out anything that comes into his head. That was enough of the discussion for me. I think he also suggested I should come down and try managing, and I’m regretting that I didn’t take him up on the offer. I’d say that I’ll say yes the next time he offers, but I doubt it will come up again.
It’s unfortunate that I can’t have a legitimate discussion about strategy with the manager without him feeling as though he’s being attacked (or at least reacting as though he’s being attacked – I don’t know what he was feeling), but such is life. I don’t need to be belittled by the skipper in front of the entire assemblage when I’m asking legitimate, rational questions about a situation that he brought up earlier in a conversation.
It was definitely a rough day for me at the ballpark, and then a rough day for the Blue Jays. I’m very much looking forward to the day off.
Here’s tonight’s edition of The JaysTalk, for your listening pleasure:
Tonight’s edition of “Miked Up LIVE!” got awfully busy again, which is both good and bad. Starting with Friday night’s game, I’ll be putting up a link to an FAQ page, which I hope will cut down on some of the repetitiveness, and I’m going to ask for a few things from the contributors, such as no predictions (he’s gonna hit a homer here), no stating the obvious (they could really use a double play) and no celebratory comments (wow! or what a terrific play by whomever). The goal of the exercise is for as many of you to get as many of your comments posted and answered as possible, and when someone makes a terrific play and I have to run through 40 “wow”s, it makes me fall way behind in the posting and leads to deleting some points of discussion that might otherwise be really good simply because I have to fight too hard to catch up. Hopefully, that’ll help. If not, I’ll go back to the drawing board, I guess. Here’s tonight’s transcript: