12:09 AM Eastern
One of the most beautiful things about the great game of baseball, they say, is that every time you come to the ballpark you can see something that you’ve never seen before – and maybe even something that’s never happened before. Tonight at Rogers Centre was a night like that, and what was setting up to be a pretty ugly night managed to be salvaged to some degree.
Two things that have never happened before happened tonight – three if you count Rajai Davis hitting his first home run as a Blue Jay, but that’s taking things a bit too far – one of which was very unpleasant for Jays fans and the other of which was a lot of fun.
First, Kyle Drabek didn’t make it out of the first inning. First time that’s ever happened to him. Big leagues, minor leagues, little league – ever. Drabek faced eight Cleveland Indians tonight and only managed to retire two. He walked three and the other three hit the ball really, really hard. Michael Brantley and Asdrubal Cabrera led the game off with back-to-back doubles, one to each gap. After Drabek struck out Shin-Soo Choo, he got bitten by the Base on Balls Bug, walking Travis Buck and Carlos Santana to load the bases. Grady Sizemore followed with a shot into the gap in left-centre for a three-run double that gave the Tribe a 4-0 lead. A groundout to third by Matt LaPorta came next, but another walk – this one to Jack Hannahan - spelled the end of a short night for the rookie righty. Drabek threw 38 pitches and only 15 of them were strikes. Only 12 of them were strikes that weren’t clobbered.
The 23 year-old has been walking a tightrope all season long, walking the house most nights and not really paying for it that much. Tonight, the walks remained but Drabek was unable to avoid the good, hard contact and escape. The three free passes brought his major-league leading total up to 45 – and in just 63 1/3 innings of work. That’s a rate of 6.4 walks per nine innings, which is just horrific. The good news is that it’s three walks per nine higher than his rate was for his entire minor-league career. This isn’t a pitcher with control issues that the Jays are hoping figures out how to throw strikes. This is a kid with “getting used to the major leagues” issues that one hopes he’ll iron out over time. Part of the process – remember, even though the Jays are currently two games out of a playoff spot, this is still a development year for the most part.
The positive never-seen-before happened in the bottom of the fifth, though with the Jays already down 12-0 at that point you can be excused for having tuned out. With one out and Josh Tomlin cruising with a one-hitter, Eric Thames drilled a shot off the wall in dead centre that just missed being his first big-league home run. The ball bounced away from Michael Brantley towards the infield and as he chased it, Thames raced into third for his first big-league triple. Rajai Davis followed with a drive over the head of Shin-Soo Choo that short-hopped the wall in right-centre. Thames scored easily, and Davis flew around the bases for a three-bagger of his own. Next up was Jayson Nix, and he hit a line drive to centre. Brantley came charging in and dove, but his dive was just short and the ball skipped past him and rolled all the way to the wall. By the time it was retrieved and sent back to the infield, Nix was standing at third.
That would be back-to-back-to-back triples – the first time that’s ever happened in the history of the Blue Jays. Three triples in a row is one off the major-league record set by Carl Reynolds, Moose Solters, Rick Ferrell and Bucky Walters of the 1934 Boston Red Sox. The quartet did it leading off what would wind up being a 12-run fourth inning in an eventual 14-4 win over the Tigers on May 6th of that season.
The last time a team had hit three triples in a row was 30 years ago – the Expos did it in 1981, stunningly, also on May 6th. Like the Blue Jays’, the Expos’ feat came in a loss in which they had 13 runs scored on them. The ‘Spos got consecutive triples from Mike Gates, Tim Raines and Tim Wallach (off the great Juan Eichelberger!) in the bottom of the 9th of a 13-5 loss to the Giants.
So that was cool – three triples in a row, I never thought I’d see that.
Some of the other strangeness involved Shawn Camp getting smacked around in the 3rd inning, retiring only one of the eight hitters he faced, giving up only one ball that wasn’t hit hard. Camp left with the Tribe up 10-0, a runner on second and one out, and Jason Frasor came in to see if he could stop the hemorrhaging. He did his job, but his defense let him down. Frasor got Choo to hit a line drive to centre; Davis got there, stuck his glove out, and the ball skipped right over it and all the way to the wall. Next up was Travis Buck, who hit a sky-high pop-up to shorstop. Yunel Escobar found it, settled under it…..and dropped it.
Fortunately, that was it for the Keystone Kops act, but down by a dozen just seven outs into the game, the Blue Jays were pretty much done.
But then they had the three straight triples, then Davis hit a three-run homer in the 6th, and after Rafael Perez threw away a double play ball in the bottom of the 9th and Jose Bautista followed with a two-run single through Hannahan, the Jays were down just four with three outs to go. With two out, an Edwin Encarnacion walk moved the tying run to the on-deck circle, something no one could have fathomed happening back in the third inning, when it looked like the Indians were going to win this game by fifty. But Thames struck out, ending his first three-hit game on a sour note, and the Blue Jays opened up June by hanging a well-deserved “L” on their record. They fall back to the .500 mark at 28-28 as they head out on the road for a week. By the way, the Blue Jays have had three straight losing Junes, and evidently they’re keeping that in mind as they go through this month. John Farrell is going to give his position players more regular rest to try to keep them sharp and see if that can help them avoid a fourth straight June swoon.
Here’s tonight’s edition of The JaysTalk, for your listening pleasure:
The Blue Jays get a well-deserved off-day on Thursday, their first real day off since May 12th, though they’ll spend it flying to Baltimore, and then they meet their A.L. East rivals for the first time this season in a three-game set that starts Friday night with Carlos Villanueva facing rookie lefty Zach Britton. Alan Ashby is heading off to the bright lights of the television booth, so Jerry Howarth will be joined by Gregg Zaun to provide top-flight analysis while I take care of things back at home base. We’re on at 7:00 PM Eastern for a 7:05 first pitch – be sure to join us, won’t you?
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