12:35 AM Eastern
The Blue Jays, who so brutally lacked offense during their first two stops on this four-city road trip, managed to put away the St. Louis Cardinals for a second straight night, this time with a five-run third inning in which they only managed one hit.
It started the way an inning should never start, with a walk to the pitcher. Jaime Garcia gave Carlos Villanueva a free pass and I’m not sure which is more of a cardinal sin (if you’ll pardon the pun), walking the pitcher to lead off an inning or walking the pitcher with two out. Either way, the Blue Jays made him pay.
The Villanueva walk was followed by another one to Yunel Escobar, and Aaron Hill then hit a weak grounder to second to move the runners up – it was the only out Hill would make in four trips in his likely-brief return to the two-hole. With first base open, Tony LaRussa chose to intentionally walk Jose Bautista for the second time in the series, and for the second time, Adam Lind drove in a run immediately following, this time with a fly ball to deep centre that cashed Villanueva and tied the game.
J.P. Arencibia was next, and he hit a hard grounder that was headed for left field, but St. Louis third baseman Daniel Descalso made a sensational diving stab. Descalso got up and threw high to first, but Lance Berkman showed some serious hops in going up to get the wild throw, then came down on the first base bag just ahead of a hustling Arencibia. But first base umpire D.J. Reyburn didn’t see it that way, calling Arencibia safe, which allowed Yunel Escobar to score the go-ahead run and continued the inning for Juan Rivera, who smacked a 1-0 change-up into the bullpen in left field for the Blue Jays’ only hit of the inning, a three-run homer.
Villanueva took it from there, allowing only one more run in working six strong innings before handing it over to the bullpen. Jon Rauch worked a shutout seventh but struggled in the eighth, putting two on with one out before Marc Rzepczynski bailed him out with a one-pitch double play off the bat of Berkman. Frank Francisco made it interesting in the 9th, thanks mostly to his own throwing error on a weak grounder that should have ended the game, but he managed to get the job done.
What he was doing pitching at all is a major question. Francisco was in because Jays’ manager John Farrell failed to properly execute a double switch in the 8th. With the pitchers’ spot due up third in the 9th inning, Farrell had planned to bring Corey Patterson in with Rzepczynski, batting Patterson in the pitcher’s spot and Zep in Juan Rivera’s sixth spot in the order, but he pointed to the bullpen before going over to the home plate umpire to make the switch, and so was denied the change.
I don’t know if LaRussa being out arguing Matt Holliday’s ejection distracted Farrell, but it’s the second National League misstep he’s made in as many games in St. Louis. Friday night he wasted a bench spot by pinch-hitting Rivera in the 8th inning after he’d already pinch-run for Jose Molina. J.P. Arencibia was going to be coming into what was a tie game at that point anyway, so had he been put in to hit, Rivera could have been saved to hit for the pitcher had the game gone into extras.
The positives to note about these mistakes are that the Jays won both games, and that they’ll only be playing with National League rules once more all season unless they manage to get to the World Series, which doesn’t seem terribly likely. The negative is that Francisco had to be put in to the game in a non-save situation and as a result is more than likely unavailable for Sunday’s series finale (and why not use Shawn Camp or Luis Perez instead, with a four-run lead in the 9th?).
Here’s tonight’s edition of The JaysTalk, for your listening pleasure:
The entire Travis Snider interview can be found in the audio on demand section of this very website.
The series wraps up with Ricky Romero taking to the hill against Kyle McClellan, who has done a fine job since being yanked out of the bullpen in the spring to replace the injured Adam Wainwright. It’s Romero’s first start since his “controversial” comments about the Blue Jays’ offense in the wake of his 2-0 loss in Atlanta on Tuesday. The Jays have scored 11 runs in the first two games in St. Louis after scoring a total of 10 in the first six games of the road trip. We’ll be on across the country at 1:30 PM Eastern for a 2:15 first pitch, and those listening on Sportsnet Radio The Fan590 and on this website get an extra bonus half-hour pre-pre-game. Join us, won’t you?
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Rational, reasonable comments are always welcome!