5:23 PM Eastern
This post could have been all about the craziness in St. Petersburg that saw the Blue Jays get up off the mat in the 8th inning and pick up huge two-out hits in the 10th and 11th but wind up on the losing end of a 12-inning affair against the Rays, but the Jays ensured the conversation would be directed elsewhere with their post-game roster moves.
It was a crazy game, though. Jose Bautista ignited an offense that had been dead since the first with his two-0ut game-tying home run in the 8th, Colby Rasmus hit his second opposite-field double of the day with two out in the 10th to cash Yunel Escobar with the go-ahead run after Rajai Davis had been picked off first base because his foot slipped off the bag after he stumbled, and Jose Molina tripled – yes, tripled – with two out in the 11th to score a pair and give the Jays the lead again. It was a drive to left-centre that one-hopped the wall and kicked back towards right-centre, so B.J. Upton had to chase it down.
But the bullpen couldn’t hold it. After Casey Janssen’s perfect 7th and 8th and Frank Francisco’s shutout 9th, Jon Rauch came in to start the 10th and immediately gave up the game-tying home run to Desmond Jennings. It’s the 9th big fly Rauch has allowed in 46 2/3 innings of work this season, which is just awful.
After the Molina triple, Rauch came back out for the 11th and gave up a leadoff double to B.J. Upton followed by a Casey Kotchman single. Matt Joyce grounded to second to score one, then Shawn Camp came on to pop up Elliott Johnson and give up a seeing-eye single to Robinson Chirinos that tied the game. The inning ended with Evan Longoria hitting a bases-loaded rocket up the middle that caromed off Camp’s shoe to a waiting Jose Bautista, who threw out Longoria. If Camp doesn’t make that kick save, Blue Jays fans are spared an extra inning of agony.
The game continued, and with Jesse Litsch having been used for multiple innings Wednesday night and Trever Miller and Wilfredo Ledezma the only other options, Camp came back out for the 12th and gave up a one-out triple to Upton down the rightfield line. Two intentional walks loaded the bases to both set up the force play at home and take the squeeze off the table, and Camp whiffed Johnson for the second out. But then it was Chirinos’ turn to play hero again, and the man Dirk Hayhurst dubbed “Honey Nut” while they were at AAA Durham came through with a ground single to left just past a diving Yunel Escobar to give the Rays the win.
This was the third game this season in which the Blue Jays’ bullpen has blown two separate save opportunities, they’re 1-2 in those games. They’re 4-9 in games in which they only blow one save.
Unfortunately, part of this is a by-product of the Rasmus trade, in which the Blue Jays dealt away Jason Frasor, Marc Rzepczynski and Octavio Dotel. They had to stretch both Rauch and Camp because the other alternatives – Miller and Ledezma – aren’t at all reliable. This short-term 2011 pain really is for a much better long-term gain.
That still doesn’t make fans happy, though, so how about a little Brett Lawrie?
The 21 year-old phenom out of Langley, B.C. was called up after the game and will make his major-league debut in Baltimore on Friday night, playing third base. Blue Jays fans have been salivating over Lawrie ever since his tremendous first impression in the Grapefruit League this spring, during which he hit .293/.326/.488 with two homers in 41 at-bats and was a giant ball of hustle.
Then Lawrie went down to Las Vegas and absolutely torched the Pacific Coast League, forcing the Blue Jays’ hands. He was hitting .354/.415/.677 and was a couple of days away from an early-June promotion to the majors when an inside fastball hit him and broke his left hand. Since coming back, Lawrie has maintained his hot hitting (he’s at .353/.415/.661 overall, barely a dip) and after an early blip is back to walking more than he’s striking out – he has earned this promotion.
Something that I feel needs to be said is this, given all the hype and all the excitement surrounding Lawrie: He can’t walk on water. He’s not going to be the American League Rookie of the Year. He will probably struggle, as most young players do, and will likely have to head back down to the minors at some point. All that said, it’s exciting to have him on the team and he’s going to be a lot of fun to watch.
Headed back to Las Vegas at Lawrie’s expense is Travis Snider, after the Blue Jays said he was up for good when they called him up on July 4th. Snider went 0-for-5 in the extra-inning loss, and is 2 for his last 18 as part of a 6 for 46 rut over which he hasn’t walked and has just one extra-base hit.
The choice was to either demote Snider or Eric Thames, or to swallow hard and eat the $7 million remaining on Mark Teahen’s contract and release him. So it really was Snider or Thames.
Snider is the better defender and the better baserunner, and both he and Thames are in a real trough right now. I noted Snider’s struggles, but Thames also went 0-for-5 in this game, striking out three times, and he’s in an 0 for 22 run right now. Covering the same time period over which Snider is 6 for 46, Thames has gone 9 for 49 with two doubles, a triple, a home run and four walks.
So yes, Thames has been doing better than Snider, but only marginally so – there really isn’t much to choose from between the two. Alex Anthopoulos will meet the media this evening – monitor my Twitter feed for quotes – and I have a feeling that we’ll hear that Snider has gotten back into the bad habits that got him sent down earlier this season, and they’re going to get back to work to get him out of them.
I continue to believe that the notion of Snider being a quadruple-A player is pretty far-fetched. It bears mentioning – once again – that he’s only 23 years old, still younger than Thames and Rasmus, and he has NEVER been given a legitimate, long-term, everyday opportunity in the major leagues. Travis Snider will be a monster someday, but it might not be with the Blue Jays.
So Bautista goes back to right field, Thames moves to left and Lawrie takes over at third. Expect Lawrie to hit either 7th or 8th in his major-league debut Friday night in Baltimore.
Carlos Villanueva, whose recent struggles were pointed out in the blog post previous to this one, was placed on the disabled list with a right forearm strain, and Luis Perez has been called up to take his place. For now, John Farrell says that Perez will be used out of the bullpen – the Jays have an off-day Monday, so they won’t need a 5th starter until next Saturday, when they’re home to the Angels. The bullpen could definitely use the help.
No JaysTalk because of the mid-week day game, so just find something in the Audio on Demand section of this very website for your listening pleasure!
Please give me a follow on The Twitter, you can find me at www.twitter.com/wilnerness590. It’s especially important to do so now, because I’ll be tweeting Alex Anthopoulous’ answers in the conference call that will be held at 6:00 PM Eastern on Thursday.
The Blue Jays’ road trip continues on Brett Lawrie Night in Baltimore – Brad Mills will take on Tommy Hunter (Juliette is going to play second base for the Orioles), and we’ll be on the air at 7:00 PM Eastern. Join us, won’t you?
Rational, reasonable comments are always welcome.