4:36 PM Eastern
It has been an impressive spring so far for your Toronto Blue Jays, and the smiles just got bigger with a second straight win over the sad-sack Houston Astros.
The ‘Stros, whose A-team got pounded by the Jays’ B-team on Friday afternoon, only brought some of of their starters to the FAES in Dunedin for the rematch Saturday, but more importantly, split the pitching duties between a couple of guys who are expected to be in their starting rotation this season.
Zach Duke and Jordan Lyles threw four innings each, and they were each paid a visit by Dr. Longball.
Jose Bautista got both of them – Duke with a shot into the trees beyond the left-field wall to open the scoring in the 3rd, and a mammoth blast to dead CF off Lyles in the 5th to make it a 4-0 Jays lead. Travis Snider continued his red-hot spring by belting his third homer in four games – a solo shot yanked to right off Duke in the 4th, and it was the second of his three big flies that have been hit off a left-hander.
After the game, Snider said that he has changed his approach against southpaws, but he wouldn’t tell us how just in case there were prying eyes and ears about reading these things. He was equally happy, by the way, about drawing his first walk of the spring, because he took a strike in the plate appearance while he was ahead in the count. A problem in the past has been that Snider would swing at a strike, rather than his strike, if he was ahead in the count, and that would get him into trouble.
The big story, though, was the strong, healthy outing of Dustin McGowan. Making his first start of the spring, McGowan threw 15 of his 24 pitches for strikes, hanging out around 93 mph on the stadium’s radar gun while touching 94 more than once. He allowed just one hit – a line drive single to right field by Chris Johnson, and struck out J.D. Martinez on a filthy slider to end a perfect first inning. McGowan said he felt normal, which is something he hadn’t felt the last four springs, and that he was now just another one of the starters looking forward to his next outing five days hence.
McGowan looked terrific. He hit his spots, his fastball had good life and his slider had great bite. It’s nothing short of a miracle that he’s progressed as far as he has after having two shoulder surgeries (and a knee, for good measure) over the last three years, and hopefully as spring goes on he stays healthy and we can stop talking about his injury history and start talking about how much he can contribute to the Blue Jays’ rotation this year. McGowan is found money, and could very well turn into something special indeed.
Leather was flashed behind Casey Janssen as part of his 1-2-3 7th inning. Omar Vizquel made a sensational play on a Brett Wallace bouncer far to his left, then made the easy flip to first for the out (Vizquel was playing second), and Jake Marisnick absolutely robbed the next hitter, Marwin Gonzalez, of a base hit with a fantastic diving grab on a ball that was headed for the grass directly in front of him.
The Blue Jays improve to 6-2-1 on the spring with their win, and will split the squad for Sunday, with half the team staying home to face Atlanta and the other half heading out to Disney to take on the Braves. Ricky Romero will start for the group that’s staying back -he’s scheduled to go three innings, as is Chad Jenkins. Kyle Drabek gets the call for the travel squad. We will have the home game for you along the Blue Jays Radio Network, starting with the pre-game show at 12:30 PM Easterm. Remember to spring forward, we all lose a valuable hour of sleep tonight.
Oh, and a quick note about the stories that came out about Alex Anthopoulos going to check out Joe Blanton’s outing with the Phillies. The Jays have said all winter that they’d like to add another top-flight starting pitcher, and Blanton certainly isn’t that, though he has some strong seasons in his rear-view mirror. What’s interesting is that prior to the game, Jays’ manager John Farrell joined pitching coach Bruce Walton to check out Brett Cecil’s bullpen session. Farrell was only there to see Cecil, and left when he was done. Managers don’t usually watch starters’ bullpens, so maybe the Jays have some concern there. Then again, maybe it’s nothing.
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