7:08 PM Eastern
Not so much the ten-game unbeaten streak – I mean, that’s fun and all, but it is just spring training and the games don’t count (though winning is considerably better than losing).
No, what’s crazy – I think, anyways – is watching Dustin McGowan go out to the mound and throw three solid innings and having all of us treat it like just another spring start. And it was. McGowan had some trouble finding his groove early, throwing 21 pitches (only 11 strikes) in the first inning and giving up an unearned run that shouldn’t have been. But even with the unsettledness, he only gave up one hard-hit ball in the frame and then proceeded to retire seven of the last eight hitters he faced – striking out three and getting three groundouts and a pop-up around a harmless single.
McGowan threw a total of 46 pitches, 27 of them for strikes, and continues to be right on track to be in the Blue Jays rotation to start the season. It’s nothing short of miraculous, truly, given all that he’s been through, but it’s becoming routine now, which is nuts.
As far as that unearned run that shouldn’t have been – it’s Spring Training and most teams just use members of their P.R. department as official scorers (which in the Blue Jays’ case, works out just fine). Jordan Schafer led off the inning with a walk and Travis d’Arnaud tried to pick him off first, but the throw sailed over David Cooper’s head and into right field for a two-base error. The next batter, Angel Sanchez, hit a bouncer to short. Official scorers aren’t allowed to assume a double play, so this would either have resulted in an out at first or at second, and it’s fair to assume the Jays would have gotten the closer force play, leaving Sanchez on first with one out. Then J.D. Martinez flied to left, which wouldn’t have advanced the runner, and Carlos Lee doubled into the left-field corner. With two out and Jose Bautista back in Dunedin, there’s zero chance that either Schafer or Sanchez doesn’t score on that play, but the official scorer said otherwise, calling the run unearned. This shouldn’t bother me, it’s spring training and nothing counts – and in the regular season things like this don’t really matter either, but my inner baseball geek is screaming about a miscarriage of justice. Oh, well. Had to get that off my chest.
I spoke to McGowan after his outing, and he was pleased to be continuing what’s so far been a very successful spring:
Kyle Drabek followed McGowan, and was even better. Drabek should have thrown three perfect innings, but the fates conspired against him. He retired the first six hitters he faced – the sixth thanks to a phenomenal diving grab, flat-out to his left, by Jonathan Diaz at second. It was a spectacular play, and Diaz got up and threw out Jose Altuve (together, they’re like 11 feet tall, maybe). Diaz has had a very strong spring – he chipped in with two hits, as well, and continues to show that he deserves consideration as the Blue Jays’ utility infielder when Omar Vizquel is finished with the position.
Here’s my conversation with Diaz, a man of few words, after the game:
OK, back to Drabek. He came out for the 6th having gone six up, six down and needing only 22 pitches (15 strikes) to do so, and got Schafer to lead off the inning with a hard grounder to third. Mike McCoy couldn’t handle it, though, and Schafer reached on the error. The next hitter, Sanchez, popped a ball up to short with Schafer on the move, but Luis Valbuena had abandoned his position to go cover second on the steal. That left an almost defenseless Eric Thames to try to make the play, and he charged hard – making a long, long run – and the wind took the ball out to him, but it went off his glove for a base hit, the only safety Drabek would allow.
So with runners at first and second, nobody out, and things going wrong all around him, Drabek fell apart, started walking people and gave up a couple of big hits afterward, right? Not so much. That hasn’t happened at all this spring, in fact. This time, the Astros helped him out a bit, as the runners took off on a double steal but Sanchez was nailed going into second. That left a runner on third and one out and Drabek got a couple of ground balls to get out of the inning, though a run did wind up scoring.
Here’s what Drabek thought of his performance after the game:
In the ongoing saga of “The Battle For Left Field”, Travis Snider belted a two-out, two-run double off lefty Zach Duke in the second inning as part of a 1-for-4 day. He also struck out twice and popped up. Snider was the DH, so he didn’t have the opportunity to dazzle on defense. Thames was 2-for-4 with a single and a double – both hard-hit line drives that tipped of the end of the gloves of a couple of Astros outfielders. He also stole a base, but was later erased trying to go from second to third on a grounder to short. Thames grounded out in his other two at-bats.
I’ve spoken to Snider quite a bit this spring, so this time, I talked to Thames, who had some interesting things to say about his reaction to all the Snider talk over the past couple of weeks:
On the Baby Jays watch, Anthony Gose had two hits that travelled a combined 100 feet - maybe - a bunt single and a slow roller to short that Sanchez tried to barehand, but missed. Jake Marisnick, who is likely going to be a monster, belted his first Grapefruit League homer in the 9th - a bomb down the left-field line off Fernando Abad (who has plenty of big-league time) that may have hit the roof of the Astros' clubhouse beyond the left-field wall.
More audio for you!
Here’s the post-game scrum with manager John Farrell, in which I was the only member of the media who participated, so it wound up being a one-on-one interview. You’ll note that Farrell wasn’t as harsh on McGowan as Dustin himself was, and also that I gave Farrell an out to take Thames off the hook for the Sanchez pop-up that fell in in the 6th, and he didn’t take it. He also seemed especially pleased with Drabek and was critical of d’Arnaud’s day behind the plate:
And finally, with the Maple Leafs in Tampa to face the Lightning Thursday night, a couple of members of the Buds’ front office were in attendance at the game. I said hello to Dave Poulin and informed him that his NHL debut was the first NHL game I’d ever attended in person (April of 1983 – he scored twice as the Flyers beat the Leafs, I want to say 6-4, maybe 6-3), and I also managed to get a few minutes with Burkie himself! Here’s that conversation, for your listening pleasure:
Friday, the Blue Jays look to stretch their spring win streak to ten when the Tampa Bay Rays pay a visit to the FAES. Ricky Romero is scheduled to start and throw four innings, and Chad Jenkins is set to go three. No TV or radio coverage of the game, so follow me on The Twitter @wilnerness590 and you’ll stay apprised of all the action.
Comments are welcome – I read them all and respond to most!