The Blue Jays went into Kansas City facing a reeling Royals squad that had lost seven in a row and was winless at home, and kicked them when they were down, sweeping away a four-game set in Missouri for the first time in franchise history.
The finale turned on the big-time situational excellence of Brandon Morrow and the home run heroics of Jose Bautista.
Morrow wasn’t at his best – though he was nowhere near as bad as many of my Twitter followers suggested, much to my disbelief – scattering seven hits over 6 2/3 innings,and leaving after issuing his one and only walk of the night, but he was at his best when he needed to be.
Three times the Royals had a runner on third base with one out, and Morrow upped his game. Twice he struck out the next batter before inducing a ground ball to end the inning, and the other time he got a foul pop-up, then a routine fly to centre field to emerge unscathed.
In all, the Royals sent nine men to the plate against Morrow with a runner in scoring position and not only did not a single one of them manage to get a hit, but not a single one of them even managed to move the baserunner along. That’s huge clutch pitching.
Luis Perez picked up Morrow after that seventh-inning walk and gave up a bloop double to put the tying run in scoring position, but then got Alex Gordon to ground to short to end the inning and worked a perfect bottom of the 8th, setting things up for Francisco Cordero to work a drama-free 9th for his second save in as many games.
After the game, the Blue Jays announced that the MRI done on closer Sergio Santos’ right shoulder showed no structural damage, but that he’s going to be shut down for ten days to two weeks. That’s good news and bad news. If Santos is pain-free the next time he picks up a baseball, then he’ll get right back on track and will probably be ready to rejoin the team by mid-May. If he’s not, that’s troubling. Until then, the 9th inning belongs to the man who is second on baseball’s active saves list.
As for the offense, Kelly Johnson (right after his appearance on the pre-game show with me!) homered in the first inning to get the Blue Jays on the board and Bautista broke a 1-1 tie with a two-run shot in the 6th, after Johnson led off the inning with a walk.
For Bautista, it was just his third home run of the season, a “power outage” that seems to have caused a great deal of concern among Blue Jays fans. I understand the frustration, after all we’re used to Bautista being the best hitter in the game, as he has been the last two seasons. But it’s important to remember that a start like this for Bautista is nothing new. In fact, in April of 2010, his big breakthrough season, Jose hit .213/.314/.427 with four home runs. Right now, he’s hitting .214/.378/.393 with three.
The Blue Jays added on in the 9th as Brett Lawrie led off with his first triple of the season and was cashed by a Rajai Davis single.
It was an interesting line-up that John Farrell submitted against KC lefty Bruce Chen, who has given the Blue Jays fits in the past (career 2.87 ERA and 0.93 WHIP against them going into the game). Lawrie was hitting 5th, behind Edwin Encarnacion. Next was Davis, followed by Adam Lind, who hit in the 7th spot in the order for the first time since 2010. Lind has earned the demotion, no doubt – his hitting against left-handed pitching has left quite a bit to be desired since his big 2009 season, but the move showed that Farrell isn’t willing to put a player’s feelings ahead of the chance to win a ballgame.
Too often in past regimes, a player has hit in an important spot in the line-up solely by virtue of who he was, as opposed to what he’d done. There was no way Vernon Wells or Carlos Delgado were ever going to hit anywhere but third or fourth, whether they were hitting .200 or .300, because they were who they were. Farrell went into this season saying that Lind was his clean-up hitter, and that he was going to play every day. Sixteen games in, Lind has sat against a couple of tough lefties, he’s hit fifth a couple of times, and Monday night he hit seventh. To his credit, Lind came to the plate three times against Chen and had a good night – he reached on an infield single, was robbed of a hit by a terrific play from Mike Moustakas at third, and flied out to deep centre.
Oh, and Kelly Johnson threw his glove in the ring rather emphatically as well, ending the second inning by charging a slow roller by Mitch Maier and flipping the ball from his glove to Lind at first – on the backhand. I’ve never seen a play like that before, and Johnson executed it flawlessly. It’s right up there with Colby Rasmus’ flat-out diving grab in centre field in the Home Opener for the best web gem a Blue Jay has thrown down this season. If you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favour and make sure you do.
Here’s tonight’s edition of The BlueJaysTalk, for your listening pleasure:
With the sweep in their rear-view mirror, the Blue Jays are off to Baltimore to try to exact some revenge against the Orioles for taking two of three at Rogers Centre last week. Tuesday night’s opener features Henderson Alvarez, coming off a rough start against the Rays, taking on Canadian country music legend Tommy Hunter, whom the Blue Jays took deep four times in a 7-5 loss to the O’s on April 13th. We’ll be on the air at 7:00PM Eastern for a 7:05 first pitch – join us, won’t you?
Please give me a follow on The Twitter, the in-game chats are always a ton of fun – you can find me @wilnerness590.
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