12:37AM Eastern

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:

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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.

Comments are welcome, I read them all and respond to most!

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16 Responses to “KC Gets Royaled”
  1. 1.

    Hey Mike

    Looking at the Phillies starting lineup, not very good. Utley and Howard are well past their prime, even with that starting rotation, I think they miss the playoffs this year.
    Its kind of odd, but I think Doc would be playing for a better club if he was back in Toronto.

    - Rick
  2. 2.

    Mike, am I correct in saying that the handle-hit double by Getz was the first (and still only) hit by a lefthanded batter off Perez this year?
    I think I saw a “.000″ in his stat line as he was coming in to the game.

    MW: Yes, you’re right! By the way, http://www.baseball-reference.com is a wonderful resource for those kinds of questions.

    - Norm
  3. 3.

    Mike,

    I might have been considered one of the negatives last night against Morrow.

    Rogers Media has really hyped the team this year. The music’s change to make the Jays “more exciting”. The canned statement on the Fan is that the AL east has never been more competitive. The fan base is hyped up. I’m hyped up.

    You’ve stated that you believe that the Jays are as good as any other team in the East and “we’ll see what happens”. This really gets our hopes up. Last year, the message from you and most Jays followers was that the Jays were not going to make it, this is a development year, and so on.

    And when you look at the team, defensively, it’s such an incredible improvement over last year. Last year, the glowing infielder was Yunel. Now, Yunel just looks ordinary against Lawrie, Johnson and a very much improved Lind. Last year, we had to hope (and pray) that EE would make the play at 3rd and that Lind (the new 1st baseman) would catch it. There were injuries too, and we had to rely on Johnny Mac (brilliant defensively) and Mike McCoy. The outfield is better too with Rasmus in center over Corey Paterson.

    Offensively, it looks much better too, and the numbers are starting to improve.

    That leaves pitching. The fact is that this year, Morrow is the #2 starter, and there is nothing coming up in the Jays roster that is going to change that. I think the Fans expect him to be a #2, and given his near no hitter 2 years ago, alot of us expect him to be more like a #1. So, I expect him to be a number 2 and will criticize him as such, because that’s where he is on the team. I feel that Morrow’s success is key to the team making the post season. I pretty much know that Romero will be great, and Alvarez and Drabek are pitching “as expected” in the 3 and 4 slots.

    That said, when Morrow gave up his home run last night, it immediately gave me reminiscences of Tampa last Wednesday. Then there were two doubles to start of innings as well, and it was a combination of good pitching, brilliant defense, and an overpressing Kansas City offense that got him out of innings unscathed. It wasn’t just good pitching.

    His fastball is hittable, especially when he leaves it up. He has the most homers against him so far this season. So, my only criticism of Morrow is to keep the ball down. Otherwise, 3 of the 4 starts he has had have been good — not brilliant, but good. In fact, the entire starting pitching staff have been good this far. They are pitching deeper into games, and we have yet to see the 2, 3, or 4 inning blow out.

    MW: It’s very easy to blame “hype” for creating expectations, but that takes you off the hook for listening to what’s being fed you with a critical ear. If you think of Morrow as a dominant number two starter, you’re very likely to be disappointed, because while pretty much every baseball person agrees that he has the stuff and ability to be that, he’s certainly not that yet. Given his inexperience as a starter, his injuries and the early-career jerking-around he got by the Mariners, Morrow is very much still a work in progress.

    - Tim in Niagara Falls
  4. 4.

    I wonder if the big game that Morrow had against the Rays a couple of years ago gave people the idea that he should be doing that every time out. It seems to be a measuring stick because people know what he is capable of. It’s too bad though. Fans seem way to eager to give up on young talent rather than sitting back and cheering them on to see what kind of potential the talent can rise to. I hope Morrow wins 15 this year, I think he will.

    - Dan From Elmvale
  5. 5.

    I would suggest that Morrow was not so much clutch in pitching last night as he was lucky. If he wasn’t pitching against a team who had lost 10 in a row and low on confidence, I think his start could have been a lot worse.

    I understand he wasnt awful, but I wouldn’t give him too much credit either.

    MW: So let me see if I have this straight – the Royals got all those baserunners against Morrow because he didn’t pitch well, but they couldn’t convert any of them because he was lucky? Got it.

    - Andy
  6. 6.

    A sweep in K.C. for the first time in franchise history? The 2012 edition of the Toronto Blue Jays are certainly showing us something new every week.
    This series was a team effort. There was a different hero every game.
    The way Bruce Chen was pitching this game, I really thought the Jays’ winning streak would end at three. However, it was Brandon Morrow who won this pitching battle. As you pointed out Mike, this guy bore down when he had to and kept the Royals offence quiet for most of the game and provided enough ground balls for the defence to back him up with two more double plays for a total of nine in the four-game series!
    The only thing I was disappointed in this game was with the umpire’s call against Rajai Davis trying to steal second base. I guess the umpire felt the Jays’ runner should be out but clearly Davis was passed the defence and his hand was on the base once the tag was applied. Oh well, I think the Jays have had the benefit of a call or two coming into this series.
    Correct me if I am wrong but did I hear (toward the end of your broadcast last night) refer to the Toronto Blue Jays as “us”?
    Something new every week.
    Keep smiling Mike. You sound as though your health is back to 100%.

    MW: I don’t think I did. And thanks, the cold is long since gone. It’s actually a four-game sweep in KC for the first time in franchise history.

    - Joseph P.
  7. 7.

    Mike,

    Did you know that Luis Perez is currently 46th overall ranked player in Yahoo Fantasy? For what it’s worth, that’s pretty good in my books and he’s been quite a bright spot thus far for us. He’s earned the faith John Farrell has in him so far.

    It is good to see that the depth of our bullpen stepping up despite the injury to Santos. I believe we are still pretty solid with Frasor/Janssen/Oliver/Perez to get the ball with the lead to Cordero. And Cordero is a professional and should do okay (likely with a blown save here and there along the way). Perez’s performance thus far has definitely taken some pressure off Frasor and Janssen who were suppose to pitch in spots that Perez has thus far. Hopefully, Frasor and Janssen can pick it up and pitch to the way they are capable of.

    Although we let a few games slip away early on this season, I am pleased with how the Jays have performed so far and glad they have closed out an inferior team like they’re supposed to.

    Last thing, how about Mat Latos’ start with the Reds? What a disaster he’s been so far! I’m glad that he’s not the Jays’ problem at the moment!

    - Antony
  8. 8.

    Hi Mike

    Is it just me or is Kelly Johnson looking better in the field than his reputation before coming to the Blue Jays suggested he would. This is a purely anecdotal assessment on my part from watching him for the first couple of weeks of the season (don’t have time to really dig into the stats right now) but I wanted to get your opinion on his overall performance in the field so far as a Blue Jay versus what you might have expected.

    MW: I agree with you. I had always heard about Johnson being an OK defender at best at second base, but he’s certainly shown to be more than that. He’s terrific at turning the double play and has shown the ability to make the occasional spectacular play, as well.

    - Ryan
  9. 9.

    michael,
    first of all… “taking on canadian country music legend tommy hunter…”
    are you sure?? i’m pretty sure it’s not the same guy…
    as for last night. just 2 observations and one of them becoming an incredibly exciting and ongoing theme with this ball club.
    this team’s defence from the get go this yr. and particularly lately taking it up a notch as each game passes.
    where do you start? honest to goodness michael…
    other than left field on a regular basis thus far perhaps (and even then when considering thames and/or davis) still mlb worthy for the position.
    but these guys are amazing.
    arencibia/mathis, lind (sure. why not throw in ee), johnson, escobar, lawrie, vizquel still up to the task. around the horn she goes…
    rasmus, bautista. take your pick. just tremendous stuff.
    the double plays getting turned are a thing of beauty.
    how nice to see johnson in particular turning the outs and double plays. very encouraging.
    and no doubt have to pay tribute to the pitchers inducing the ground balls obviously as well.
    collectively though, just lovin’ it.
    those royals had so many potential turn around innings doused in these last 4 games, i honestly was starting to feel bad for them and their fans having to watch it since last friday.
    pitching, defence, timely hitting, great baserunning…
    this team’s got it figured out on what they need to do and i’m guessing (maybe just hoping. not sure) it’s only going to get better.
    sweeet…
    and as for tweets coming your way re: morrow not coming up with the goods last night. are you serious??
    wowsa. my observation… almost every single time the young man had a potentially troublesome or tricky situation upon him situation, he did what he had to do to get out of it.
    k’s, but more importantly ground ball outs and plenty of them double play outs when needed.
    most other pitchers in mlb it seems to me get praised for that type of gutty, resilient effort.
    tough crowd around here no doubt.

    - darrell bishop
  10. 10.

    Mike-I too like Rasmus, he is a very sound player at bat and in the field. Will Luis Perez graduate to closer or a starter? (Looks fearless and throws a heavy ball).
    Dennis

    MW: He’s starting to get higher-leverage innings. It wouldn’t surprise me if they attempted to stretch him out to start at some point in time, just not sure how they’d swing that.

    - bevan41@sourcecable.net
  11. 11.

    Hi Mike, Im enjoying the daily blog. I was hoping you could comment on your assertion that Morrow vs Burnett is a lazy comparison. I think to Jays fans having someone young, with amazing stuff, high strikeout rates, and great potential, only to be seemingly forever waiting for that ‘Ace’ to emerge is very similar between the two. Maybe thats the lazy part, but I am hoping you can provide a bit more color on what is so different up to this point.

    Thanks.

    MW: I don’t think that’s the comparison people are making. When a Blue Jays fan brings up A.J. Burnett, they’re referring to a tease, someone with all the talent in the world but who will never put it together because even with all the physical tools he has, the one he’s lacking is between the ears. Morrow is not that at all.

    - Somecut
  12. 12.

    When does Snider come up Mike? Time to release the Lunchbox. It is time Mike. You know it is

    - ken
  13. 13.

    Let’s hope Gregg gets into all the games. I was in the park when he blew up good a couple weeks ago. Just watching him on the Jumbotron as he warmed up made my heart leap with joy.

    - Kevin Gregg for Jays MVP
  14. 14.

    michael,
    btw. looked it up. it’s not the same tommy hunter ok.
    this guy pitching tonite is almost 50 yrs younger…
    “canadian country music legend, tommy hunter…”
    jesus… check your sources would you.

    - darrell bishop
  15. 15.

    Darrell, even to me it’s obvious that Mike was using “irony”? (At least I think that’s the right term). It’s not like you to miss one that’s so simple.

    - Norm
  16. 16.

    norm,
    now c’mon… surely my facetiousness was as obvious as michaels.
    tell me… now you’re joining in on the game right now aren’t you?
    well played mister…. you’re good.

    - darrell bishop
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