The Blue Jays brought their brooms with them to Rogers Centre in an attempt to sweep away the New York Metropolitans, but fell just short despite having a seemingly golden opportunity to at least tie it up in the bottom of the ninth.
The Jays had climbed back from a 6-2 hole to close to within a run with some big hits late – a two-out RBI single by Jose Bautista in the 7th, back-to-back doubles by J.P. Arencibia and Eric Thames to open the 8th and an RBI single by Colby Rasmus later in that frame, which snapped his personal 0-for-20.
The Mets looked for some insurance in the top of the 9th but couldn’t get it, as Francisco Cordero came on for Darren Oliver with two on and two out and struck out Ronny Cedeno on three pitches, driving the crowd of 41,867 nuts. It was an incredible atmosphere at the old Concrete Convertible, with the huge crowd – driven by a Brandon Morrow bobblehead giveaway and the gorgeous long-weekend weather – making its presence felt throughout the game, it’s just too bad the Blue Jays couldn’t emerge victorious.
As I said, the chance was there. Frank Francisco, the Mets’ closer who had the same job with the Blue Jays for a lot of last season, came on to work the bottom of the 9th to great celebration among the fans, and they were even happier when he walked Yunel Escobar on a 3-2 pitch to open the inning. Jose Bautista followed, and with the Mets playing a major right-handed pull shift, Bautista bounced a two-strike offering through the wide-open right side for a single. Escobar had to hold up at second because the ball almost hit him on its way to right field, so he had to stop to let it go through.
That put the tying run on second and the winning run on first with the Blue Jays’ 4-5-6 hitters coming up.
Edwin Encarnacion was first, and in no way should he have been asked to bunt. Encarnacion has been having a rough time lately, just 5-for-25 on the homestand and hitting only .188 in May going into that at-bat (though with 5 homers in 18 games), but he has still been the Blue Jays’ best overall hitter this season. More importantly, Encarnacion has NEVER laid down a successful sacrifice bunt in his career. When some hitters come to the plate in that situation, it’s just screaming out for a bunt to be dropped down. Not your clean-up hitter, though.
Edwin struck out, and J.P. Arencibia was next. Unlike Encarnacion, Arencibia has been hot as a pistol in the month of May, hitting .339/.362/.732 going into that at-bat, and already with two hits in the game. Arencibia got ahead of Francisco 2-0, fouled off a couple of pitches, then struck out too, leaving things up to Eric Thames.
The options on the bench were Jeff Mathis and Omar Vizquel, neither of whom is nearly the hitter Thames is, even Eric struggles through a tough May of his own, with an OPS under .600. Thames fouled off a couple of pitches around a couple of balls, then, just like the two teammates before him, he struck out swinging. That ended the game and got Francisco his 10th save of the season in 12 tries, actually lowering his WHIP to a still-unsightly 2.040.
It’s too bad that the Blue Jays couldn’t take advantage of the opportunity Francisco afforded them with the two baserunners, but it’s not as though it should have been managed differently. You don’t bunt with Encarnacion – nor do you pinch-hit one of your two worst hitters for one of your best in order to ask one of them to lay down a bunt that has no guarantee at all of working (remember Omar Vizquel in Oakland last week), nor do you bunt with (or pinch-hit for) your hottest hitter.
The only thing that perhaps should have been done differently was maybe having Yunel Escobar try to steal second with Bautista up. Francisco has always been absolutely terrible at holding baserunners – over the last five years, 40 runners have tried to steal off him and 37 have been successful, including four out of four this year. The thing is, Escobar is probably the second-worst basestealer on the team. I don’t know why, he’s not slow, but he’s not a good basestealer. He’s only tried once this season, and been caught, and for his career he’s stolen successfully on only 21 of 39 attempts. That’s an awful conversion rate, and even with someone as bad at holding runners as Frankie on the mound, I don’t know if it’s worth taking a chance with the tying run.
It was an unfortunate finish, but an electric afternoon at the ballpark, and while I’m sure the crowd left frustrated and unhappy at the loss, I hope most people will think back to what a great time it was overall, and remember how great a place Rogers Centre can be when the atmosphere is like that.
Here’s this afternoon’s edition of The BlueJaysTalk, for your listening pleasure:
I also have to comment on a controversialish play in the top of the first inning. With two out, Kirk Nieuwenhuis hit a blooper to shallow centre on which Colby Rasmus made an incredible headfirst, sprawling, diving catch. He sno-coned the ball, though, and once he slid to a stop, opened up his glove to allow the ball to drop down into the pocket, as we see outfielders do all the time. The ball fell out, and instead of a catch, it was ruled that Rasmus dropped the ball. Everyone disagrees with me on this – which, while you wouldn’t think so, is pretty unusual – but I don’t see any difference between that play and an infielder dropping the ball on a transfer while trying to turn a double play. Hopefully, the lesson Rasmus learns from this is that if he ever finds himself in that situation again, to either just stand up and start jogging to the dugout, or to take the ball out of his glove with his bare hand and not try to drop it into the pocket. If that had been called an out, the inning would have been over, the Mets’ third run wouldn’t have scored and the game might still be going on.
It’s not, and the Blue Jays are off on a weeklong road trip that begins with a three-game set against the Tampa Bay Rays, who swept a two-gamer here at Rogers Centre earlier this week. The series opens with Kyle Drabek taking on last season’s A.L. Rookie of the Year, Jeremy Hellickson. We’ll be on the air at 7:00PM Eastern – join us, won’t you?
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