April 2014

A rough week behind and a heavy schedule ahead

With the Orioles and the Red Sox coming to town, the Jays had a very important week ahead of them.
The series against the Orioles started with a BANG as Edwin Encarnacion finally hit his first homerun of the season while Brett Lawrie (4th) and Melky Cabrera (5th) also went yard.
R.A. Dickey left after six innings, after Nelson Cruz hit a 3-run blast, but that was soon matched by Double E.
The relief corps did its job, allowing only two hits and two walks over the next three innings. On the Orioles’ side, Evan Meek and Josh Stinson were not as stingy as Lawrie and Cabrera each connected for a three-run shot.
In the second game, Dustin McGowan did nothing to impress his manager. Leading 6-1, he was unable to go beyond the fourth inning, as he was rocked for six runs on five hits and a walk. Todd Redmond came in relief and he poured gas on the fire. Over two thirds of an inning, the young  righthander, who could have been a candidate as a fourth or fifth starter, allowed the Orioles to storm back, giving up three runs.
The visiting Birds connected for four homeruns, including two by Cruz who drove in five runs.
What should have been an easy win against Chris Tillman, the Orioles’ ace, became a heartbreaking loss, 10-8, despite Cabrera, Lawrie and Dioner Navarro who got three hits each.
After one out in the ninth inning, the Jays loaded the bases but since John Gibbons had emptied his bench in a single inning, he had to let Jonathan Diaz come to bat and he hit into a game-ending double-play.
Again : too late and not enough!
And in the last game of the series, the relievers wasted another outstanding performance from Drew Hutchison. The young pitched left the game leading 3-2 after six innings and 102 pitches. But Neil Wagner, Brett Cecil and Esmil Rogers wasted his effort, allowing nine runs over the next two innings.
Although the Jays scored three runs on two homers in the second inning, their attack was silenced as they got only three hits over the last seven.
With the Red Sox coming to Toronto, I had the feeling that Mark Buehrle’s string of success was to be snapped. And it started with a base on balls to his first hitter in the second inning. Before that inning ended, the veteran southpaw had given up seven runs on twelve hits, without notching a single strikeout, as the Jays were beaten 8-1.
Jose Reyes, Cabrera and Jose Bautista kept their hitting streak alive but Juan Francisco was to only one who got to Jake Peavy as he hit his first homerun as a Blue Jay.
If you thought that it was bad enough… the worst was yet to come!
On Saturday, Brandon Morrow was sent to the showers even if he had not given a single hit! But, one must say that Morrow had issued eight walks in less than three innings of work…
And as Redmond had done in relief of McGowan in the previous game, Chad Jenkins, just recalled from Buffalo, gave up a grand slam to A.J. Pierzinski and the Red Sox transformed a 1-3 deficit into a 5-3 lead.
Once again, the Jays refused to lay down their bats as they got 13 hits. Bautista and Navarro had three each, but it was to no avail and the Sox won 7-6.
One can wonder if the Jays would be in a much better position if Ervin Santana  (3-0, 1,95 in four starts) had decided to accept their offer instead of the Braves’. But, as the proverb says: « No use crying over spilled milk ».
Luckily, R.A. Dickey came to the rescue in the finale as he notched his second win of the season, preventing a disastrous week.
The Jays won 7-1. Cabrera, Encarnacion and Lawrie lead the attack with two hits each and Dickey pitched six strong innings, without issuing a single walk!
Over their last 10 games, the Blue Jays relievers have been overworked as they were called upon to pitch in 35 2/3 innings, giving up 28 runs on 33 hits and 28 bases on balls.
They need a rest.
Yes, Monday is a day off… but then the Jays have a very heavy schedule as they will play 33 games in 34 days. One should not be surprised if manager John Gibbons decides to use a six starters… including young Marcus Strohman.

And if the Jays had been hitting at the start…

As far as I can see, the biggest difference with the Jays, this year, is on defense… as I am sure nobody has forgotten their poor showing with the glove last year.

Even with Jose Reyes out of the lineup, the defense has been superb behind the pitchers as Jonathan Diaz, Ryan Goins and Maicer Izturis have been sharp up the middle. Matter of fact, the Jays have committed only four errors over their first 13 games, three of them by pitchers.

Mark Buehrle was sharp against the Astros, in the first game of the series, as he scattered eight hits to register his second win of the season. Once again, the defense was timely as it recorded it’s seventh double-play while Melky Cabrera kept his hot bat going with his fourth homer in as many games.

For the second time this season, there was a video replay as L.J. Hoes was called out at the plate, trying to score from third base. The umpire’s call was confirm despite the fact that the Astros said that Dioner Navarro had blocked the dish.

And Sergio Santos registered his third save.

The next day, Brandon Morrow resurfaced as he handcuffed the Astros on two hits over the first five innings, while striking out nine batters. He ran out of gas in the sixth inning as the Astros struck for three runs.

But, the Jays climbed to first place as the beat the Astros 7-3… in first place for the first time since April 2012. And Cabrera added two more hits while Izturis also git two singles ans Brett Lawrie smacked his first homerun.

But in the third game of the series, R.A. Dickey gave up three homers and when he exited in the seventh inning, the Jays were trailing 6-1. They tried to comeback with three runs in the ninth inning and they had the tying runs on the bases when Izturis hit a dribbler to the pitcher for the last out.

The Jays requested another video replay of a close call at first base in the fifth inning and once again, they were wrong for the sixth time in as many tries.

The next stop was Baltimore where, over the last two seasons, the Jays have struggled with a 3-18 record.

Finally, the tide turned as the Jays won two out of three against the Orioles!

In the first game, the Orioles committed two errors in the same innings and despite getting only three hits, the Jays won it 2-0 to start their nine-game road trip on the right foot.

Dustin McGowan was sharp over the first six innings, allowing only five hits and one walk for his first win of the season. Santos notched his fourth save in as many trips to the mound with a perfect ninth inning.

Cabrera got one of the three hits to extend his streak to 11 games.

The second game was another instance where the Jays could not get on track with men on the bases. They stranded nine and did not get a hit with a runner in scoring position.

The Jays almost pulled it off as Colby Rasmus hit a two-out, two-strike solo homerun in the top of the ninth inning to send the game in overtime. It was his career 100th homer.

Once again the defense was very sharp, with Diaz starting two double-plays.

Strangely enough, the outfielders were playing shallow in the bottom of the 12th inning when Steve Lombardozzi hit a triple in right-center field and David Lough followed with a game-winning single to left field. Usually, the outfielders are guarding against doubles or triples in such situations.

It was, otherwise, a very sharp outing by young Drew Hutchison who held the Orioles in check for sis innings. And, Cabrera got a hit for a 12th straight game.

The last game of the series finally saw the hitters come to life as they pounded Ubaldo Jimenez for 10 of their 17 hits for five runs before he exited.

The Jays hammered four doubles and three homeruns for their first big offensive output of the season. Jose Bautista clubbed his fifth homer of the season, a three-run blast, while Rasmus and Lowrie added solo shots.

Ramus, Lind and Encarnacion closed the day with three hits each while Bautista, Cabrera and Lawrie added two each.

Buehrle gave up one run the the first inning, but then settled down and recorded his third win of the season as he limited the Orioles to five hits over the first seven innings.

Usually, players are happy to have an off-day, even this early in the season, but I bet you that the Jays would rather play and keep their hot bats going instead of waiting for 24 hours before their series in Minnesota!

A start that could have been better

The first week of the new season ended with 3-4 record… which is better than last year’s (2-5), but it could have been much better. A beginning which confirmed that the Jays are hurting in the starting pitchers department.
In the first series, it was not the ideal scenario for the Jays, having to play in Tropicana Field where they don’t feel at ease all.
R.A. Dickey was roughed up for six runs on five hits and six walks and, as it was not enough, the fragile Jose Reyes was knocked out of the lineup after only one at-bat. Last year, Jose was hurt in the Jays’ 10th game of the season, but this year he played about only 10 seconds!
While Dickey was struggling, the Rays’ ace David Price cruised during the first eight innings, allowing only one run, a solo homerun by pinch hitter Erik Kratz.
The second game of the series, was a memorable one for Drew HJutchison and the just recalled Jonathan Diaz.
Hutchison shut out the Rays on three hits and three walks while Diaz got his first major league hit, rbi and stolen base. For Hutchison, who had an outstanding spring, it was his first win since 2012, as he had to regain his form after having a Tommy John type of operation.
Diaz, who earned a World Series ring having played five games with the Boston Red Sox in 2013, had been a 12th round draft pick for the Jays in the 2006 amateur draft.
Sergio Santos, the new Jays’ closer as Casey Janssen is on the disabled list, played with fire in the ninth inning, but registered his first save of the season.
The next day, Jose Bautista went deep twice. Diaz, Brett Lawrie and Edwin Encarnacion played solid defense and that was all southpaw Mark Buehrle needed as he struck out 11 Rays while giving up only three hits and only one walk, to register his first win, 3-0.
Brett Cecil notched his first save of the young season.
Finally, the Jays could not do better than split the four-game series, as the Rays won the finale by a 7-2 score.
Brandon Morrow was not sharp, giving up four runs on seven hits over five innings. And while the Jays trailed by two runs in the seventh inning, Evan Longoria sealed the Rays’ win with a three-run blast off  Esmil Rogers.
One must remember that in their last 21 series at Tropicana Field, the Jays have a 0-19-2 record.
Opening day at the Rogers Center took a turn for the worst as a Yankees’ appeal on a close play at first reversed the call for the third out. Ichiro Suzuki was called safe after the review and rookie Yangervis Solarte followed with a two-run double which eventually led to a Yankees 7-4 win.
Dustin McGowan, who won the 5th starter’s sport in the that week of spring training, had to leave the game after less than three inning, giving up four runs on eight hits.
Yankees high-priced rookie Masahiro Tanaka gave up a homerun to lead-off hitter Melky Cabrera, but settled down as he pitched seven innings, allowing two runs en route to a 7-3 win, backed up by a 16-hits attack.
The Jays tied up the series as R.A. Dickey made amends in the second game of the series, shutting out the Yankees over six innings, on five hits and one walk. The relievers played with fire during the next three innings, but the booming bats of Melky Cabrera (solo) and Jose Bautista (2-run) allowed Santos some breathing room in the ninth stanza, as the Jays won 4-0.
But the Jays fell behind in the rubber match as Hutchinson could not find the plate in the first inning and the Yankees converted two walks, a hit batter and a hit into three runs. He left in the fourth inning, trailing 6-1.
The Jays rallied for three runs off C.C. Sabathia and had the tying run on first base when David Robertson registered his second save of the season.