May 2014

Are they for real?

The Blue Jays have sent a message to their rivals in the American League : do not underestimate us!

The « Gibbons bunch » have just completed two sweeps. First against their division rivals, the Boston Red Sox in Fenway Park, and then against the Western Division leaders, the Oakland A’s, at home.

The Jays were in a hitting mood when they got to Fenway as they got 11 hits, eight for extra-bases. Edwin Encarnacion drove in four runs with two monster homeruns while Erik Kratz and Melky Cabrera, who chipped in with four hits, added a solo shot each.

J.A. Happ gave up four runs before leaving the mound and relievers Dustin McGowan, newcomer Rob Rasmussen, Steve Delabar, Aaron Loup and Casey Janssen all made it possible for a 7-4 win. For Janssen it was a fourth save in as many tries.

The next day, the Jays relied again on the long ball as the beat the Sox 6-4.

« Double E » went deep twice for a second day in a row and drove in three runs while Jose Reyes and Dioner Navarro added two hits and an RBI each.

Drew Hutchison pitched another strong game, giving up only one run on six hits over 5 2/3 innings as he registered his third win of the season.

Casey Janssen notched his fifth save as the Jays moved into a first place tie with the Yankees.

Finally, the Jays completed the sweep with a 7-2 win in Boston as they took over sole possession of first place in the East.

But it was not an easy task as they face Jon Lester… but the Jays’ hitter made it a lot easier as they scored seven runs in the first two innings.

Melky Cabrera and Jose Bautista had back-to-back dingers in the first inning. Then, the Jays sent nine hitters to the plate in the second stanza and they added five more runs.

Mark Buehrle cruised to his eight win of the season, allowing only two runs on seven hits (no walks) over the first seven innings.  Dustin McGowan was perfect over the last two, facing the minimum of six Red Sox.

The sweep set up the next battle between the leaders of the East and the West.

The Jays gave the ball to Liam Hendricks, an Australian, just recalled from Buffalo. The 25-year old righthander was up to the task against the Best of the West, giving up a single run in five plus innings, a solo blast to Brandon Moss.

Steve Tolleson got the Jays going with his first homerun of the year, a two-run blast in the second inning, off Scott Kazmir.

Who else? Casey Janssen came in the ninth inning to register his sixth consecutive save of the year.

Should Hendricks become the fifth starter that the Jays have been looking for since the beginning of the season, one could say that the two minor deals that brought him and Juan Francisco to the Jays, could be the best deals that G-M Alex Anthopoulos has made since the beginning of the year!

The second game of the series proved that the Jays did not have to rely only on the long ball to win. They could do it with their legs too!

Yes, Brett Lawrie hit his 8th homerun of the season, but the speed of Jose Reyes and Anthony Gose provided three runs, as the Jays won 5-2. Gose scored from first base on a hit by Cabrera that leftfielder Craig Gentry bobbled and later, Gose and Reyes (who was on second), both scored as a Cabrera grounder that was also bobbled by  Brandon Moss at first base.

R.A. Dickey held the A’s in check during the first eight inning before running out of gas in the ninth. McGowan and Cecil, who was credited with his third save, secured the win.

And on Sunday, J.A. Happ was in top form as the Jays completed their second sweep in a row. The tall southpaw shut out the A’s over the first seven innings as he notched his fourth win of the season, 3-1.

Edwin Encarnacion tied a Jays’ record with his 12th homerun in the month of May (Bautista had done it in 2010) while Jose Reyes tied his personal record with three stolen bases.
Casey Janssen got his seventh save. The veteran reliever has now registered 23 saves in a row, dating back to last year.

Having won six games in a row and 26 of their last 21 games, the Jays were alone on top of the East Division.


The stopper is back!

The Jays needed another solid performance from Mark Buehrle and he was up to the task while Jose Bautista gave him some breathing room with his 10th homer of the season against C.J. Wilson and the Angels in the first inning.

A three-run lead that the crafty lefthander almost lost in the third inning as Mike Trout reached him for a two-run double. But, he settled down.

Brett Lawrie celebrated his return to the lineup by hitting his seventh homerun, a two-run blast in the sixth inning. Then, Steve Delabar and Casey Janssen took over on the mound and sailed the rest of the way, as Juan Francisco gave the Jays a four-run lead.

Francisco came in the eight inning after Colby Rasmus pulled a muscle, running to first base.

Janssen looked pretty sharp as he toed the mound for the first time this season and the Jays prevented the sweep. Buehrle had his league-leading seventh win.

Then, the Indians came to town and R.A. Dickey notched his fourth victory while Janssen recorded his first save.

Francisco kept his hot bat going with his sixth homerun while Adam Lind, back from the disabled list, added a two-run double before Janssen came in to preserve a 5-4 victory.

But it was a different story on the next days as the Indians humiliated the Jays by a score of 15-4.

Dustin McGowan was roughed up for four runs on nine hits and Marcus Stroman experienced a second tough outing. The Indians scored five times on five hits and a walk as the young righthander lasted only an inning and a third.

His ERA ballooned to 12,79 and the former first round pick doesn’t seem at ease when used in relief. Once a bit more experienced, I think that he should be considered a starter and not a reliever.

Then J.A, Happ had another very good start which indicates that he might replace McGowan ( who is going to the bullpen) as the Jays’ fourth or fifth started.

The tall southpaw put the Jays back on their winning path as he tamed the Indians over the first six innings, allowing only one run on six hits, a solo shot by David Murphy in the fifth inning.

The Jays again used the long ball as their favorite weapon. Edwin Encarnacion hit two and Francisco added one and the Jays beat the Indians by a 4-2 score.

Casey Janssen pitch a perfect ninth inning for his second consecutive save.

The next day, the Jays announced that Dioner Navarro’s name was put on the  bereavement/family medical emergency list while Colby Rasmus was put on the 15-day disabled list. Catcher Erik Kratz and outfielder Anthony Gose were recalled from Buffalo.

The first game of the three-game series in Texas was quite a pitching duel between young Drew Hutchison and the Rangers’ ace Yu Darvis. And Hutchison came out the winner as he recorded his first complete game and first shutout, a three-hit 2-0 win.

Hutchison and Darvis went toe-to-toe for seven innings, but in the eight, Melky Cabrera gave Hutch all the support he needed. Cabrera followed two bunt singles by Kratz and Gose with a two-run double as the Jays came out on top.

Then, Mark Buehrle could not register win number eight even if he was leading  2-1 when Aaron Loup took over. Loup could not hold the lead and the Rangers tied the score.

But, doubles by Kevin Pillar and Gose gave the lead back to the Jays and Delabar and Janssen were perfect the rest of the way.

Janssen preserved the 3-2 win for his third save of the season.

But the Jays were not able to complete the sweep in the series finale as they experienced their worst game, defensively, of the season with four errors. On top of that, their offense went 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position.

R.A. Dickey was not on top of his game as he allowed four runs, three earned, on three hits and three walks over the first six and a third innings. He probably deserved a better fate, but young Todd Redmond was roughed up for two runs on three hits as he lasted only one third of an inning in relief.

Too bad, since the Jays missed another chance to climb up the standings as the Rays, the Red Sox and the Orioles all lost while the Yankees split a doubleheader with the Pirates.


How do you spell relief ?

The day that Dustin McGowan was on top of his game, the relief brigade  did not have the right to mess it up!

While Marcus Stroman was auditioning in Buffalo, pitching six inning of no-hit ball with a single walk and 10 strikeouts, McGowan gave his manager six solid innings, giving up three runs (two earned) on three hits and three walks, leaving with a 5-2 lead in Kansas City.

The first two relievers, Brett Cecil and Steve Delabar, who represented the Jays at the All-Star Game last year, were touched for three runs in an inning and a third. Then, Sergio Santos and Esmil Rogers, were roughed up for four more and the Jays lost 10-7.

How do you spell relief when Casey Janssen is not available?

Not only did the relief corps wasted a solid outing from McGowan, but also a 12-hit attack which included Jose Bautista’s 8th homer and Edwin Encarnacion’s second, but also two hits each from Jose Reyes, Melky Cabrera, Dioner Navarro, Brett Lawrie and Colby Rasmus.

The next day, the Jays had a scare when Cabrera was hit by a Danny Duffy’s fast ball on the left left leg. But X-rays showed only a contusion… no fracture!

But, the Jays could not supply any offense for Drew Hutchison. As they could muster only two base hits with runners in scoring position and stranded 12 runners in a 4-2 loss to the Royals.

Hutchison gave up only five hits and one walk over seven innings.

So Cabrera had his 11-game hitting streak stopped but he ended the month of April with 41 hits, a new Jays record and tops in the majors.

In the last game, Mark Buehrle stepped up and gave only three runs (two earned) over the first six and two thirds innings to register his fifth win, 7-3.

Aaron Loup notched his first save of the season, retiring all seven batters he faced.

Juan Francisco (3rd) and Colby Rasmus (5th) hit one homerun each while Anthony Gose celebrated his return to the major with two hits and two rbis. Chris Getz and Lawrie added two hits each and Encarnacion, a 16th rbi.

And on to Pittsburgh

In the first of the three-game series in Pittsburgh, Brandon Morrow could not miss a bat as he was roughed up for 11 hitsin five innings. But, despite this barrage, he was leading 4-3 when the ball was handed to Steve Delabar.

Later, Morrow’s name was added to the disabled list.

The Jays added a run in the 6th inning. Delabar and Cecil were up to the task until Sergio Santos took over in the ninth. A three-run assault as Pedro Alvarez and Starling Marte went deep, transformed the lead into an 6-5 heartbreaking loss.

The way Santos was pitching, it was expected that the closer’s role would be taken away from him. His slider was sharp, but his fastball had no movement and the hitters were sitting on it.

On Saturday, R.A. Dickey  was not at his best, but he surely deserved better. Dickey was furious when John Gibbons took him out in the seventh inning and he helplessly watched Loup and Todd Redmond falter. Loup was roughed up for three runs and Redmond for two more in the 7th and 8th innings, and the Jays lost 8-6.

Dustin McGowan ended the series on a positive note, as gave up only one run over the first seven innings to record his second win of the season.

Rasmus, with a grand slam in the second inning, and Cabrera, with a two-run shot in the fifth, supplied the power as they both had three hits.

Going back to the relief corps, which was supposed to be the strong point of the team at the start of the season, the Jays relievers have, over the last 15 games, called upon to pitch in 49 2/3 innings, giving up 44 runs, on 53 hits and 33 walks.

Too bad the Jays couldn’t find the correct way to spell relief since the beginning of this trip. They could have landed in Philadelphia, riding a six-game winning streak…