June 23rd, 2014
I know, I know… a game does not make a season, no more than the first swallow you see does not mean that Spring has arrived.
But, if ever, the Toronto Blue Jays make it to the playoffs this season, one will have to remember the game played on June 20th in Cincinnati.
After starting the trip with a split of a four-game series in Baltimore and being swept by the Yankees in New York, the Jays found themselves down 8-0 after only two innings against the Reds.
It would have been so easy for them to hang their head… say we’ll get them tomorrow… and that, after all, it was just a bad trip all together.
But no. The Jays refused to yield and started to hammer away at the Reds while John Gibbons used every page in his book, with the result that the Jays won that game 14-9.
Matter of fact, everybody contributed to this almost historic comeback.
Edwin Encarnacion went deep twice and drove in six runs… Brett Lawrie added three hits, including his 12th homerun… Juan Francisco came off the bench and hit a two-run pinch homer… Munenori Kawasaki chipped in with two hits and despite an error, made an outstanding defensive play to keep the Jays alive… Jose Bautista did not get a hit, but drew four walks and scored twice… Melky Cabrera added two hits and two walks and scored two runs… Erik Kratz slugged a double in the ninth to drive in the go ahead run while Dioner Navarro and Colby Rasmus also did their part.
Only Jose Reyes, bothered by a foul ball on his leg, did not get into the act.
And one must not forget the pitchers who, after Liam Hendricks and Todd Redmond gave up eight runs in the first two innings, gave up only one run over the next seven innings.
That is really what you call a TEAM win!
Will this victory be used as a booster for the Jays?
Only the next couple of weeks will tell, because the Yankees and the Orioles are breathing down their necks and the Red Sox are playing much better.
One thing is certain, in order to reach the playoffs, the Jays will have to find a way to win in Yankee Stadium where they have lost their last 16 games. This sequence ties the longest losing streak by one team against another since the Baltimore Orioles lost 16 games in a row against the Blue Jays, from August 8th 2009 to June 15th 2011.
Also, the young pitchers like Marcus Stroman and Drew Hutchison will have to find a way to pitch much deeper into games. In his last start vs the Yankees, Stroman used 98 pitches in less than four innings while Hutchison threw 99 pitches in a bit more than four innings.
And, the day following the dramatic comeback, J.A. Happ gave up three runs on one hit and four walks, after retiring the first two batters in the first inning! As the previous day magic could not be found, Happ made 99 pitches before leaving after four innings and the Jays bowed, 11-1.
To make things worst, in the last game of the trip, the Jays lost 4-3 despite R.A. Dickey pitching almost eight innings and Brett Lawrie suffered a broken index finger after being hit by Johnny Cueto in the top of the second inning while Jose Bautista left in the third inning, injuring his left leg, running to third on a sacrifice-bunt.
I’m still wondering why a slugger like « Joey Bats » would try to sacrifice himself instead of swinging away!
And Adam Lind is still limping!
The return of a healthy Sergio Santos should really help the bullpen, but the inconsistency of Steve Delabar is a source of worry. His inability to throw strikes forced management to send him back to Buffalo while Brett Cecil has been put on the disabled list.
As the season goes along, it looks more and more like one wishes for the addition of an experienced starter who would give the Jays the depth they need while an experienced reliever would also be welcomed!
Where will they find the solution to their immediate problems? Down the farm system or on the trade market?
It is up to general manager Alex Anthopoulos and it is not an easy one!
He is aware that the 2013 season can not be repeated and that this year, the Jays have to reach the playoffs.
But first things first… the Jays have to get ready for the Yankees who are coming to town for a three-game series, followed by the White Sox…