July 2014

Are the Jays back in the race?

The menu looked very interesting for the coming week as the Jays were to host the Red Sox for four games and then go to New York, for three…

The first course did not taste very good, as John Farrell’s team clobbered the Jays by a score of 14-1.

The Red Sox left no doubt as far as how the game would end as they took advantage of Drew Hutchison’s wildness, who gave up six runs in less than three innings. Then the Sox added eight more off Brad Mills, jr.

When the Jays announced that Sergio Santos was designated for assignment, it did not surprise anyone since the tall righthander could not get hitters out with any regularity. Since nobody claimed him, he will try to get back on track in Buffalo.

The next day, the Jays cooled off the Red Sox, winning 7-3 to end their four-game winning streak. J.A. Happ shut them out over the first six innings, on seven hits and one walk. He was leading 4-0 when he left the mound.

The Jays exploded for 13 hits, eight against Jake Peavy. Jose Reyes and Melky Cabrera led the way with three each while Jose Bautista, Dioner Navarro and Anthony Gose added two each. Reyes and Navarro homered.

Dustin McGowan was solid in relief and Casey Janssen, still not fully recovered from the virus which caused him loose some weight, was touched for a two-run homer by Stephen Drew in the ninth inning. Brett Cecil came in relief to notch his fourth save.

In the third game, despite a rough start, R.A. Dickey registered his eight win of the year, 6-4. He gave up a three-run homer to David Ortiz in the first inning but only another one before he was relieved by young Aaron Sanchez.

The young man pitched two perfect innings and his fastball was clocked at 99 MPH.

Bautista hit his 18th homerun of the season, drove in two runs and Josh Thole got back on track with two hits and a rbi. Ryan Goins hit his first career triple and added an rbi.

Casey Janssen notched his 15th save.

The next day, the Jays won the series as Marcus Stroman gave up only one hit in seven innings and Juan Francisco came within a double of a carrousel. The Jays won easily 8-0.

Melky Cabrera chipped in three more hits and two rbis while Navarro and Goins contributed two hits each.

The Jays ended their seven-game homestand with a 5-2 record.

In New York, the Jays were unable to overcome their problems, despite two homeruns and four rbis by Jose Bautista. They suffered their 17th consecutive loss in the Bronx as Mark Buehrle was tagged for his 12th  loss in 13 decisions against the Yankees.

The Jays gave him the lead twice, 3-0 and 4-2, but the veteran southpaw  was unable to hold them. He gave up four runs in the third inning on a solo homer by Carlos Beltran and a three-run blast by Ichiro Suzuki.

And the Jays fell into third place.

On Saturday, the Jays’ nightmare in New York ended, but it was not easy. Dan Johnson gave the Jays a 6-4 lead with a three-run shot in the top of the ninth inning, but the Yankees rallied for two runs in the bottom of the ninth, on a two-run homer by Beltran, off Casey Janssen.

But when Chase Headley popped out to Reyes, the Jays were able to enjoy a 6-4 win, their first in the Bronx after 17 straight losses.

Drew Hutchison was on top of his game as he registered his seventh win of the year, and the Jays were back, tied with the Yankees, in second place.

Finally, the Jays were won two road games in a row, for the first time since last May.

A very alert Jose Bautista stole second base as David Roberston was ignoring him at first base, in the top of the ninth inning with the score tied, 4-4. He promptly ran home with the winning run as Navarro delivered a timely single and the Jays won 5-4.

It also gave young Aaron Sanchez his first major league win despite the fact he had allowed the Yankees a run in the bottom of the eight inning as the Yankees tied the game at 4-4.

Janssen got his 16th save and the Jays were alone in second place.

 

45 years later…a first

If I told you that for the first time in 45 years, I sat in the stands with my wife Corrie, watching a regular season major league baseball game, would you believe me?

After all, I’ve been attending major league ballgames since 1969…

But it’s true.

Last weekend, my wife Corrie and I took the train to Toronto and we attended the last two games the Blue Jays played against the Texas Rangers.

Did I enjoy the experience?

I surely did enjoy sitting next to Corrie… listening to the comments by fans around us… sipping on a cold beer with a baseball steak… and meeting with fans from Montreal after the game and talking baseball with them.

But it was much different than sitting in a broadcast booth with colleagues, going into the clubhouse before the game or being on the field to talk with players and coaches from both teams.

Same old… same old…

If one thought that the All-Star Break would help the Blue Jays shed away the bad habits they had contracted in the weeks prior to the break, the first game of the second part of the season did not show any improvement as the Blue Jays lost 5-1 to the Rangers.

True, they had a formidable opponent in Yu Darvish on the mound, but nevertheless, they did not get any hits in ten opportunities with runners in scoring position.

You’ve heard that song before, haven’t you?

R.A. Dickey held the fort over the first five innings as he gave up only two runs, including a solo homerun by Adrian Beltre.

But in the seventh innings, the former Blue Jay J.P. Arencibia knocked him out as he silenced the boo-birds with a three-run blast, only his second homerun of the year.

Dickey suffered his 10th loss of the season while Darvish, who struck out 12 in less than seven innings, recorded his ninth win.

Colby Rasmus and Munenori Kawasaki got two hits each and Rasmus prevented the shutout with his 13th homer of the season, a solo shot in the seventh inning.

Still without the trio of Brett Lawrie, Edwin Encarnacion and Adam Lind, the Jays suffered their ninth loss over their last 11 games and were tied with the Yankees in second place.

On Saturday, Marcus Stroman came to the rescue as he pitched seven strong innings, shutting out the Rangers on four hits, no walks and seven strikeouts, on his way to his fifth win of the season.

Melky Cabrera led the attack with three hits while Colby Rasmus added two and Dan Johnson drove in two runs.

But Brett Cecil and Dustin McGowan almost spoiled it in the eighth inning as they gave up one run… and the bases were loaded when McGowan struck out Jake Smolinski to end the threat.

The Jays won the series on Sunday as they held on to win 9-6. It was far from being easy.

Leading 5-2 in the sixth inning, Mark Buehrle ran into trouble and the Rangers came back to tie the game, 5-5. At one point, Buehrle lost his footing as he was delivering a pitch. He was charged with a balk and since the bases were loaded, it cost him a run.

Once again, the « Melk Man » came to the rescue, launching his 12th homerun in the bottom of the seventh inning and for good measure, the Jays added three more runs in the next.

They did need the extra cushion because the Rangers made it 9-6  in the ninth inning and had two runners on base when Loup, in relief of Casey Janssen, got the final out as Arencibia hit a pop-up.

For a second game in a row, Cabrera led the attack with three hits while Reyes, Kawasaki, Navarro, Johnson and Antony Gose added two each.

Todd Redmond got the win, his first of the season as Buehrle was touched for five runs on eight hits and three walks, getting another no-decision.

Tough way to reach the All-Star Break

Just when I thought that it could not get any worse with the Jays, Adam Lind had to be disabled along with Brett Lawrie and Edwin Encarnacion… and this trio will not be in the lineup for at least two or three more weeks!

And to make the matters even more complicated, the hitters could not get on track in Anaheim, as the Jays suffered a fifth consecutive loss, 5-2, against the Angels.

J.A. Happ held his own for the first four innings, but he faltered in the fifth after the Jays had taken a 2-1 lead, thanks to Juan Francisco’s 14th homerun of the season.

A double, two walks, two more hits and a sacrifice fly gave the Angels a 4-2 lead.

The potent Jays attack could not produce more two runs in each of the last five games as the hitters went 0-for-21 with runners in scoring position.

In the second game, the Jays finally solved their offensive dry spell against lefthanders as they struck for 14 hits, including 11 when Tyle Skaggs was on the mound, and they ended their five-game losing skid with a 4-0 win.

They needed somebody to step up and Jose Reyes did with four hits ad three rbis while newcomer Nolan Reimold got his first two hits in a Jays’ uniform.

R.A. Dickey got the win as he shut out the powerful Angels’ attack on four hits and one walk over the first seven innings.

But in the game of the series, the Jays were unable to hold a 6-3 lead and bowed 8-7. It was a game they should have won.

The Jays had overcome a 3-1 deficit with five runs in the top of the fourth inning but Marcus Stroman fell apart, giving up three runs including a two-run blast by Cole Calhoun and the game was tied, 6-6.

Even when the Jays reclaimed the lead in the sixth inning, they could not prevent Albert Pujols from hitting his 512th homerun to give the Angels the win. Aaron Loup was his victim and it was the first homer given up by the young southpaw this year.

The worst was to come when, after that game, the Jays announced that Adam Lind had, in fact, suffered a fracture of his right foot and that he would have to go on the disabled list for six to eight weeks!

But the last weekend before the All-Star Break started on a much better note as the Jays beat the Rays, 8-5. It was not as easy as it may seem.

As the Jays were leading 5-2 in the bottom of the seventh inning, Dustin McGowan wasted the lead when he gave up a three-run homer to Sean Rodriguez. Matter of fact, Dustin did not retire any of the three hitters he faced.

Luckily, a two-run single by Steve Tolleson, in the top of the ninth, and another rbi by Jose Bautista gave the lead back to the Jays. Aaron Loup got the win and Casey Janssen, the save.

There had to be bad news waiting in the wings. Munenori Kawasaki had to leave the game with a minor leg injury and Nola Reimold’s name was added to the disabled list.

On Saturday, the Rays exploded for six runs in the sixth inning en route to an easy 10-3 win as the Jays could not take advantage of the absence of David Price who skipped his regular turn.

Drew Hutchison was not up to par. He gave up six runs on six hits and five walks and he suffered his eight loss.

And as the first part of the season came to a close on Sunday, Price was back on the mound to register his 15th career win against the Jays, shutting them out on five hits and one walk over the first eight innings. An easy 3-0 win for the tall lefthander.

Last June 6th, the Jays were on top of the East, enjoying a nice six-game lead… but since then, they have gone 11-13 and have fell to second place.

Such a poor showing could be explained by the lack of offensive punch as the Jays have gone 55-for-265 (,208) win runners in scoring position… by the fact that they are missing key-players like Encarnacion, Lawrie and Lind… and also by the lack of stability in the outfield as the Jays have used 10 different players in the outfield: Reimold, Bautista, Melky Cabrera, Colby Rasmus, Moises Sierra, Anthony Gose, Kevin Pillar, Darin Mastroniani, Encarnacion and Steve Tolleson.

Can’t wait for the All-Star break…

The way June has ended and July has started, the Jays can’t wait for the All-Star break… if only to have three days off and hopefully regroup and be ready for the stretch.

Since the end of May, the Jays have posted a 15-20 record, have dropped to second place in the East and the Yankees are breathing down their neck.

Drew Hutchison had celebrated Canada Day in great fashion, overcoming his demons in Rogers Centre with his best performance, yet at home. He pitched seven strong innings (perfect over the first five) as he led the Jays back on their winning track, beating the Central leading Milwaukee Brewers, 4-1.

Posting a 8,13 ERA at home compared to a 2,23 ERA on the road, Hutch gave up only one run on three hits, two walks and 10 strikeouts to register his sixth win of the season.

Another great news was Jose Bautista who celebrated his return to the lineup, as the DH, with his 16th homer of the year on his first swing while Colby Rasmus added his 12th homerun in the fifth inning.

Casey Janssen notched his 13th save of the year.

The Jays completed the two-game sweep the next day as Edwin Encarnacion struck for his 26th homer, a three-run blast, after two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning for the walk-off win, 7-4.

J.A. Happ overcame a tough third inning and even if he had a no-decision, he pitch seven very good innings, giving up three runs on six hits, no walks, and four strikeouts.

Juan Francisco also hit a two-run homerun while Jose Bautista chipped in with his 17th, a solo shot. Casey Janssen pitched a perfect ninth and was credited with his third win of the season.

But, the western swing started of a bad note despite a strong performance by R.A. Dickey who suffered his eight loss of the year as the Jays lost 4-1 in Oakland. Dickey pitched a complete game, using 124 pitches, giving up four runs on six hits and four walks.

He had a rough third inning as, after a long 24-minute delay, he went back to the mound and was touched for three runs.

And for the first time in six weeks the Jays were no longer alone in first place, having to share with the Orioles.

The Jays’ problems against lefthanders became  even more obvious when, in the second game of the series, none of their nine hits came with a runner in scoring position. It resulted in a 12-inning, 1-0, heartbreaking loss.

Collectively, the Jays are hitting a bit under  ,230 against southpaws, with 30 homers and 85 rbis while they have a ,267 batting average with 84 homers and 303 rbis vs right-handers.

Too bad for Marcus Stroman who, again, was solid as he shutout the A’s on three hits over the first seven innings.  Again, the attack failed to produce as the hitters stranded eight runners in scoring position.

The A’s were more opportunistic as in the 12th inning, they capitalized on a single and Melky Cabrera’s error in left field to win the game.

The following day, it was more of the same as despite another strong outing by Mark Buerhle, the veteran lefthander suffered another loss, 5-1, his sixth of the year. As it was the case with his fellow starters, Buehrle had no offensive support. The Jays were handcuffed on five hits and only one run.

Five times, they had a runner in scoring position, and five times they failed to get a hit. I believe it is a refrain everybody is tired of hearing.

It was an even tougher loss as the Jays saw their top homerun hitter and run producer, Edwin Encarnacion, limp off the field, suffering a right leg injury while running full speed to first base in order to prevent a double play and drive in his 70th run of the season.

The A’s completed the four-game sweep sending on the hill, Jeff Samardzija, the former Cubs who was sought after by many teams, including the Jays. The tall right-hander notched his first American League win, 4-2, as he limited the Jays to four hits and one walk.

Again, the Jays’ pitcher, Drew Hutchison, deserved a better fate. He was charged with his seventh loss of the season, giving up three runs over five an two thirds innings.

And the Jays were on their way to Anaheim to face the surging Angels.

 

A roller coaster type of a week

When a team is missing two of its best hitters, you can’t really expect to be on a roll, especially if one of its relievers blows two leads without registering a single out!

And  that the way it was,  last week.

The Jays were without Brett Lawrie and Jose Bautista and Dustin McGowan wasted solid performances from Mark Buehrle and Marcus Stroman.

The week started on a positive note as the Jays took two games from the Yankees. They really unloaded against Chase Whitley, as they scored eight runs on 11 hits during the first three innings.

Young Marcus Stroman pitched a strong game as he challenged the Yankees with a first pitch strike, giving up only one run on a solo homer by Mark Teixeira. He gave up only three hits, one walk and struck out seven for his fourth win of the season.

Adam Lind stepped in for the injured Bautista, driving in four runs on a single and a homerun while Melky Cabrera, Anthony Gose and Dioner Navarro chipped in two hits each.

The next day, the Jays played with fire, but didn’t get burn!

Mark Buehrle seemed on his way to register only his second lifetime win against the Yankees and his 11th win of the season, when disaster struck in the seventh inning. He was leading 6-2, after two outs, when John Gibbons relieved him with Dustin McGowan.

The righthander could not retire any of the first three hitters he faced and as Cabrera and Jose Reyes committed errors, the game was tied at 6-6.

But Reyes made amends as he started the ninth inning with a double and then, Cabrera surprised everybody, dropping a bunt down the third base line. Yangervis Solarte hurried his throw to first base and as the ball sailed away, Reyes came home with the winning run.

The Jays really wanted to avenge the sweep they had suffered in New York, but Drew Hutchison was unable to shake the problems he has been experiencing in Roger Centre as he was reached for four runs in the third inning.

The Yankees were on their way to a 5-3 win as Hutchison suffered his sixth loss, allowing seven hits, including a two-run shot by Teixeira, and two walks over the first six innings.

The first game of the White Sox series featured J.A. Happ, the pitcher the Jays would like to count on more often, the one that challenges hitters and stays away from bases on balls. He shutout the White Sox on four hits, two walks and eight strikeouts and he notched his seventh win of the season.

For the second game in a row, Reyes sparked the attack as he struck for four more hits while Lind drove in three runs with three hits.

In the second game, R.A. Dickey gave up only five hits over the first six innings… but four of those left the ballpark!

It really was a homerun contest as Edwin Encarnacion hit his 25th homerun of the season, Dioner Navarro, his 5th and Colby Rasmus, his 11th but Jose Abreu countered with two, his 24th and 25th, Dayan Viciedo, his 7th and Alexei Ramirez, his 8th.
The Sox won the slugfest 5-4.

The next game was a real heartbreak for Stroman.

Leading 2-0 after two outs in the seventh inning, he had given up only two hits and two walks when he was relieved by McGowan. In his last start against the Yankees Stroman had made 114 pitches and at that point, he had made only 96.

McGowan quickly served a three-run homer to Viciedo as the Jays were unable to come back and lost 4-3.

And for the finale, Mark Buehrle was once again left to himself, as he suffered a fourth consecutive loss, 4-0, despite allowing only two runs on six hits and two walks over eight innings.

Earlier this year, the Jays used to supply Buehrle with tons of runs, but lately it is not the case. Sunday,they mustered only four hits, including two by Reyes.

Luckily for the Jays, the Yankees and the Orioles also lost…