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…

A date to remember…

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.

Why?

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…

Not the time to panic… yet!

Yes, the Blue Jays are not hitting  and they are not winning like they did in May, but one must be reminded that it is a very long season… and one must not expect them to keep such a pace over the course of 162 games.

In the Twins series, the Jays started on the right foot as Edwin Encarnacion erased a 2-0 Twins lead with his 20th homerun, a three-run blast in the second inning.

Then, the defense took over for better and for worst. The defense kept the Jays in the lead until the ninth inning, when it allowed the Twins      to tie the game.

Three double-plays kept the Jays in front, but Steve Tolleson could not complete a fourth double-play and Kevin Pillar’s bad judgment transformed a single into a double a a 4-4 tie in the ninth. Luckily, Pillar redeemed himself with the game winning hit in the bottom of the ninth.

If the Jays had a power surge on Monday, they never got going in the second game as they were shut out for the third time in four games, 4-0. They got seven hits, but none with men in scoring position. Brian Dozier struck in the first inning as he got to J.A. Happ with a two-run blast. Happ was not able to complete the thirs inning.

Things did not improve the next day as Phil Hughes handcuffed the Jays over the first seven innings, spreading seven hits while striking out nine batters.

Finally, in the eighth inning, the Jays prevented another shutout, scoring two runs off reliever Jared Burton.

Young Marcus Stroman pitched a decent game, giving up three runs on nine hits over the first six innings. But Bobby Korecky, just recalled from Buffalo, was roughed up for three more in two innings as the Jays lost 7-2.

In the first of four games in Baltimore, it was evident that a team which is struggling, often tries too hard. Jose Reyes was doubled up, going from first to third base on a Melky Cabrera’s grounder in the first inning and an early threat was thwarted.

Then, the Orioles took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first on a two-run homer by Delmon Young off Mark Buehrle. They were never threatened as the Jays stranded seven runners. Buehrle suffered his second loss as he allowed four runs on eight hits.

The next day, the Jays finally took an early lead when Juan Francisco hit a two-run homer, his 11th of the year, in the second inning. It was the first time in the last nine games that the Jays scored first. For Francisco, it spelled relief as the big man was hitting only ,133 since the beginning of June.

Drew Hutchison had another very strong start away from Rogers Centre, shutting out the Orioles on six hits, no walk, and three strikeouts over the first seven innings.

Dustin McGowan who seems very much at ease in his new role, gave up only one hit as the Jays ended their three-game losing streak with a 4-0 win.

On Saturday, the Jays were able to take the lead, 1-0, on a bases loaded walk, but to no avail. Only one of their nine hits came when they had men in scoring position as dropped a 3-2 decision.

R.A. Dickey suffered the loss and he had to leave the game in the sixth inning with a slight groin pull while Adam Lind was struck by a fall ball on his right foot and had to leave with a contuse. They are both day-to-day.

Trailing 3-1 in the eighth inning,  Jose Bautista tried to scored from first on a double by Encarnacion, but was thrown out at the plate. The play was reviewed, but the umpires upheld the decision. Later in the inning, Brett Lawrie drove Encarnacion home with what could have been the tying run, but it was not enough.

The Jays had to leave Baltimore with at least a split in their four-game series and J.A. Happ made it possible when he shutout the Orioles over the first five innings as the Jays won 5-2.

Casey Janssen recorded his 12th save and the Jays knew they had to get their act together as they now move to Yankees Stadium for a three-game series, a place where last year they were winless in 10 games…

 

Who is the real Drew Hutchison?

After the off-day, last Monday, the Jays had to face the Detroit Tigers on their turf, and in the first game Drew Hutchison and Anibal Sanchez were very sharp over the first eight innings.

Then, it was a battle between relievers and the Jays jumped on Joe Nathan for five runs in the top of the ninth inning as Brett Lawrie hit a three-run shot.

Nevertheless, the Jays had to call upon Casey Janssen to preserve their 5-3 win since Steve Delabar gave up two walks and a three-run homer.

In the second game, R.A. Dickey was handed the win, but I’m sure that if he could do it he would give it to Aaron Loup. The yound lefthander came in the sixth inning with a 3-2 lead… the Tigers had loaded the bases with nobody out!

Loup retired the next three Tigers without giving up a single run.

Melky Cabrera. Jose Bautista and Adam Lind lead the attack as the Jays recorded their 18th win (8-2) in their last 22 games. Cabrera got three hits, including his 10th homer, and drove in two runs while Cabrera also chipped in three hits and two rbis. Lind drove in three more with two doubles.

The next day, the Jays completed the sweep as the beat the Central division leading Tigers 7-3, for theit fifth consecutive victory.

J.A. Happ won for the fifth time this season, allowing only three runs over the first six innings and Janssen came in to get the last out and record his 11th save.

Justin Verlander took the loss as Juan Francisco and Brett Lawrie hit back-to-back jacks to break a 3-3 tie. Cabrera also hit his 10th homer of the season, a solo shot in the last inning.

Then, the Jays came back home to face the St. Louis Cardinals.

Rookie Marcus Stroman was impressive as he gave up only one run on seven hits and two walks for his third major league win while striking out seven Cards.

The Jays took a 2-1 lead as Bautista hit his 15th homerun of the season and Brett Lawrie hit his 11th, tying his personal best.

Jose Reyes sealed the win, driving in another run in the eight inning.

The 3-1 win could have been a much easier affair. In the sixth inning, Bautista stepped up to the plate with the bases loaded and nobody out.

« Joey Bats » hit a scorcher to second baseman Daniel Descalso and the Cards were on their way to execute their first triple play since Mays 2005. It was, also, the seventh time in their history that the Jays had hit into a triple-play.

Once Stroman left the mound, relievers Brett Cecil, Dustin McGowan and Janssen allowed only one runner over the last three innings and the Jays had their sixth win in a row.

But on Saturday, the Jays forgot their bats in their dressing room and they were shutout only for the second time this season. They got only three hits off Shelby Miller.

So, Mark Buehrle suffered his second loss of the year even if he allowed only one run on Randall Grichick first homer.

Aaron Loup, so reliable over the last three weeks, had his worst outing of the season, giving up four runs in less than one inning of work.

And on Sunday, Drew Hutchison’ s Rogers Centre blues were one more time evident, as the Cards got to him for five runs during the first three innings.

Is he Dr Jekill and Mr Hyde… when he starts a game away from the Rogers Centre, Hutchison has an outstanding 2,03 era while at home, his era has ballooned to 8.72 !

The Jays were shutout for the second consecutive game, as they could get only four hits.

The Jays are still in first place… but they can’t hope that the other teams in their division will always loose when they do.

An almost perfect week

A lazy relay from Jose Reyes, in the ninth inning of the first game of the Royals series prevented the Jays from having an almost perfect homestand.

But with an 8-2 performance at home, John Gibbons had every reason to be proud of his players as they now will now face the Central Division leaders, the Detroit Tigers in a 3-game series.

In the first game of the Tampa Bay Rays series, the Jays were merciless against Canadian Érik Bédard, as they greeted him with five straight hits in the first inning to take a 2-0 lead. The Rays tied it up in the third, but the Jays stormed back with three runs in the fourth when Dioner Navarro and Steve Tolleson had solo homeruns.

Drew Hutchison was not sharp, giving up five runs on seven hits and four walks without recording a single strikeout. But, nevertheless, he notched his fourth victory of the season.

The Jays kept their winning streak alive in the second game as Mark Buehrle recorded his ninth win of the year even if he was not in top form.

The Jays offense got 13 hits, including Adam Lind, Edwin Encarnacion (him again!) and Juan Francisco both hit homeruns while Jose Bautista added three hits and Brett Lawrie two .They both had an rbi, as the Jays won 9-6.

If the last eight Jays win were recorded because of their heavy hitting, their ninth in a row went in the books thanks to a strong defence and their outstanding speed around the bases.

White Liam Hendricks was throwing strikes, the Rays were making solid contact… but Anthony Gose and Melky Cabrera robbed them of extra-base hits in the outfield. Francisco and Lawrie also were very sharp in the infield as Hendricks gave up only a two-run homer to Desmond Jennings.

So the Jays and the Rays were deadlocked at 2-2 in the bottom of the ninth inning when Navarro leadoff with a single. Kevin Pillar pinch ran for him and Gose stepped up to the plate, dropping a bunt. Reliever Carlos Oviedo rushed his throw and the ball sailed toward right field as Pillar sped around the bases and he dove in at the plate with the winning run.

For the first time since May 2009, the Jays were 10 games above .500.

The winning streak ended as the Kansas City Royals came to Rogers Centre.

A lazy throw by Jose Reyes, after two outs, in the top of the ninth allowed the Royals to tie the score, 6-6. It prevented the Jays from extending their winning streak and Casey Janssen from recording his ninth save in a row, even if was not to blame for it.

The loss clouded another outstanding performance from Encarnacion who became only the third hitter, in major league history, to hit two homeruns in a  game, five times, in a single month. Harmon Killebrew, with the Washington Senators in 1959 and Albert Bell, with the Cleveland Indians in 1995, are the only others to do so.

And the next day, the Jays could not buy a hit with runners in scoring position. Although they had eight hits, the Jays stranded 10 runners.

J.A. Happ pitch a pretty good game as he was trailing, 4-1, after seven innings. But he should have been relieved at the beginning of the eight. Two outs later, the Royals got to him for two more runs as he ran out of gas.

On Saturday, the Jays showed no pity for young Aaron Brooks as they scored seven runs in the first inning, sending twelve hitters to the plate.

This made it a lot easier for Marcus Stroman, who made his first career start in the majors. He recorded his second victory in the majors, 12-2, as he allowed only one run on five hits, issuing no walks, and striking out six batters.

Francisco and Lind led the attack with three hits each. Francisco drove in four runs while Lawrie and Lind drove in two each.

In contrast with their previous game, the Jays got nine of their 14 hits with runners in scoring position.

The week ended on a winning note as Buehrle became the majors’ first         10-game winner, shutting out the Royals, 4-0, over eight strong innings, on six hits, one walk and three strikeouts.

Encarnacion’s 19th homerun of the season, a two-run blast and Navarro’s solo shot provided all the support the veteran lefthander needed.

 

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…