This one’s on manager John Gibbons. Overall I think he’s done a very good job in fairly trying circumstances, but tonight was an exception. Leaving Steve Delabar in the game when he was struggling with his command led directly to this loss. The Jays rallied in the bottom of the inning, which included a Brett Lawrie sac fly, but it fell short.
What a first inning, though: Josh Johnson hit 94 mph with his fastball, he threw 10 pitches to retire the side, and Brett Lawrie handled his first defensive chance like he didn’t miss any time. Johnson also served notice: with a good fastball and sharp-breaking curve, it could be a long game for White Sox hitters.
The White Sox drew first blood with a poor man’s rally in the second. Two singles, a walk and a wild pitch accounted for the run, and only one of the singles was hit hard. A testament to Josh Johnson’s ‘stuff’ is that he struck out the side.
In the second, Brett Lawrie came to bat for Toronto for the first time this season. It was obvious that he was itchin’ to swing the bat, which he did. He struck out on four pitches and voiced/showed his displeasure with the umpire’s interpretation of the strike zone. Colby Rasmus learned from Lawrie’s at-bat and slugged a fastball at (below?) the bottom of the strike zone over the wall in center to tie the game at 1-1.
Crow-eating time. When the Jays faced the Tigers, I wrote about Colby Rasmus being out-hustled by Prince Fielder during the game. In the fifth inning, Rasmus was the first batter. He swung at a Dylan Axelrod curve ball that Jeff Keppinger snared on a hop. Rasmus legged it out for a base hit. He was doubled up on a Maicer izturis line drive, but it was nice to see the hustle.
In the same inning, Munenori Kawasaki worked Axelrod for a walk. It’s early days of course, but I don’t think Kawasaki has had a bad at bat yet. Seeing these things—hustle and good at bats—is encouraging. Unfortunately, similar to Colby’s hustle base hit being erased on a line-drive DP, Munenori was thrown out attempting to steal 2B. Not all of these ‘little things’ will have a positive result on the game. However, when practiced regularly, they pay dividends over the course of the season.
It doesn’t stop there, either. Kawasaki’s attempted steal should be evaluated alongside his own and Emilio Bonifacio’s bunt attempts. Running, bunting, hustling, and patience at the plate. None of it resulted in rallies, much less runs, but the Jays showed some real signs of waking up offensively.
Yet another encouraging sign took place in the sixth inning. JP Arencibia homered to right-center field: it’s the second time in as many games that JPA’s done it. Did he hit any HR to the right of center field last year? Part of his difficulty at the plate (poor contact, high K rate, etc.) was that he was a dead pull hitter. While we’re mentioning encouraging signs, there was Lawrie’s barehanded play on Alex Rios’ slow dribbler on the infield in the top of the 8th…
RA Dickey, Brandon Morrow, and Mark Buehrle set the bar high for Josh Johnson in this game, and he answered them. Seven IP, 8 Ks, 4 H, and a walk is a pretty good line. He left with the game tied; Paul Konerko hit his third HR to start the seventh. Steve Delabar came in to pitch in the eighth inning and retired the side in order.
The ninth was ugly for Delabar as he walked a pair, gave up a double for a run then loaded the bases. Darren Oliver relieved him and promptly gave up a sac fly for the insurance run that was the difference in the game.
Coming into this game the Jays’ run differential was -19; sometimes facts like these can be deceiving. Aside from the two games that the Jays lost by combined scores of 24-1 (11-1 and 13-0 against DET and BOS, respectively), their run differential is +3. As we’ve maintained, and most seem to agree, it’s awfully early to hit the panic button. Josh Johnson’s start was the rotations’ fourth good one in a row. Now it’s J.A. Happ’s turn. The pressure’s on…
Okay, without further ado here’s our next installment in the Jays’ performance during the first couple of turns through the rotation. This time, we’ll look at the defense through a few select lenses:
Once again, it’s not very pretty. It’s been pretty tough watching the Jays hit, pitch, and field poorly in early 2013. Here are some observations:
- Subpar pitching has led to a lot of balls in play;
- Early in 2013 BOS, CLE & TBR are usually near the top of the defensive rankings, while the NYY, MIN, LAA & TOR are usually near the bottom;
- If you’ve followed the games even fairly closely, the stats line up with what we’re witnessing: lots of balls in play, lots of balls getting through to the OF, lots of misplays (whether with the leather or the arm), getting to balls but having no play, etc.;
- Emilio Bonifacio (4 errors), Mark DeRosa (1 error) and Maicer Izturis (2 errors) have been the culprits—they’ve committed all seven errors;
- Bonifacio has played like someone who can’t handle playing full time;
- This can’t be seen on the table, but have you ever seen so many airmailed, offline, or just downright ugly throws from OF-C? My opinion of Melky Cabrera’s defense has changed somewhat…;
- Brett Lawrie’s return will likely change this dynamic dramatically, as will Jose Reyes’ return;
- Kawasaki looks good in 2 games; he was the NPB equivalent of a gold glover at SS multiple times—AA has mentioned repeatedly that he/they would like a full-time replacement at SS and that he’s talking to a number of teams, but it might not be necessary.
It’s time to take better care of the baseball.