Mission ’13, Game 21: Orioles win 4-3

The Blue Jays juggled the line-up again, moving Adam ‘Bases-on-Balls’ Lind to the 2-hole and dropping Melky to the fifth slot. John Gibbons continues to tinker in an effort to spark the sputtering offense. Tonight’s line-up has four hitters at or below the Mendoza line and another, Henry Blanco, who’s an automatic out. (That said, Henry singled in his first at bat.)

The line-up tinkering needs to have an immediate impact, since RA Dickey isn’t sharp at all. In the bottom of the second inning, the Orioles scored four without the benefit of a hard-hit ball. Most frustrating was the walk given up to Ryan Flaherty, who came to the plate 3-for-35 on the season (.086). Almost as frustrating was Brett Lawrie’s two-base error. The 4-0 score marks the 14th time in 21 games that the Jays’ opponents have scored first.

The Jays tried to respond in the top of the third. Colby Rasmus doubled to lead off and, after a Maicer Izturis ground out, Henry Blanco singled. Munenori Kawasaki grounded to short for a 6-4-3 double play, quelling any meaningful positive answer. I’m on record as wanting to give Kawasaki a shot in the lead-off spot, since he’s much more likely to get on base than Rajai Davis, will work the pitch count, and has pretty decent speed. What we’ve seen, though, is Munenori struggle to get on base in the early stages of his lead-off career.

Dickey himself responded well to his poor inning by retiring the Orioles in order in the bottom of the third. There’s been an interesting but very subtle development to this point in the game. Home plate umpire Alfonso Marquez has shown a propensity to give Orioles starter Miguel Gonzalez the outside portion of the plate to the Jays’ right-handed batters, while not giving it to Dickey. The already-impatient and ever-ready-to-complain Blue Jays’ batters then make it easy for the Orioles by swinging at almost anything. In the first two games, they’ve grounded into four double plays.

Perhaps the forgotten Blue Jay to this point is Melky Cabrera. We all remember that the Jays signed Melky to a favourable contract, and we also remember why that contract was favourable. Melky offered something that the Jays needed: stability in LF. The rotation the Jays used for the last several years included Travis Snider, Eric Thames, and Rajai Davis, among others. This rotation was unproductive and frustrating; Melky offered stability and production.

Yet, that’s not what we’re getting. We didn’t know what to expect for the simple reason that the cloud of suspicion scudded low over his time with both the Kansas City Royals and the San Francisco Giants. What we’ve seen is a middle-of-the-road fielder who intersperses the odd 3-hit game with several 0-fers. He has a good concept of the strike zone but has virtually no power. Entering game #21 Melky had 21 hits, 19 of which were singles, but only 10 strikeouts (and 7 walks). His slash line was .266/.322/.304. When combined with 2 steals (1 CS) and middling defense, it’s no Rembrandt. It’s more like paint by numbers.

Well, that satisfies my hankerin’ for chicken wings. In the top of the sixth, with Lind and Bautista aboard, Edwin Encarnacion muscled a three-run homer to left. Dip that chicken wing in hot sauce, baby. Melky followed with a bad-bounce triple scorched off the wall in deep right-center. Adam Jones did well to track the ball down and relay it to the cut-off man quickly. Then, with the tying run on third base and two out, Brett Lawrie flied out sharply to LF. The Blue Jays were in flight but still trailed by a run, 4-3.

Intriguingly, RA Dickey wanted to make the Jays comeback a little more challenging: he issued a pair of walks to Matt Wieters and, you guessed it, Ryan Flaherty. Flaherty now has almost as many walks in this game (2) as he has hits this season (3). Mercifully, a 5-4-3 double play stopped the madness. Dickey’s night is done: 6 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 5 BB, 4K.

The line-up changes were in line to make a difference in the game in the 8th inning. Melky came to the plate with runners on first and third, worked the count full, but struck out on a questionable call.

Brett Cecil relieved RA Dickey and Cecil did what Cecil has done regularly in the early stages of Mission ’13: he shut down the opponent. He in turn was relieved by Esmil Rogers who held the O’s at bay to give the Jays one more shot against Jim Johnson.

In the top of the ninth, Brett Lawrie opted not to see more than one pitch, Colby Rasmus struck out, Maicer Izturis singled, and JP Arencibia struck out. The Jays have only won one of six series this year. Their record? 8-13.

We’re going to leave you with something positive to consider before tomorrow’s afternoon tilt against the O’s. Here’s a look at Brett Cecil’s 2013 pitch velocity as compared to 2012:

  vFA vSI vSL vCU vCH
2012 89.3 89.1 85.1 78.7 82.4
2013 91.0 92.0 87.3 81.5 85.1
Difference +1.7 +2.9 +2.2 +2.8 +2.7

Check it out at: http://www.fangraphs.com/statss.aspx?playerid=2660&position=P

No wonder he’s doing so much better, huh? Thanks, Steve Delabar. Dumping Eric Thames has had all sorts of fringe benefits.

Wes Kepstro

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