Mission ‘3, Game 23: Yankees win 5-3

Chicken wings anyone? Rajai singled, Kawasaki hit into a DP, Bautista walked, and Edwin hit his 5th home run. 2-0 Jays. This is exactly what we expected when EE started hitting the ball with authority several games ago. He was making outs, but he gave the impression of heating up: for once, we were right. It’s only the eighth time in Mission ’13 that the Jays scored first.

Something that impresses me about Edwin Encarnacion is that he’s a power hitter who doesn’t strike out much, even when he’s struggling. His struggles have been moderately-well documented in the early going, but his discipline hasn’t been mentioned much. Going into game #23, Edwin had just 17 hits but he only had 16 strike outs. I expect his BABIP (.206) to rise steadily and his K rate (16.7%) to taper off somewhat, but his BB rate (11.5%) is consistent with his career numbers. There’s no Blue Jay hitter who makes me more confident hitting with two strikes than EE. Barring injuries, we can expect another good year.

Mark Buehrle traditionally struggles against the Yankees. In his first game against the Bombers Buehrle pitched pretty well, giving up 3 runs (2 ER) in a game TOR lost 5-3. His first inning tonight was very good with two Ks and a weak ground out to Brett Lawrie.

His opponent, Hiroki Kuroda, has already struggled somewhat, as we’ve seen. Those struggles continued into the 2nd inning when Brett Lawrie homered to RF (…take note of the location…), making the score 3-0. The Jays’ 6th hit was a sharply hit liner into the RF corner by Munenori Kawasaki. It was his first hit to RF this season. Kuroda made some good pitches to strike out Jose Bautista but in the first two innings the Jays have six hits, three of which have been for extra bases and two have been hit to the opposite field. The Jays are hitting the ball where it’s being pitched, rather than being pull-happy.

The Yankees’ first run came courtesy of Vernon Wells, the noted Buehrle killer. It was long home run to dead center field. Vdub now has 24 hits (3 HR) in 48 AB against Mark Buehrle. Francisco Cervelli followed with a long drive into right-center for an out that Rasmus ran a long way to catch.

The bottom of the third was interesting. An infield hit and a 99-hopper past 2B Maicer Izturis set the stage. A good AB by former Jay Ben Francisco resulted in a long fly ball that was well foul, then a fly ball out to Melky. Prior to the Francisco AB, Buck and Tabby spoke about how Buehrle needed to induce a ground ball to get out of the inning. They didn’t want Robinson Cano to come to the plate with runners on base. After Francisco flied out, Cano tattooed a 3-run homer to deep right to give the NYY a 4-3 lead. There’s no time to sit back and admire a 3-run led in Yankees stadium. It’s time for the Jays to tap into that well of offense again.

Hiroki Kuroda has settled in. The struggles of the first two innings are gone, and Maicer Izturis reaching 1B on an Overbay error is the first Blue Jays’ base runner since the offensive ‘explosion’. Kuroda retired eight straight before the error. Overbay then speared a Rajai Davis liner headed into the RF corner to retire the side after booting Izturis’ routine grounder.

Mark Buehrle is headed in the other direction, however. Each inning after an easy first has been more difficult, culminating in giving up the lead on Cano’s homer.

The NYY managed only four hits in their previous game, and very little offense in the TB series (against Price, Moore and Cobb). They’ve scored 5 runs in the first four innings against TOR. Francisco Cervelli expressed his joy at being back in Yankee Stadium by homering to make it 5-3. What will this team be like when guys like Granderson, Teixeira, Arod, and Jeter come back? Buehrle struggles with their B squad…

Mark Buehrle’s game is over after 5.1 IP, and his line isn’t pretty: 5.1 IP, 7 H, 5 ER, 0 BB, 3 K. His replacement, the recently recalled Brad Lincoln, doesn’t inspire confidence. Shoulder woes prevented him from becoming a starter with the Jays, meaning they’ll use him as a RP. Last season he pitched in 24 G for TOR, compiling a 5.65 ERA. He retired both batters he faced and stranded both inherited runners.

Hiroki Kuroda retired 12 of the last 13 batters he faced. Joba Chamberlain relieved Kurodaat the start of the 7th inning. Brett Lawrie greeted him with a grounder that Joba tried to field with his bare hand. Lawrie was safe at 1B on what was ruled an infield hit. The Jays hit two lazy fly balls to CF, and Kawasaki hit into a FC to end the inning. Since Kawasaki’s double, only two Jays have reached base; one on an error, one on an infield single. The deafening roar of offense has tapered off to a whimper.

In a blatant example of homerism, the umpires convened a meeting about a play that went the Jays’ way. On a bunt by Ben Francisco, Brett Lawrie charged, bare handed the ball, and threw to Edwin at 1B. The ball snow coned in EE’s glove, and the crew chief (at 2B) ruled that EE bobbled the ball after the 1B ump ruled Francisco out on the play. Jays’ manager John Gibbons was ejected for arguing the call reversal. DeMarlo Hale called on Brett Cecil to relieve Lincoln. Robinson Cano hit a lazy fly ball to Rasmus and Wells struck out to end the inning. Well done by Cecil, yet again, especially amidst controversy.

As has often been the case, though, the Jays were still in the game. They lost two of three to BAL, both by one run. Kuroda shut them down in this game after they flexed their muscles early, but they’re only down two and Kuroda’s out of the game. If Lincoln et al can hold the fort, the Jays have a chance to steal this one. Unfortunately for Jays’ fans, it was not to be. The greatest closer in baseball history recorded a K, a broken bat infield pop-up, and a K to finish it.

There are two things about which I’m fairly confident early in Mission ’13. First, the Jays are better than this. They’re going to improve. How much? Well, that’s the $64 question. Second, every time Mark Buehrle faces the New York Yankees (and likely the Red Sox) the Jays are in trouble. He pitches to contact; those teams are very disciplined at the plate. It’s a terrible combo for the Jays.

Wes Kepstro

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