We begin with trivia: it’s been one month since JP Arencibia’s last base on balls. Wow. We also forgot Melky’s totals from yesterday’s game. There’s not much to report, as Melky was hitless. With his strikeout as pinch hitter today, Melky remains at 25 hits for May.
Melky’s May Meter
This is the rubber match of a series against a team that’s owned the Jays for years. The Jays haven’t won a series in Tampa Bay for ages; they haven’t won a series against the Rays in the Rog since 2010. This afternoon’s match-up should be a good pitcher’s duel, but neither Buehrle nor Hellickson have pitched well this season. It could be a high-scoring game.
One reason that the Jays struggle against the Rays is that the Rays excel at the fundamentals, whereas the Jays are usually fundamentally unsound. This was illustrated in the bottom of the first inning. Anthony Gose doubled to lead off, then Jose Bautista did everything right at the plate as the #2 hitter. He attempted a bunt, which almost worked. He followed that with an inside-out swing, in another attempt to move Gose to third. Then Bautista singled to right-center, scoring Gose and giving the Jays an early lead. Everything about the scenario was fundamentally sound, and it worked in the Jays’ favour.
Fundamentals were then excused from the playing field. A fly ball by Edwin Encarnacion to left field was caught by Kelly Johnson. Jose tagged up and was thrown out by a country mile. The rationale (‘logic’ doesn’t apply here) is simple: KJ is an infielder, so test his arm. The problems with that rationale are few; it’s transferring the rationale into action that creates the problems. For instance, the ball was hit almost right at KJ, making it a straightforward throw. Jose had the entire play in front of him. Had the ball been off-line, it would have lowered the possibility of being doubled up at 2B.
The occurrence of a thought doesn’t require action. Jose could have bluffed, gone half way, or just shelved the idea as a good one but one for a different situation. Instead, he was doubled off. This drastically reduced the likelihood of the Jays scoring more than once against a team that’s been at or near the top of MLB offensively of late. His excellent at bat wasn’t wasted; what was wasted was the opportunity to make it more than a 1-run inning.
Speaking of fundamentally unsound, Maicer Izturis attempted to barehand a squibber off the end of the bat by Ryan Roberts. Again, the rationale is simple: barehand the ball, get the runner, end the inning. He missed though, and was unlikely to get Roberts anyways.
Roberts was safe at 1B and Jose Molina—not exactly a speed merchant—scored from second because no one was in a position to field the ball. Ben Zobrist followed with another run-scoring single, making the score 2-1 Rays. A walk to Longoria loaded the bases for one of the toughest outs in the AL this season, James Loney. He flied out, but the Jays gave up two runs, faced three extra batters, and a good start by Buehrle turned into potentially another one of ‘those’ starts.
The complexion of the game changed because of two superficially-understandable-but-essentially-boneheaded, fundamentally-unsound plays by the Jays. Little League managers everywhere are rocking like Leo Mazzone, wondering how a Major League team can commit such basic mental errors. Is it the end of the world? Of course not, you can’t even see it from here. (Indeed, a long blast by Bautista tied the game at two.) No, the problem is that these types of errors are committed by the Jays with such startling regularity. The Jays have struggled in every facet of baseball so far this season. They can’t afford to give away outs or give their opponents extra outs. If the Jays are going to reel in the rest of the AL East, I suspect it will start by executing the fundamentals in all facets of the game. When’s the last time that you heard the Blue Jays described as being disciplined and fundamentally sound?
What looked like a potentially high-scoring game turned into a pitcher’s duel, with Hellickson and Buehrle both pitching well and going at least 7 innings. Delabar came in to pitch the 8th inning and needed only 7 pitches to retire the side.
Casey Janssen gave up a run in the ninth on a double by Longoria and a single by Loney. The smart money was on intentionally walking the guy with the short swing hitting .350, but the damage was done. In the bottom of the inning, Jose Bautista led off with his second homer of th game to tie it. It came against Fernando Rodney who has blown 4 saves this year, 2 against the Jays. He blew 2 save opportunities all of last year. The predictable JPA whiff and Lawrie pop out sent this game to extra innings.
Aaron Loup retired the side in order in the top of the 10th inning, leaving it to the hitters to decide this one for the Jays. A swinging bunts put Colby Rasmus on first, and he moved to second on a very good sac bunt by Emilio Bonifacio and third on another swinging bunt by Munenori Kawasaki. It’s not often that the Jays put a runner on third without the ball having left the infield, but they’ve executed the fundamentals very well this inning. DeRosa was brought in to pinch hit for Anthony Gose with two out and Bautista on deck. As Buck and Tabby pointed out this is a great move by Gibbons because they want to pitch to DeRosa, not Bautista. A five-pitch walk brought Bautista to the plate, Maddon to the mound, and Farnsworth in from the ‘pen. 41 home runs in the 7th inning or later since 2010 ties Bautista with none other than Miguel Cabrera for the Major League lead. It wasn’t to be, though; he singled to right on an 0-2 pitch for the win. It’s been a long time since the Jays beat the Rays in a series. 16 series, to be exact. This is a good win for the Jays.
As frustrating as the Jays can be when they don’t do the small things well, they came through when it mattered today. They mixed the long ball, bunts, and good base running to offset some brain cramps today.