Archive for June, 2013

Mission ’13, Game 79: Red Sox win 7-5

The Blue Jays looked to even the series at a win apiece tonight, as they sent Josh Johnson to the hill. An effective start by Johnson would go a long way to continuing his adjustment to the American League. The Red Sox countered with Allen Webster, whom they acquired in the blockbuster trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers last August. Webster has been an injury replacement for the Red Sox who’s had trouble getting major league hitters out with regularity.

 Chasing the 1930 Phillies

Game 79

PHI 28-51

TOR 39-40

The 1930 Phillies didn’t match up very well against anyone but the Cincinnati Reds, except in game 79. Both teams scored 6 runs by the 4th inning, but the Reds pulled away with 7 runs late in the game. Three homers and four doubles by the Reds, combined with 3 errors by Monk Sherlock and the Phillies led to a 13-run outburst as the Reds overwhelmed Chet Nichols and four relievers.  Check the boxscore here.

The Jays are in pretty tough against the Red Sox. Early in the game the Red Sox took a 3-0 lead, forcing the Jays to play catch-up once again. The Red Sox extended their lead to 5-0 and Josh Johnson’s night was over after 3.1 IP and 90 pitches. Providentially for Johnson, he was removed from the game and relieved by Aaron Loup. Loup, brought in before the 5th inning for the second consecutive night because of an ineffective starter, recorded an out, then had the benefit of an interference call against Shane Victorino. The Red Sox lead 5-0.

I’m unclear about Johnson’s value as a starter. He’s injury prone, but we knew that. A pitcher can be effective before and after an injury. What I was unprepared for was his passivity on the mound, a low 90s fastball, and his inability to get major league players out. It’s no wonder he’s getting knocked around like a pinata at a 7-year old’s birthday party. I doubt very much whether he will contribute meaningfully to any success the Jays might experience this season.

This raises a twofold problem, though. Morrow and Happ are both out for the foreseeable future, and the Jays don’t have the depth to replace 3 starters. Johnson either needs to improve dramatically, which is unlikely, or he needs to be replaced. Looking ahead, can you see the Jays pursuing him when the season’s finished? Neither can I.

Johnson’s mound opponent, Allen Webster, entered the game with an 11.25 ERA but he cruised through the first 4 innings. The Jays seem tense at the plate—who wouldn’t be, when facing another deficit or 5 or more runs—and Salty and Webster took advantage. There are two things in the Jays’ favour, thoough. They’re playing in Fenway, where the Red Sox have been giving up cheap runs since 1912, and the Red Sox ‘pen is near the bottom of the AL in effectiveness.

The Jays answered the two runs by the Red Sox with three of their own in the top of the 5th inning. A single and a walk set up Jose Reyes, who hit into a fielder’s choice. Jose Bautista followed with a single, as did Encarnacion and Lind before Allen Webster got out of the inning.

Rajai led off the 6th inning with a single, and stole second as soon as JP Arencibia allowed him to do so. Arencibia then grounded out to 2B with a 2-strike count, advancing Rajai to 3B. A sac fly to deep RF by Maicer Izturis brought home Rajai to make the score 5-4 for the Red Sox.

Neil Wagner was summoned with one out in the bottom of the 6th inning. Aaron Loup pitched very well again, needing only 23 pitches to pitch 2 complete innings of 2-hit ball.

Andrew Bailey relieved Allen Webster and gave up a long chicken wing to dead center field by Edwin Encarnacion. It’s 420′ to the triangle just to the right of center field, and that wall is about 18′ high. That was a long, high homer by Edwin to tie the game at 5.

Neil Wagner didn’t record an out in the 7th and was relieved by Brett Cecil with runners on first and second. Cecil’s first assignment was David Ortiz. Big Papi’s dangerous but he’s cooled off considerably and he doesn’t hit well against Cecil. Cecil buckled his knees and struck him out with the yellow hammer. It didn’t get easier, as Mike Napoli followed Ortiz and walked to load the bases. Pinch hitter Jonny Gomes singled into left field to give the Red Sox a one-run lead.

Cecil gave way to Darren Oliver, ostensibly to save Cecil’s arm. The run given up by the Jays’ ‘pen was only the 4th relinquished by the ‘pen in their last 47 IP. The Jays and their fans couldn’t ask or expect anything more from the bullpen.

Oliver walked Saltalamacchia to force in another run. Brandon Snyder, who replaced Stephen Drew (right hamstring tightness), struck out for the 2nd out of the inning. Jose Iglesias, who reached 50 hits faster than any other rookie since 1958 when they began to keep rookie records (118 AB), grounded out to Jose Reyes for the third out.

It’s a shame that the Jays ‘pen gave up runs in a tie game. The offense needed to find another way to claw back into the game. A double play grounder by JP Arencibia brought the 8th inning to a close.

Pitching and defense betrayed the Blue Jays in this one. Colby Rasmus for instance, who has been as dependable as any CF in MLB, made two errors. The pitching—both the starters and the relievers—was poor in this game. The rotation is an ongoing problem for the Jays, and will prevent them from getting much above the .500 mark. As they stand right now, this pitching staff is ‘good’ enough to maintain a pattern of win 1, lose 2, win 3, lose 2, but no better than that.

Teams like Boston who have terrific offense, will abuse this Blue Jays’ pitching staff regularly. Mark Buehrle and Esmil Rogers are slated to pitch games 3 and 4 of this series. I fully expect the Jays to get swept. It’s too bad the Jays aren’t good enough to take advantage: the Red Sox were 8-8 since ace Clay Buchholz went on the DL. They really wasted another opportunity.

Wes Kepstro

**Wes will be out of the office for the next couple of weeks. This will happen a few times during the summer as we take advantage of the good weather and the opportunities presented to us. We’ll catch up with you and the Jays when we return. Enjoy a safe and happy Canada Day (long) weekend, everybody.

Mission ’13, Game 78: Red Sox win 7-4

The Jays moved into the Hub to play the big, bad Boston Red Sox in a 4-game set. Many would tell you that this series is crucial. Don’t believe them. If there’s anything that we can learn (again) about baseball, it’s that the season is very long. The Jays were 10-21 on May 4 and have gone 29-17 since. I can’t remember the number of times I heard and read “this series is crucial…if the Jays don’t win at least [x] games…”. Yet, despite losing many of those early series, the Jays are right in the thick of things. Now don’t get me wrong: I want them to sweep the Red Sox in the same manner that they swept Texas (+20 run differential) but if they don’t it’s not the end of the world.

Chasing the 1930 Phillies

Game 78

PHI 28-50

TOR 39-39

Game 78 for the 1930 Phillies pitted Eppa Rixey against Ray Benge in a rematch of the second game of their double header the previous Saturday. Rixey pitched the Reds to victory that afternoon, but hit them to victory in this game. This one was ugly for both sides with a capital Ugh. Rixey had two hits and scored three runs as the Reds won 14-9, but the story was Tommy Thevenow and Ray Benge. Thevenow made two more errors to give him 30 on the season. Benge faced 44 batters in 8 IP, giving up 16 hits and 14 runs (9 ER) and had 3 errors committed but only one DP turned behind him. Hopefully manager Burt Shotton slipped him a sawbuck after the game for saving the pitching staff.  Check the boxscore here.

There were a couple of noteworthy things about the first inning. Jose Reyes walked to lead off the game, getting on base for the first time since his return. In the bottom of the inning Starter Chien-ming Wang induced 3 ground outs, meaning his sinker is working early. The real noteworthy incident was Jose Reyes ranging to grab a grounder by Pedroia and throwing him out from behind 2B.

Jon Lester’s command wasn’t Lester-like but he seemed to be fighting a winning battle, setting the Blue Jays down in order after Reyes’ walk.

The Red Sox had Wang’s number in the bottom of the 2nd inning. Back-to-back walks and a couple of hits had the Red Sox up 2-0 with no one out. Stephen Drew hit a long drive to right field that Jose Bautista overran. His cramp scored one, leaving runners on second and third. Jose Iglesias hit a high-chopper for an infield hit, scoring another run. Jacoby Ellsbury singled up the middle to score the fifth run of the inning with no one out. Aaron Loup was warming up in the ‘pen. Shane Victorino helped out by grounding into a double play on a 3-1 count. Dustin Pedroia followed that with a 2-run homer into the net over the Green Monster. This one is over early, as the Red Sox lead 7-0 after 2 innings.

This is the flip side of what we can expect from Esmil Rogers and Chien-ming Wang. It’s nice to have a few good starts from unexpected sources, but there’s a reason that it’s unexpected. We still have no idea what to expect on a game-to-game basis from these two. Both started reasonably well, but both have been hammered in their starts this week. The Jays’ rotation is still a fetid, stinking morass of under-achievement. RA Dickey has one good start, then a bad one. Mark Buehrle has been anything but consistent. Brandon Morrow is Brandon Morrow: his hallmark is inconsistency, then getting injured. Chien-ming Wang and Esmil Rogers are largely unknown quantities. Josh Johnson has been underwhelming: hittable, injury-prone, and he doesn’t have an off-speed pitch.

Melky got the Jays’ first hit of the game with one out in the top of the 5th inning, and was followed by a Rajai single and a Maicer Izturis double that scored both runners. Jose Bautista popped out to end the inning

The Jays put up a two-spot in the 8th on the strength of base hits by Rajai and Izturis and a walk to Bonifacio. A sac fly by Jose Reyes brought home the third run and a ground out by Jose Bautista brought home the fourth run for the Jays. Boston led 7-4.

Koji Uehara relieved Junichi Tazawa to start the 9th inning. Uehara is the closer for the Red Sox, with Hanrahan out for the season and Andrew Bailey completely ineffective. Adam Lind pinch hit for Mark DeRosa and grounded out. Melky and JP Arencibia followed with strike outs to end the game.

It’s an inauspicious way to start a series against the divisional rival who leads the division. Toronto has now lost 3 of 4 since inning 11 in a row. Chien-ming Wang got three easy ground ball outs in the first inning, then didn’t get out off the second inning before Boston had scored 7 times. Bautista’s gaffe in right field, although not an error, was a contributing factor. This loss, coming against a struggling Jon Lester, makes it difficult to expect them to win the series. Let’s hope the Jays can pull themselves together and do the unexpected.

Wes Kepstro

Mission ’13, Game 77: Jays win 3-0

The Jays took the first two games of the series, leaving it up to RA Dickey to salvage game 3. The Rays, who are looking for the sweep and an opportunity to put a little more distance between themselves and the Jays, countered with Roberto Hernandez (Fausto Carmona!).

Chasing the 1930 Phillies

Game 77

PHI 28-49

TOR 39-38

Back up catcher Tony Rensa booted a couple more balls in game 77 for the 1930 Phillies, but it didn’t hurt as much. Starter Phil Collins had the invisible touch and the bottom of the Phillies order (including Collins) was 7-15 and scored 5 runs, as the Phillies double up the Cards 10-5. “Sunny” Jim Bottomley was 3-4 with 2 doubles and a triple to move his BA above .300, leaving only 3B Andy High (.281) and starter Flint Rhem (.067) below the .300 mark. Pnch hitter Showboat Fisher (.420) and RP Al Grabowski (1-2 on the day, .455 for the season) more than made up for it. Monk Sherlock had the day off. Check the boxscore here.

Munenori Kawasaki’s “I love you guys” statement in the interview didn’t make the situation any easier for us fans. Mark Buehrle’s comments weren’t helpful either, but the Jays optioned Kawasaki to AAA Buffalo when they re-instated Jose Reyes. It’s the right move.

Jose Reyes re-assumed his position at shortstop and at the top of the batting order. A ground out to 2B Ben Zobrist is how he started offensively, but it was in the bottom of the 1st inning that we really got to look at his defense. Lead off batter Desmond Jennings hit a ball to the hole in between short and 3B. Jose took a direct path to it, gloved it and made a very strong throw to Lind to get a very fast runner by half a step. It was a good start.

RA Dickey and Roberto Hernandez look terrific in this game. Dickey especially looks solid as he’s set down every batter he’s faced. The Jays drew first blood, as Jose Bautista led off the 4th inning with a flare into right center that Wil Myers missed on a diving attempt. Bautista came around to score on a ground out, then a single by Melky Cabrera. The temptation is to say that this might be all that RA needs but he hasn’t been consistent enough this season to arrive at a conclusion like that.

That said RA’s fast knuckler is in the 79-81 mph range today, which bodes well. Josh Thole does a very good job catching him and, as they get to know the AL together, he will offer more than Henry Blanco did in his brief stint with the Jays. RA allowed one ball out of the infield in his first time through the Rays’ order (a fly ball to CF by James Loney).

James Loney was the first Tampa player to get a hit, with a single in the 5th inning. Luke Scott popped out to deep 2B to end the inning. RA Dickey and Josh Thole have it all working today. As the staff ace, everyone looks to RA Dickey to stop losing streaks and start win streaks. Perhaps today is the day that RA begins to pitch with the consistency that he’s shown over the last 3 seasons. It’s important to note that Thole snared a hard knuckler with Loney on first. He set up outside, but the pitch darted so far inside that it almost hit Scott in the knee. Loney didn’t get a chance to advance because of Thole’s nice play.

Stat of the day: Buck and Tabby informed us that prior to Roberto Hernandez’s first start this season, the Rays had 1,207 consecutive starts made by homegrown pitchers. That’s almost 7.5 seasons worth of starts by pitchers they developed internally. Holy chicken. Andrew Friedman and Scott Boras do NOT have each other on speed dial.

Adam Lind homered to deep CF with 2 out in the top of the 6th inning to stretch the Jays lead to 2-0. That home run ended an 0-10 stretch for Lind. He scuffled a bit over the last few games before the Tampa series, too. He was 1-3 after hitting the home run, but was 5 for his previous 30 AB, stretching back to the start of the Colorado series. He’s 6-33 now, and 3 of those 6 hits were home runs.

Yunel Escobar singled into the hole at short for the Rays’ second hit of the game, but he was erased quickly on a 5-6-3 double play. RA continues to pitch well: he’s allowed 2 hits and no walks through 6 complete.

A quick (5 pitch!) bottom of the 8th by RA Dickey ended with Jose Reyes ranging into shallow left field to track down a low pop up. He looks great on what was a severely sprained ankle: his range is good, he’s running well (4 ground outs have required that he run, rather than jog as one might on a fly ball), and he’s stopping and starting effectively in the field.

Edwin Encarnacion put a chicken wing on the board with a long home run in the top of the 9th inning. This gave the Jays a 3-run cushion, pushing the score to 3-0 Jays. Jamey Wright relieved Roberto Hernandez with no one out and Adam Lind at the plate. Wow, what an at bat. Lind had one strike when Jamey Wright threw one inside. Lind tried to move out of the way but it not only hit Lind’s bat (strike 2), it also hit catcher Jose Lobaton in the face mask. The next pitch was a sweeping curve in the dirt that Lind swung at and missed (strike 3), but the ball hit Lobaton on the bounce and he was struck on the back of the helmet by Lind’s back swing. The tools of ignorance, indeed.

No one was warming in the ‘pen as RA took the hill in the 9th inning. The prevailing idea is that they’ll travel from Tampa to Boston for a 4-game set and that a fresh ‘pen is to their advantage. He threw 7 pitches to finish off the 9th inning, making 93 pitches for the game. He didn’t allow a runner to get to second base, and it’s the first CG for the Jays this year. He only threw 25 pitches for balls on the whole game (68 strikes). Apparently my earlier comment was justified: Melky’s run-scoring single was all RA Dickey needed today.

I’ve been as frustrated and disappointed with RA Dickey’s performance this season as anyone. There have been several good starts, but too many fair-to-poor starts for the expectation level coming into the season. He touched on some of the reasons in a post-game interview with Arash Madani. The new league and good hitters were among the top reasons given. Injuries haven’t helped his transition either.  Here’s to hoping that today was a turning point for RA Dickey and Josh Thole.

Wes Kepstro

AL East Prospect Report – June 26, 2013

Hitters:

BAL AA Urrutia, Henry RF, 2-3, .366, BB (24)
BAL AAA Hoes, L.J. RF, 2-4, .294, 2B (19)
BAL LoA Bernadina, Roderick RF, 2-5, .218
BAL LoA Boss, Torsten DH, 2-4, .259, 2 2B (13), BB (27)
BAL LoA Lorenzo, Gregory CF, 2-5, .209, HR (2)

BOS AAA Bogaerts, Xander SS, 2-5, .229, HR (4)
BOS AAA Bradley, Jackie DH, 2-6, .309, 2B (14), HR (4)
BOS HiA Jacobs, Brandon RF, 3-5, .228, SB (9)
BOS HiA Swihart, Blake C, 2-4, .285, 2B (15), BB (26)
BOS LoA Vinicio, Jose SS, 2-4, .202, 2 2B (9)

NYY AA Austin, Tyler RF, 1-3, .275, 2B (15), BB (38)
NYY AAA Murphy, J.R. C, 1-4, .333, 2B (3), BB (6)
NYY HiA Sanchez, Gary C, 3-6, .275, HR (12)
NYY HiA Williams, Mason CF, 3-5, .256, 2B (14), HR (3), BB (30), SB (9)
NYY LoA Gumbs, Angelo 2B, 1-4, .222, 2B (2), CS (1)
NYY R Aune, Austin RF, 2-5, .250

TB AAA Beckham, Tim SS, 1-3, .274, 2B (13), BB (23)
TB HiA Brett, Ryan 2B, 4-4, .375, BB (6), SB (6)
TB HiA Shaffer, Richie 3B, 1-4, .247, 2B (17)
TB LoA Martin, Brandon SS, 1-3, .242, 2B (3), SB (2)

TOR AAA Pillar, Kevin CF, 1-4, .278, 2B (2)
TOR LoA Smith, Dwight LF, 1-2, .262, 2B (8), 2 BB (26), SB (14)
TOR R Lugo, Dawel SS, 2-4, .440, HR (1)

Pitchers:

BAL AA Drake, Oliver 2 2 0 0 0 2 1.13
BAL AA Wilson, Tyler 5 4 0 0 4 3 2.95
BAL HiA Rodriguez, Eduardo 7 3 1 1 2 3 2.85

BOS AAA Workman, Brandon 6 7 2 2 1 5 2.16
BOS HiA Owens, Henry 7 3 0 0 1 6 2.74

NYY AAA Ramirez, Jose 6 3 0 0 2 4 3.65

TB LoA Guerrieri, Taylor 5 4 0 0 1 4 2.29

TOR R DeJong, Chase 3 4 2 1 1 5 1.13
TOR R Del Rosario, Yeyfry 1 0 0 0 0 1 2.70

Is Adam Lind’s 2013 Improvement Legit?

Heading into the 2013 campaign I don’t think it’s a stretch to say the expectations for Adam Lind were extremely low.  ZIPS projections for his 2013 season were 263/315/451 with 22 HRs and a .329 wOBA.  If you asked most fans I think they would have felt those projections were a tad on the optimistic side.

Personally I was hoping the Blue Jays would upgrade over Adam Lind as watching apathetic at-bat after apathetic at-bat was getting more than frustrating as a fan.  Fast forward to today and as of June 26, 2013 Adam Lind is our top hitter.  I wanted to take a look at exactly what has changed and why he has found success again at the big league level.

Over his prior three season Lind was less than impressive (ok, he was awful) producing wOBAs of .309, .316 and .316 for the Jays at a premium offensive position.

What happened?

Let’s take a look at his stats.

Adam Lind  AVG   OBP   SLG   wOBA  HR   BB% K% BABIP  WAR
2011 .251 .295 .439 .316 26 5.9% 19.7% .265 0.2
2012 .255 .314 .414 .316 11 8.2% 17.3% .282 0.0
2013 .324 .388 .533 .393 10 10.1% 18.1% .363 1.5

Adam Lind not only leads the Blue Jays in wOBA but he has surpassed his total WAR from 2011/2012 combined in only 63 games thus far in 2013.  He is walking at a healthy clip while keeping his K-rate essentially unchanged and has hit the ball with much more authority.

Before I even started to write this piece I would’ve bet all the money in my account (-$45.74) that his BABIP was at a career high and alas of course it is.  Any time a player has a career season it is usually accompanied by a spike in luck and in this case his BABIP is about 60 points higher than his career norm (.298).

Let’s look at his batted ball profile to see if anything else stands out.

Adam Lind LD% GB% FB% HR/FB IFFB% GB/FB
2011 21.8% 40.0% 38.3% 17.0% 10.5% 1.05
2012 17.1% 48.3% 34.6% 12.1% 9.9% 1.40
2013 21.8% 43.5% 34.7% 16.9% 1.7% 1.25

His HR/FB ratio is actually right around his career level (15.1%) and his GB/FB is about normal.  One thing that is definitely improved is his infield-fly rate. He is simply not making weak outs or contact on a consistent basis.  This could regress to the norm but perhaps he has made adjustments in terms of his swing and plate discipline profile.  Given his increase in walks and overall patience at the plate I think there could be some tangible changes to his plate discipline profile.

Adam Lind  O-Swing%  Z-Swing%  Swing%   Z-Contact%  Contact%  SwStr%   F-Strike%
2011 37.1% 70.0% 50.8% 86.6% 78.7% 10.7% 58.1%
2012 31.3% 62.4% 44.5% 92.1% 84.3% 6.9% 56.4%
2013 25.0% 60.0% 39.8% 90.6% 84.5% 6.6% 58.7%

Adam Lind has made a stark transition to a much more patient hitter in 2013.  Swinging at over half the pitches he saw in 2011 to swinging at less than 40% this season is a dramatic change.  Considering he is making contact at the same rate but offering at less pitches out of the strike zone has to be a major reason for his turn around.

Perhaps other Blue Jays with a hack-tacular approach could read this and make similar adjustments?  The above chart and data is just incredible and gives real credence to the notion that Adam Lind is indeed a much different hitter in 2013.  There is nothing (outside of BABIP) that screams Lind cannot sustain this new successful approach going forward and I have to admit I was wrong about Lind heading into this new season.

Lind is our most consistent hitter and an integral part of the Blue Jays offense.

Mission ’13: Answering The Kawasaki Question

It’s rare that a utility player gets so much attention. It usually happens when they play very well or very poorly. Kawasaki not only played well, but he became very popular with teammates and fans alike.

Our poll of several days ago reflected our thoughts and desires regarding the Mune question, but the Jays took another route. Checking our poll, 60% of us wanted the Jays to keep him and shift him to 2B, 28% of us wanted to keep him as a bench player, 8% of us thought he would be optioned to Buffalo, while 4% of us didn’t know what to do with him. The 8% were in line with the Jays’ thinking, as he was optioned to Buffalo.

This is the best move for now as it allows the braintrust to continue to evaluate the team moving forward without forfeiting assets. Munenori still has options; the other players (Perez, McGowan, Bonifacio, etc.) would have to be exposed to waivers. Wisely, the Jays weren’t prepared to lose any of them, or to back themselves into a position of making a premature trade.

While it’s an intelligent move, it’s also an unpopular move as backlash from the fanbase has already begun. We’ll need to wait and see what the effect is on the team. If the Jays begin another win streak or begin winning regularly, Mune’s departure will sting less. If they continue to lose, the brass will be vilified for removing the wrong guy from the roster. In a largely-disappointing season, the perception of incompetence is something management may want to avoid.

Wes Kepstro

PS: One of our regular features, Chasing the 1930 Phillies, has included frequent glimpses of a relatively obscure player: utility guy Monk Sherlock.  I don’t know how many of you are history buffs but John Clinton “Monk” Sherlock is buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo, New York.  A little more info about him is available here.

Anyways, if you head over to see Kawasaki and the Bisons play, it might prove to be an interesting (but hopefully not morbid!) side trip.  Monk Sherlock interests me in a manner similar to Archibald “Moonlight” Graham, the character from the movie “Field of Dreams”.  I’d appreciate hearing about any discoveries that you make because I am most assuredly a history buff.

Mission ’13, Game 76: Rays win 5-1

The streak is over and the question is, ‘how good are the real Blue Jays?’ They were 10-21 on May 4 and 38-36 on June 24. Jose Reyes will be activated for game 3 of this series, meaning the Jays will be getting an All Star calibre player back at the top of the line up and in the middle infield. The pitching is better, but still not where it needs to be to navigate the troubled waters of the AL East. The defense is better, and is good enough to carry them through the rest of the season. The offense, while sputtering lately, is plenty good enough: it’s as good as everyone believed it would be. One thing is for sure: we all know that this team is capable of stinking up the joint for a stretch, but we also know that they’re capable of a long win streak. Time will tell, but patience isn’t very fun.

Chasing the 1930 Phillies

Game 76

PHI 27-49

TOR 38-38

The 1930 Philies played an ugly one against Burleigh Grimes and the St. Louis Cardinals in game 76. “Ol’ Stubblebeard” pitched just well enough to win in a game marred by errors and unearned runs. Right fielder Ray Blades made 2 errors for the Cards, leading to a pair of unearned runs. Monk Sherlock tightened up the middle infield but back-up catcher Tony Rensa also made 2 errors for the Phillies, leading to 3 unearned runs. Snipe Hansen’s 5 walks and 9 hits in 6.2 IP didn’t help the Phillies cause much, as they lost their fifth straight game, 7-6. It’s interesting to note that the only batter in the Cards’ line up hitting below .300 were “Sunny” Jim Bottomley and Burleigh Grimes, the starting pitcher. Lefty O’Doul (.408) and Chuck Klein (.398) both had a pair of hits as they continued to flirt with the .400 mark.  Check the boxscore here.

The Jays and Rays traded runs early in the game, as both pitchers struggled a little. Both teams continue to put runners on base. Has anyone else noticed how often Colby Rasmus and JP Arencibia have walked lately? The team as a whole is taking more pitches and showing greater patience at the plate, but it’s especially noticeable with the guys who usually have more trouble making contact or drawing walks. Rasmus and JPA are at the top of that particular list.

The pitchers did just enough to ensure that the game didn’t turn into a slugfest. The Jays loaded the bases in the 3rd inning, only to have Matt Moore strike out Rajai and Rasmus. Mark Buehrle put runners on the corners, but induced a pop up to 2B by James Loney. The pitchers combined to give up 7 hits and 7 walks through 3 innings, but the score was 1-1. Which pitcher will get into a groove first?

Unfortunately for the Jays, Buehrle got into a rut then got run over by a lumber truck. The Rays scored 3 runs on 1 hit, a HBP, an IBB, and a pair of sac flies to take the lead. It wasn’t pretty but it was effective. It might be all the Rays need to hold off the Jays and their faltering offense.

The Jays came completely unglued at the plate tonight. Matt Moore didn’t pitch well. Jose Molina called the pitch, set up behind the plate, positioned his glove, and Moore rarely came close to hitting it. Yet the Jays kept swinging, sometimes wildly. Colby Rasmus struck out on a curve ball that bounced several feet in front of the plate. Ironically, it was one of the few times that the pitch went right into the glove—a ‘curve ball bounce’ put a twist on it and Molina didn’t need to move his glove. This team looks alarmingly like the April Jays. They were undisciplined at the plate. Despite drawing 6 walks, they struck out 11 times against Moore.

Neil Wagner relieved the mostly-ineffective Mark Buehrle in the 6th inning. Moore struggled but always had the mid-90s heater to get him out of jams. Buehrle had no such go-to pitch. In 5 IP, he threw 99 pitches, walking four and giving up 8 hits. Pitch-to-contact guys and the AL East: it’s a recipe for __________ (1) success, (2) disaster, (3) jumbalaya.

Brett Cecil relieved Wagner in the 7th inning and had his worst outing in a month and a half. For the first time since May 10 against BOS, Cecil gave up more than one hit in an inning. A swinging bunt by Kelly Johnson scored a run to put the Rays ahead 5-1.

The Jays are now in danger of being swept. Two of the three pitchers who made surprising contributions to the win streak, Esmil Rogers and Chien-ming Wang, still pitch for the Jays.  Game 3 starter RA Dickey is still struggling to find consistency, too.  We saw what Rogers offered; we still don’t know what to expect from Wang (or Rogers, for that matter) on a game-to-game basis. Heading into Boston having lost the series to Tampa isn’t very encouraging.

The 2004 Tampa Bay Devil Rays also had a long win streak, but the month it happened was the only winning month they had that season. On the flip side of the coin, the 2002 A’s won 20 in a row and made the playoffs. Are the Jays more like the ’04 Rays or the ’02 A’s? Part of what frustrates me so much is that I can’t figure out the answer to that question. An 11-game win streak was a great way to resuscitate the season, but is this team consistent enough to make serious noise in their own division? The jury’s still out.

Wes Kepstro


AL Eastbound On Twitter!

  • Ugh. My reaction every time I hear Paul Romanuk's voice before start of Leafs game. 1 day ago
  • What a win for the Raptors. Down 15 against Chicago (who had beaten us 11 straight times) and Ibaka ejected from game. Overtime victory. 1 day ago
  • @DSzymborski especially baseball. Of all sports. 2 days ago
  • I'm old school. I love PJ Tucker. He doesn't sing and dance and hug opponents. He's Oakley like all business. #hustlehard 2 days ago
  • How can leagues honestly still justify blackouts in certain viewing regions? Begging me to stream for free. 2 days ago

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