Archive for the 'Regular Season Game Recaps' Category

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

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

Mission ’13, Game 75: Rays win 4-1

Tampa’s house of horrors. The Jays don’t play well at Tropicana Field and typically don’t match up well with the Rays, but things are a little different from usual. First, the Jays have won four of seven in the 2013 season series. Second, they’re riding an 11-game winning streak. Jeremy Hellickson got the call for the home side, while Esmil Rogers got the call for the Jays.

Chasing the 1930 Phillies

Game 75

PHI 27-48

TOR 38-37

The 1930 Phillies ran into some good pitching by an old friend in game 75. Eppa Rixey was nearing the end of what the Oldtimers Committee believed was a Hall of Fame-calibre career, and he pitched poorly all season. Except in this game. Limiting the Phillies to six hits nd one run, Rixey helped the Reds beat his old team 6-1. A veteran who played with the Phillies in the dead ball era and World War I, Eppa Jephtha Rixey returned to a different world and adapted to it. Despite his poor season in 1930, he pitched effectively until he was 43.  Check the boxscore here.

The Jays made the first threat, with runners on first and third, but couldn’t seal the deal. The real fireworks came in the bottom of the 2nd inning, though as James Loney, Wil Myers, and Sam Fuld went back-to-back-to-back against Rogers. Wil Myers, the super prospect acquired from Kansas City in the James Shields deal, hit his homer in his first at bat in front of the home crowd. His first major league home run was a grand slam against CC Sabathia in Yankee Stadium. He sure has a knack for memorable ‘firsts’. The commentators and, apparently, the Rays are noticing that Rogers doesn’t have any movement on his fastball. The Jays have their work cut out for them if they want to continue the streak but Hellickson isn’t pitching well this season.

A single run in the bottom of the 3rd inning pushed the Rays’ lead to 4-0. One of the hallmarks of the streak has been pitching. On the few occasions that the starter didn’t pitch well, he was picked up by the ‘pen and the offense. Tonight the Jays didn’t muster much in the early going against Hellickson.

Hellickson baffled the Jays through 6 IP, giving up only one hit. He walked 4, breaking several personal streaks, but the streak he’s in danger of breaking doesn’t belong to him. Worth noting is that Colby Rasmus just drew his 3rd walk of the game, giving the Jays a season-high-tying total for one game. It’s funny that Rasmus walked 3 times. Unfortunately JP Arencibia struck out to end the inning, and Colby’s 3rd walk of the game went for naught.

Alex Torres relieved Jeremy Hellickson to start the 8th inning. Maicer Izturis struck out before Emilio Bonifacio hit a 99-hopper over the mound that was gloved by Ben Zobrist, but there was no play. It was the Jays’ second hit of the game. Mark DeRosa pinch hit for Munenori Kawasaki and walked to put runners on first and second. Melky followed with a humpback liner into shallow left field to load the bases for Jose Bautista. Bautista grounded to Yunel Escobar, who got the force at 2B. The Jays are on the board, and still have runner on the corners for Edwin Encarnacion. EE flied out to Wil Myers in medium depth right field to end the threat. The Rays led 4-1.

Fernando Rodney relieved Torres to close out this game. Adam Lind was the first batter, and I believe it’s now safe to say that he has cooled off with a handful of hits since game 1 against Colorado (5-for-23). A couple of strikeouts preceded an infield single by JP Arencibia. Maicer Izturis grounded out to Ben Zobrist to put this one in the bag.

It’s fitting that the Jays win streak comes to an end against the Rays, a team they struggle to beat even, apparently, at the best of times. The Jays don’t have anything to prove, though. In two weeks they turned around a disastrous start to a once-promising season. The promise has been restored, but only if they follow up the streak with high-quality play.

Wes Kepstro

Mission ’13, Game 74: Jays win 13-5

Josh Johnson got the call today as the Jays faced an old nemesis in Freddy Garcia. Perhaps the pitching match-up took a back seat to the Bautista-O’Day tension and the win streak. All of this just adds dimensions to a good intra-divisional rivalry. Johnson looks to continue his effective starts. Freddy Garcia may be just what the doctor ordered to extend the win streak.

Chasing the 1930 Phillies

Game 74

PHI 27-47

TOR 38-36

Game 74 for the 1930 Phillies was about pitching and defense. In the 1930s much of what pitchers did was about ‘containment’. The helium-inflated balls, poor fielding, and hitter’s ballparks made it easier to score runs and harder to prevent them. Also, pitchers didn’t strike out as many batters, preferring to walk them when the situation called for it. Monk Sherlock played 2B again and went 2-4 and scored a run, but was one of 3 Phillies to make an error. SS Tommy Thevenow and RP Hal Elliot also made errors.  The 3 miscues led to 7 unearned runs for the Reds in a 9-5 Reds’ win. Reds’ starter Larry Benton pitched poorly, scattering 9 hits and only striking out one, but he didn’t walk anyone and limited the damage. It was also a pretty good strategy to wait for the Phillies to kick it around a little, because that’s one thing they did well in 1930.  Check the boxscore here.

The Blue Jays jumped out to an early lead—again. A single run in the first inning scored on a rally that began with a broken-bat hit by Edwin Encarnacion. A single, walk, and hit batter later, the Jays led 1-0.

The second inning saw the Jays score a run National-League style. Bonifacio singled, stole a base, was moved along by a Munenori bunt, and scored on a sacrifice fly by Melky Cabrera. Then the Jays scored in a more conventional manner. A walk by Bautista came around to score on a long home run by Edwin Encarnacion, pushing their lead to 4-0.

Josh Johnson struggled a little bit in his first couple of innings, giving up 3 hits and a walk and making 41 pitches. He settled in for the 3rd inning, retiring the O’s in order on 9 pitches.

The Jays knocked out starter Freddy Garcia in their half of the 3rd inning. A single by JP Arencibia came around to score on a long double into the right-center alley by Maicer Izturis. Izturis, in turn, came around to score on a double by Emilio Bonifacio that rattled around in the right field corner. TJ McFarland relieved Garcia and induced a ground out to JJ Hardy by Munenori Kawasaki. Bonifacio scored on a Melky Cabrera single off the pitcher’s mound into center field, making the score 7-0 Jays. A double into the right-center alley by Edwin—I called it, ask my wife—scored Melky and Bautista, who had walked. By the end of the 3rd inning, Edwin was only a triple short of the cycle and drove in 4 runs. The Jays stretched their lead to 9-0.

Josh Johnson came out in the 4th and retired the side in order on a couple of lazy fly balls and a liner to Bonifacio at second. This is one of the aspects of the pitching staff that has improved lately: when the team scores runs, the pitchers are getting them back out there quickly.

Josh Johnson threw 41 pitches in his first 2 innings, but only 23 in his next 2 innings. When he struck out Nate McLouth to end the top of the 5th, he’d retired 11 straight and only needed 12 pitches to do it. He’s in a groove and the Jays have a nine-run lead.

Similarly, TJ McFarland has settled in a little. He set down the Jays in order in the 4th inning and also in the 5th inning.

Josh Johnson hit a speed bump in the top of the 6th inning as Machado and Markakis opened the inning with back-to-back doubles. As Jack Morris mentioned, Johnson sort of fell in love with his fastball, and the Orioles are too good a team to feed them a steady diet of heaters. A ground out by Adam Jones moved the runner to 3B but led to a couple of discussions between the umpire, the runner, and Buck Showalter. An error by Bonifacio brought the runner home from third base before Johnson buckled down and induced a lazy fly ball and struck out JJ Hardy. The Orioles cut the Jays lead to 9-2.

TJ McFarland did exactly what I praised the Jays’ staff for doing: getting the hitters back up to bat quickly after a productive inning. Chris Dickerson hit a lead off single to right and was followed by Ryan Flaherty, who homered. The Orioles trimmed the lead to five with none out in the 6th inning. Aaron Loup came on in relief. Loup allowed a single by Machado, but erased him on a double play to end the inning. The Jays led 9-4.

Colby Rasmus took back one of those runs forcibly, as he homered to right off lefty McFarland. The next play was strange as JP hit a ball down the 3B line which Manny Machado fielded cleanly. The umpire signaled fair ball immediately and his voice was audible, but Machado didn’t even attempt a throw to first. Apparently he expected a ‘foul’ call and didn’t know what to do when he didn’t get it. JPA was safe at first on one of the strangest infield singles you’ll ever see. Arencibia advanced to 3B on a double by Maicer Izturis before McFarland recorded a pair of outs and was relieved by Pedro Strop. Rajai Davis, who singled off Strop to win game 1 of the series, pinch hit for Melky Cabrera with runners on second and third. Strop hit Rajai right in between the ones on his number 11 jersey to load the bases for Jose Bautista. Bautista then lined a double to the right-center alley to clear the bases and extend the lead to 13-4. Edwin grounded out to short to end the inning, just after hitting a long, loud fly ball just left of the foul pole.

Is this a turnaround game for Jose Bautista? He and RP Darren O’Day started a little feud in game 1. O’Day made a comment after striking out Bautista, to which Bautista took exception. When game 2 was on the line, Showalter brought in O’Day to pitch and Bautista homered. He said a few words to O’Day as he rounded third and O’Day responded in kind. Today, Jose was 0-1 after his first plate appearance but it was his second plate appearance that made it look like things were turning. He walked. That’s it, that’s all. Then he walked in his third plate appearance. Then he doubled to the right-center alley in his 4th plate appearance. He’s hit several homers in this cold stretch, but mostly because he’s a dead-red fastball hitter and pitcher like to throw fastballs. Other than that he wasn’t striking the ball with authority very often. Thee walks tell me that he’s seeing the ball well and has a good idea of the strike zone. The double tells me that he’s able to put it all—the strike zone concept, the knowledge, and the swing—in a nice, tidy package with a bow on it.

Juan Perez pitched just about the ugliest scoreless inning in Blue Jay history. Adam Jones and Chris Davis singled to start the inning, and switch hitter Matt Wieters came to the plate. He hit a ball past the bag at 3B, which Maicer fielded and turned into a double play. A passed ball by JPA advanced Davis to 3B before Perez induced a ground ball out to 3B by JJ Hardy.

Dustin McGowan came in to relieve Perez in the top of the 9th inning and struck out Dickerson but gave up a solo home run to Ryan Flaherty. It was his third HR of the series. Let’s put it this way: if the Jays keep Markakis, Jones, and Davis quiet and someone like Flaherty gets a lot of hits, the chances of sweeping Baltimore increase dramatically. A McLouth ground out and a Machado strike out brought this one to a close.

The Jays are winning in every conceivable way at this point. At times they’ve pitched well, hit well, fielded well, and run the bases well. At times they’ve put it all together in the same game (game 2 vs TEX). Sometimes the bombers carry he load, while at other times the Smurfs make the difference. Whatever the case, this team is playing as expected. Next up is Tampa Bay in Tampa, where the Jays have trouble winning. It’s another opportunity for this team to show that they are for real and they aren’t going away any time soon.  They’ve won 11 straight and counting.

Wes Kepstro

Mission ’13, Game 73: Jays win 4-2

The start of this game marks the first time the Jays take the field as a .500 team this season. It doesn’t seem like much but it’s better than being a .323 team, which they were earlier this season (10-21). The Jays’ quiet starter, Chien-ming Wang, took the hill against the Orioles’ surprisingly consistent starter, Miguel Gonzalez.  The streak began in Chien-ming Wang’s first start as a Blue Jay.

Chasing the 1930 Phillies

Game 73

PHI 27-46

TOR 37-36

The 1930 Phillies were still licking their wounds from being humbled by the Giants in game 72. Cincinnati rolled into town on a 4-game win streak and added to their total by beating the Phillies in the Baker Bowl. Monk Sherlock switched to 2B, which solidified the middle infield but Hap Collard couldn’t keep the Reds off the board late in the game. Unlike the Giants’ stacked line up only two Hall of Famers played for the Reds in this one, including Harry Heilmann who was playing his final season in MLB. The other Cooperstown-bound player was a light-hitting, fast-talking middle infielder. He was present when Bobby Thompson hit “the shot heard ’round the world” to complete an improbable comeback, and when Willie Mays caught the 440-foot drive in CF off the bat of Vic Wertz. He was Leo “The Lip” Durocher, one of MLB’s great managers. Check the boxscore here.

A wild pitch scored Melky Cabrera in the bottom of the first shortly after Adam Lind singled. Wang made this hold up until a one-out single by Travis Ishikawa scored Chris Davis. Other than that the starters dominated the game.

Maicer Izturis continued his ascent to respectability with a home run in th bottom of the 5th inning to restore the Jays one-run lead. The surprise, however, came with the next batter. Munenori strode to the plate after his game-tying heroics last night and pounded a ball to deep right field. It had home run distance, but was a few feet foul. I haven’t done the math, but I expect that very few long strikes have electrified The Rog as much as that one did. He walked, but was doubled off first on a line drive.

The Jays cruised through a couple of innings on the strength of ground ball after ground ball induced by starter Chien-ming Wang. Chris Davis was due up, so Manager Gibbons turned to Aaron Loup out of the ‘pen. Unfortunately that resulted in a weak backfire, as Loup plunked Davis on the hip. Gibby then turned to Neil Wagner, who cleaned up the small mess. The Jays didn’t score in their part of the 7th inning.

Darren Oliver relieved Wagner to open the 8th inning and promptly surrendered the lead, as Taylor Teagarden (is that name for real?) homered to deep left field. Believe it or not, it was Teagarden’s 2nd career homer against Oliver. A tough ground ball by Nate McLouth eluded Edwin at first, but he was erased by JP Arencibia as McLouth attempted to steal second. Oliver then retired Machado to end the inning.

The Jays have a little more work to do if they want to extend their win streak to double digits. Miguel Gonzalez has only yielded two hits into the bottom o the 8th inning, that is, until Munenori Kawasaki came to the plate. Kawasaki singled up the middle with one out to put the Jays into gear. A fielder’s choice by Rajai exchanged Rajai for Mune with Jose Bautista coming to the plate. A gritty at bat by Jose Bautista against Darren O’Day worked the count to 3-2, then side-armer O’Day threw a fastball knee-high on the inner half, and Bautista deposited it into the left field tunnel for a 4-2 lead. Bautista has 3 hits against O’Day in his career, and they’re all home runs. The Jays re-took the lead, 4-2.

Casey Janssen relieved Darren Oliver in the top of the 9th inning, looking for his 17th save of the season. He faced Markakis, Jones, and Davis and, as Buck Martinez mentioned, it’s nice to have a 2-run lead. Markakis popped out to shallow CF, Jones struck out (ending his personal 17-game hit streak against the Jays), and Chris Davis struck out on 4 pitches to end the game.

The Jays have won 10 in a row, and they’ve done it in impressive fashion. They’ve beaten good teams (TEX, COL, BAL), they’ve hit game-winning home runs (Bautista x2), walk off singles (Rajai), they’ve won at home and on the road, and they’ve done it with several surprising individual heroes (Chien-ming Wang, Izturis, Munenori, Rogers).

But really, this streak is about the Jays coming together as a team. The final piece to fall into place has been the starting pitching, after the offense and defense pulled up its socks. Coming together as as team isn’t only about the different facets of the team pulling together either, it’s about the individuals AND the groups picking up each other. RA pitches poorly, and the defense and offense do enough to win. The defense makes a couple errors, and the pitching and offense do the job. Bautista struggles and Munenori homers. Miguel Gonzalez pitches a two hitter for 7+ innings and Bautista homers. The Jays are a team, and they’re going to be a tough one to beat for the rest of the season.

Wes Kepstro

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