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Friday, September 09, 2011

Encarnation was the key bat in the triumph of the Blue Jays

First baseman Edwin Encarnacion broke a tie in the eighth inning three-run double beating to give the Blue Jays a 11-10 victory over the Boston Red Sox.

The Blue Jays were imposed in the attack and prevented the Red Sox starter Tim Wakefield, to get win number 200 for his entire career. Wakefield pitched five innings and left with no choice.

Despite their defeat, the sixth in the final 10 games, the Sox remain two games of the leaders of the Eastern Division of the American League New York Yankees, who also lost 4-5 in 11 innings against Baltimore Orioles.

In the eighth inning, Encarnacion doubled to deep struck between the right-center for three RBIs.

With that double the Dominican commanded the register pinch-runner Chris Woodward, the ranger Eric Thames and designated hitter Jose Bautista.

Encarnation became the key to the Blue Jays beat the end with five RBIs and 49 RBIs to reach so far in the campaign.

The victory went to the relay Shawn Camp (4-3) in one episode, allowed one hit.

The closer Frank Francisco (13) is credited with launching a rescue entry, despite allowing three hits, a homer, two runs, and retired one strikeouts.

For the Red Sox, Jacoby Ellsbury Ranger (25), designated hitter David Ortiz (29) and first baseman Adrian Gonzalez (24) homered.

Ortiz homer bound her in 29 so far this season, connecting in the fifth inning, no people on the road.

The Dominican Morrow punished with four corners homer when the pitcher was looking for the second out of the inning.

Gonzalez (24) also took the ball from the field but did so in the ninth inning with no runners on the road.

The Mexican broke the control of his pitches Francisco, when there were no outs on the board and had runners on the road.

The defeat was for the relief Daniel Bard (2-6) in one inning, which allowed one hit and five runs, walked three and retired two strikeouts.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Blue Jays Weekend Recap: Bautista Loses His Cool, Jays Lose Four Straight

Talk about a miserable weekend for the Toronto Blue Jays.

The team doing their fair share of losing on several fronts over the last few days, both off and on the field. First, there was the coaching staff losing manager John Farrell after he was sent home to rest with a bout of pneumonia that caused him to have to leave the game on Thursday night complaining of chest pains. The initial thought was that the illness wouldn’t be serious enough for the Jays skipper to miss more than a couple of games, but the team has decided to rest him through the weekend. Don Wakamatsu has been taking over in Farrell’s absence, and the team has not responded particularly well, losing all 3 weekend games to the Rays and hoping to avoid a full series sweep tomorrow night.

Then there was Jose Bautista, who completely lost his cool on Friday night, after choosing to debate a debatable strike zone from home plate umpire Bill Welke following his third strikeout of the game. After being thrown out by Welke for arguing and slamming his bat at the side of the dugout, Bautista essentially flipped out, tossing his equipment out on the field and barking at Welke some more before heading into the tunnel.

Now, I guess some of you might want to chalk it off as a fiery leader showing some emotion because of his competitiveness, and that is certainly true; it’s important to realize, however, that Bautista engaged in an immature and childish actions while trying to show those emotions. It’s called a temper tantrum, and there really isn’t a place for it in the game. If you don’t support them when guys like Zambrano throws them, there’s no reason to give Bau a free pass here. Is that a reason to stop supporting Bautista? Does that make him any less of a player on the field? Nah, but what it does mean is that Bautista made a mistake in choosing his forms of expression, and those actions should not be supported. Fans know he can be better, and I’m sure he knows he can be better. There will likely be repercussions coming from the MLB at some point, and hopefully this will remain a one-off incident with the Jays’ star player.

Continuing on with this whole losing thing – not that I’m particularly fond of this theme – the Jays’ losses to the Rays this weekend were particularly harsh because only one of the 3 losses was even remotely competitive, with the Jays losing 5-6 on Saturday. Even so, the team played from behind all weekend, and was never really in the mix for winning any of the games, culminating with a 0-12 blowout earlier this afternoon. If you had to pick a main culprit, it was the pitching: the starters – Luis Perez, Henderson Alvarez and Brandon Morrow – combined for a lackluster 16.1 innings of work between 3 starts, allowing 11 runs on 15 hits and 9 walks for a 6.14 ERA (not to mention Brett Cecil’s poor start on Thursday night). Brandon Morrow was the worst of the bunch in his 2nd straight poor start, giving up 3 homers over just 5.1 innings and continuing that trend of inconsistency that’s been at his side since he entered the majors.

The short starts from our starters meant that the bullpen received some extra work. The line wasn’t pretty: 10.2 innings, 18 hits, 9 walks, 12 earned runs. There were bad performances all around, but the one that hurt the most was Shawn Camp and Jesse Litsch’s combined 4-run blowup in the 6th and 7th innings on Saturday that blew open a tie, essentially costing the team a chance to win. Wil Ledezma, who is really only up here because our bullpen is falling apart at the seams and is undermanned, allowed 7 runs on 6 hits over 2 innings over a couple of appearances, including today’s 0-12 laugher.

And to think, there’s still one month to go before these guys will get a chance to recharge, and for the top brass to try to bolster the team’s weakness in that department. The fun continues tomorrow, with the Jays looking to ace Ricky Romero to try and stop the losing streak at 4 against Wade Davis and the Rays.

PS. To end of a positive note, at least we’ve still got Brett Lawrie, who continued to rake: the growing legend went 4-for-12 over the weekend, launching his 5th homer of the season in Friday night. Lawrie had 2 for the Jays 5 hits yesterday in a record-setting 14 strikeout performance from David Price – so even when other guys are struggling, Lawrie continues to hit the ball well. That impressive small sample stat line is starting to become an impressive stat line, period.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Blue Jays Acquire Kelly Johnson, Ship Out Aaron Hill & J-Mac

Rejoice, Aaron Hill-haters: the Blue Jays have heard your call. The much maligned 2nd baseman was finally shipped out of town today in a waiver deal, along with super-utilityman John Macdonald, with both players headed off to join the Arizona Diamondbacks’ playoff race.

In return, the Blue Jays will get the D-Backs’ struggling 2B-man in Kelly Johnson, a player that, like Hill, probably isn’t going to help much this season. Just a year removed from a career-season at age 28, Johnson has been mired in a low BABIP-influenced struggle this year, hitting 18 home runs but little else, posting an ugly .209/.287 split over 114 games this season (sound familiar, anyone?). Johnson brings with him some consistent pop, with his MLB career ISO never been once below .150, and sitting at over .200 over the last two seasons. At the very worst, the Jays will receive a marginal upgrade over Hill this season in terms of power and fielding ability, with Johnson also showing a career walk rate of 10.7% over Hill’s 6.6%.

Good talent, for sure, but the former 1st rounder does not come without his own caveats, obviously. Most concerning is his strikeout rate, currently sitting at a career-high 27.9%, and has seen a 3-year increase from a much more manageable 15.6% before he was traded to the D-Backs in 2009. Arizona is currently 4th in the league in batter strikeouts, and lead that category over the last couple of years, so Johnson’s issue could be something related to a team hitting philosophy, not unlike Adam Lind and Aaron Hill’s issues were related to the same thing.

For Aaron Hill and John Macdonald, both players will get a chance to play some meaningful baseball in September for the first time in their careers, and in Hill’s case, he also gets a proverbial change of scenery that’s been much needed since May, more or less. There are certain parallels between Hill and Johnson’s careers, and I’m not about to write off Aaron Hill’s career at 29 years old either. The opportunity is there for him to hit in a better lineup, and you never know what the batting coaches will have in mind in terms of fixing Hill’s batting woes this season. John Macdonald will provide – as he’s done for years here – valuable defensive backup in the infield for the D-Backs in late innings. It’ll be nice to see him finally get a shot at the playoffs.

It’s a bit of a gamble for Arizona, but for the Jays’, it’s really a no-risk move, as all players are free agents after this season (unless Arizona picks up Hill’s options). The Jays will, at worst, end up with a type-B comp pick for Johnson’s services if he chooses to sign elsewhere, and will also get a look to see if they will want to re-up him at a reasonable price, as opposed to trying to make an off-season move. Johnny Mac will likely rejoin Toronto in the off-season – word is going around that he preferred to be traded to a contender if possible, and Alex Anthopoulous have honored the request.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Athletics 5, Blue Jays 1, Alvarez drop despite solid work

Gio Gonzalez pitched eight perfect innings Saturday for his first victory in over a month and managed the Oakland Athletics a 5-1 win over Toronto.

Venezuelan starter Henderson Alvarez (0-1) took the loss for the Jays despite having a solid performance on the mound.

The right was given three consecutive hits in the bottom of the first inning, including the Japanese single by Hideki Matsui.

Eric Thames had two hits and scored the only run of Toronto, who did not have Jose Bautista. Bautista leads the majors with 35 homers but was ruled out with a strained neck.

For the Blue Jays, the Yunel Escobar 4-0. Edwin Encarnacion 4-1 with an RBI. Jose Molina 3-0.

Friday, August 19, 2011

MLB: Blue Jays 5, Mariners 1; Encarnacion homered

Casper Wells, Seattle Mariners, reacts after being beaten in the face by a pitch from Brandon Morrow, from the Blue Jays in the game on Wednesday August 17, 2011. The Blue Jays won 5-1.

Photo: Ted S. Warren

Brandon Morrow allowed three hits on Wednesday and one run over six innings and the Toronto Blue Jays hit three homers, including one from Edwin Encarnacion in the 5-1 victory against the Seattle Mariners.

Encarnacion hit a solo to open the second, Adam Lind hit a three-run homer in the third and Colby Rasmus gave the advantage in the fourth.

Morrow (9-7), who allowed no hits until they had two outs in the fourth, struck out 12, a record for the season. It is the fourth time this season that kills 10 or more.

It was also the first time that Morrow was facing his former team in Seattle, who took the first-round pick in 2006. Was traded before the 2010 season by Brandon League, now the Mariners' closer. The pitcher did not leave the mound in the two previous visits to the Blue Jays to Seattle.

The relievers Jesse Litsch, Casey Janssen and Frank Francisco worked each entry without receiving a hit.

For the Blue Jays, the Yunel Escobar 4-1. Jose Bautista's 3-1 with a run scored, and Encarnacion 3-1 with a run scored and an RBI. Jose Molina 4-1, with a run scored.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Blue Jays win 5-4 in the 10th inning against the Angels

Edwin Encarnacion hit an RBI single in the 10th inning and the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Los Angeles Angels 5-4 Sunday. Yunel Escobar walked to begin the ninth against Fernando Rodney (2-5). Mark Teahen struck out and Jose Bautista walked before Hisanori Takahashi came on to strike out Adam Lind. Encarnacion followed with a base hit up the alley in left-center, scoring Escobar with the winning run as Encarnacion's teammates ran out and mobbed him at second base. Jon Rauch (5-3) pitched one inning for Toronto.

NOTES: Encarnacion extended his hitting streak to a season-high 13 games with a leadoff single in the seventh. ... Angels C Jeff Mathis, who was hit on the left hand by a pitch Saturday, did not start. X-rays were negative. ... Toronto 2B Aaron Hill sat out his second straight game but GM Alex Anthopoulos insisted Hill has not lost his starting job. Hill is stuck in a 6 for 36 slump. McDonald made his second consecutive start in place of Hill

Monday, August 08, 2011

Brett Lawrie era starts with a Victory over Orioles

Not unlike the arrival of Colby Rasmus just a little over a week ago, last night’s debut for 21-year old Brett Lawrie came with CN-Tower-high expectations; Lawrie himself had to quell the notions that his long-awaited tryout in the MLB was somehow the key to turning the Jays around, saying that he’s “no saviour” in an interview before the game. Well, saviour or not, Lawrie definitely made a notable impact – both good and bad – in a Blue Jays road win over the Orioles.

There were other players on the field, but being that this was a game of little consequence between the 4th and 5th team in the division, I got the feeling that most eyes from Blue Jays fans were on the team’s shiny new 3rd baseman. So let’s start with the good: with the Jays down 0-2 in the 2nd inning from a Adam Jones home run off starter Brad Mills and runners on first and 2nd, Lawrie wasted no time showing off his hitting ability, slapping a line-drive single in his first major-league at-bat for his first career RBI in the bigs. I think most of us were hoping he’d start things off with a home run, but then again, that’s probably based on the unrealistic hope that he would start his first game with a 4-for-4, 4 home run night.

That didn’t quite happen, but Lawrie did wind up 2-for-4 on the night with a pair of singles. He probably would have had a 2nd RBI too, as Rasmus was trying to score from 2nd on the play (he was 2-for-4 in the 6th hole), but was beaten at home on a fantastic throw from left fielder Nolan Reimold.

So it’s pretty clear that the kid can hit. Fielding, on the other hand, was a bit of a different story. It was always a concern with Lawrie, even when he was coming up through the Brewers’ system as a 2nd baseman, and it doesn’t look like the concern will go away anytime soon. A total of 4 balls were hit to 3rd last night, with Lawrie making just one play; maybe it was the first-game-jitters – you have to give him some credit for effort, and he certainly isn’t lacking athleticism – but Lawrie took a little bit of the sheen off his otherwise solid debut with his play. The first play, a sharp grounder down the 3rd base line, wasn’t entirely his fault. He showed off good range getting to the ball, and launched a impressive, but off-line throw to 1st while being off balance. Not a play that most 3B in the league would make, certainly.

He then followed that up with a pair of bobbles, one in the 2nd that was charged as an error, and one in the 6th that cost the Jays a run in a close game that probably could have gone as his 2nd error, but was called a deflection instead. Lawrie did complete his first play on a force-out a batter later. I’m not going to start calling the kid the 2nd coming of Edwin Encarnacion on the field or anything, but the truth is he’s being rushed to the majors at a young age, learning a new position this season with not-very-good results (16 errors in 214 chances for a poor .925 fielding %). Does he have the tools to get better? Certainly. This being said, his skillset probably doesn’t really fit into the infield over the long-term. I could see him moved into the outfield at a further stage of his career.

This was just an audition, after all, and as as far as auditions go, I’d say Lawrie looked as advertised. The rest of the Jays, meanwhile, were locked in a close battle against the O’s, ultimately coming on top with a 5-4 win. Mills went a decent 5.1 innings, allowing 3 runs on 4 hits and 4 walks (no control last night), and if it wasn’t for Aaron Hill’s sac fly in the 8th inning that put the Jays ahead 5-3, the run that was scored off Lawrie’s deflection would have proven to be very costly. The reason, of course, was our closer – who is still Jon Rauch at the moment – who came in to lock down the save in the 9th, but instead made things interesting, giving up a pair of hits with 2 outs, including a RBI double to Nick Markakis that brought the O’s to within a run.

It’s another unacceptable performance from a player who has been given responsibility in a high-leverage situation, and it’s only a matter of time now before the other cleat drops on Rauch’s time in the 9th inning. How is former closer Frank Francisco doing since Rauch took over? 10.1 IP, 7H, 1ER, 0BB, 10K. Go figure.