June 2007

Game #80: Jays at M's pregame

Seattle definitely rates as one of my favorite cities to visit on the road. Today, I enjoyed the Underground tour downtown, which provides some interesting, and comical, history about the early days in Seattle. After that, I walked along the Sound and wandered up to the mighty Space Needle, which would probably be more impressive if I didn’t live near the CN Tower in Toronto. Now that all the touristy stuff is out of the way, it’s back to work at the ballpark. Here’s today’s pregame:

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Toronto (39-40) at Seattle (43-33)
at 10:05 p.m. ET at lovely Safeco Field

Today’s lineups:

BLUE JAYS
Alex Rios, RF
Gregg Zaun, C
Vernon Wells, CF
Troy Glaus, 3B
Frank Thomas, DH
Matt Stairs, 1B
Aaron Hill, 2B
Adam Lind, LF
John McDonald, SS

PITCHING: RHP Roy Halladay

MARINERS
Ichiro Suzuki, CF
Jose Vidro, DH
Jose Guillen, RF
Richie Sexson, 1B
Ben Broussard, LF
Kenji Johjima, C
Adrian Beltre, 3B
Yuniesky Betancourt, SS
*Willie Bloomquist, 2B

PITCHING: RHP Miguel Batista

*2B Jose Lopez was a late scratch

NOTES: The X-ray on 1B Lyle Overbay’s right hand came back with no unexpected results. There was still a slight crack, but Overbay said the hand was healing fine and he was cleared to continue his program. He’s scheduled to take part in BP in Oakland on either Monday or Tuesday. … Toronto manager John Gibbons said LHP Gustavo Chacin is scheduled to throw off a mound in a bullpen session on Monday. … On the current road trip, today’s Nos. 3-6 hitters — Wells, Glaus, Thomas and Stairs — have combined to hit just .186, entering Saturday. … Since 2004, Halladay ranks second in the bigs with a .739 winning percentage following a team loss. John Smoltz (.742) ranks first. … LF Reed Johnson served as the left fielder for Dunedin in a rehab appearance with Class A Dunedin on Saturday. Gibbons said Johnson was expected to return shortly after the All-Star break and would immediately serve as Toronto’s leadoff hitter when he’s back.

SIDEBAR: For the action movie enthusiasts out there, I reccommend Live Free or Die Hard – the fourth installment in the Die Hard series. The plot was utterly ridiculous, as were the stunts, but that’s what great action flicks are all about, right? Bruce Willis had me cracking up and the movie moved at a fast pace. Now, don’t get me wrong, the movie won’t crack my "favorite films" list by any means, but it was definitely fun to see on the big screen and I’ll be adding it to my extensive DVD collection when it comes out.

Game #79: Jays at M's pregame

Toronto (39-39) at Seattle (42-33)
at 10:05 p.m. ET at Safeco Field

Today’s lineups:

BLUE JAYS
Alex Rios, RF
Vernon Wells, CF
Troy Glaus, 3B
Frank Thomas, DH
Aaron Hill, 2B
Gregg Zaun, C
Curtis Thigpen, 1B
Adam Lind, LF
John McDonald, SS

PITCHING: RHP Dustin McGowan

MARINERS
Ichiro Suzuki, CF
Jose Vidro, DH
Jose Guillen, RF
Richie Sexson, 1B
Ben Broussard, LF
Kenji Johjima, C
Adian Beltre, 3B
Jose Lopez, 2B
Yuniesky Betancourt, SS

PITCHING: LHP Jarrod Washburn

Testing Toronto's Mettle

My dog has nearly seen as many no-hitters live as I have. My wife and our shihtzu, Barkley, were in the stands for Dog Day at the Rogers Centre when Dustin McGowan took his no-no into the ninth inning.

From a reporter’s perspective, that was quite a hectic game. When Frank Thomas came to bat in the eighth, one swing away from 500 homers, and McGowan’s no-hitter was still intact, I was imagining the 20 sidebars I’d be writing after the game. It sure would’ve been something else to have both those accomplishments happen on one night. But alas…Jeff Baker.

On to other things…

Judging from there being no post on here yesterday, I’m sure the loyalists out there figured out I didn’t make the trip to Minnesota. I get to use these next few days to gather my strength for my upcoming three-week stint on the road. I’ll join up with the Jays in Seattle, and will be on the road all the way until Toronto returns home to play those same Mariners on July 20. I know I’ll be ready for some home cookin’ by then, and I’m sure the Blue Jays will be feeling the same.

This is without a doubt the biggest stretch of the season for Toronto. Think back to last year, when the Jays went 2-8 on a West coast swing through Seattle and Oakland, which kickstarted the seven-game losing streak that essentially took the club out of the Wild Card race. That shows you how brutal this trip can be, and this time around it’s set up with even more obstacles.

Counting Toronto’s win last night — which took the club over .500 since April 30, one day before that nine-game losing streak happened — 18 of the next 21 games are on the road for the Jays. Topping it off, all 21 games are against teams above, or right behind, Toronto in the standings.

Four games in Minnesota, which is currently a half-game above the Jays in the Wild Card race. Three games against Seattle, which is three games ahead of Toronto in the WC. Then, three against the A’s, who are one game above the Jays in the WC. Follow that up with a brief three-game home set against the Wild Card-leading Indians. After the All-Star break, it’s consecutive four-game sets against Boston, leading the East, and New York, which is one game behind the Jays.

Needless to say, if Toronto can return home on July 20 with a record at or above .500, I think the road trip can be called a success. That will be tough, though. At least there’s good news on the horizon for Toronto, considering Lyle Overbay and Reed Johnson should both be back around, or a little after, the All-Star break. Reinforcements are coming.

Overbay is scheduled to hit off a tee in Minnesota today, and Johnson is scheduled to start a Minor League rehab assignment in the Gulf Coast League in about a week. One question Toronto will have to deal with is, when those two do return from the DL, what becomes of Matt Stairs? He’s certainly been an unsung hero over the past few weeks for the Blue Jays.

Since I’m not on the road, here are some highlights from today’s clips:

Game #74: Rox at Jays pregame

Colorado (38-36) at Toronto (36-37)
at 1:07 p.m. ET at the Rogers Centre

Today’s lineups:

ROCKIES
Willy Taverez, CF
Kaz Matsui, 2B
Matt Holliday, LF
Todd Helton, 1B
Garrett Atkins, 3B
Brad Hawpe, RF
Troy Tulowitzki, SS
Jeff Baker, DH
Yorvit Torrealba, C

PITCHING: RHP Josh Fogg

BLUE JAYS
Vernon Wells, CF
Gregg Zaun, C
Alex Rios, RF
Matt Stairs, 1B
Frank Thomas, DH
Aaron Hill, 2B
Adam Lind, LF
Howie Clark, 3B
John McDonald, SS

PITCHING: RHP Dustin McGowan

NOTES: The Jays can pull to a .500 record for the first time since they were 13-13. … Manager John Gibbons said 3B Troy Glaus was just given a day off. … SS Royce Clayton hasn’t started in five games. Clayton met with GM J.P. Ricciardi before Sunday’s game to discuss his situation. … 1B Lyle Overbay said he’s scheduled to begin hitting off a tee on Tuesday and hopes to be ready to start taking BP by the end of the upcoming road trip. … LHP Gustavo Chacin threw on flat ground and plans on throwing off a mound in the bullpen some time during the upcoming road trip. He believed that could possibly be by the middle this week, but it might take longer.

Game #73: Rox at Jays pregame

Colorado (38-35) at Toronto (35-37)
at 1:07 p.m. ET at the Rogers Centre

Today’s lineups:

ROCKIES
Willy Taverez, CF
Kaz Matsui, 2B
Matt Holliday, LF
Todd Helton, DH
Garrett Atkins, 3B
Brad Hawpe, RF
Troy Tulowitzki, SS
Jeff Baker, 1B
Yorvit Torrealba, C

PITCHING: RHP Aaron Cook

BLUE JAYS
Vernon Wells, CF
Alex Rios, RF
Matt Stairs, 1B
Troy Glaus, 3B
Frank Thomas, DH
Aaron Hill, 2B
Adam Lind, LF
Jason Phillips, C
John McDonald, SS

PITCHING: RHP Ty Taubenheim

Game #72: Rox at Jays pregame

Colorado (38-34) at Toronto (34-37)
at 7:07 p.m. ET at the Rogers Centre

Today’s lineups:

ROCKIES
Willy Tavarez, DH
Troy Tulowitzki, SS
Matt Holliday, LF
Todd Helton, 1B
Garrett Atkins, 3B
Brad Hawpe, RF
Ryan Spilborghs, CF
Jamey Carroll, 2B
Chris Iannetta, C

PITCHING: RHP Jason Hirsh

BLUE JAYS
Vernon Wells, CF
Gregg Zaun, C
Alex Rios, RF
Troy Glaus, 3B
Frank Thomas, DH
Matt Stairs, 1B
Aaron Hill, 2B
Adam Lind, LF
John McDonald, SS

PITCHING: RHP Josh Towers

NOTES: Wells, who is entered the game with no hits in his last 17 at-bats, was slotted in the leadoff spot for the first time this season. Rios, who leads the team with 15 homers and has been hitting first, was moved into the third hole for the first time. … RHP A.J. Burnett threw off the mound in a bullpen session prior to Friday’s game and manager John Gibbons said the pitcher is still on pace to start on Thursday in Minnesota. … LHP Gustavo Chacin had the day off from throwing on Friday, but said he’d resume playing catch on flat ground at a distance of 75-90 feet on Saturday. The pitcher estimated that he might be back on a mound by the middle of next week. … RHP John Thomson, released on Wednesday, was signed by the Royals and will move into their rotation. … Former Jay Cecil Fielder was at the ballpark for the latest installment of Flashback Fridays.

Game #71: Dodgers at Jays pregame

Los Angeles (40-31) at Toronto (34-36)
at 7:07 p.m. ET at the Rogers Centre

Today’s lineup:

DODGERS
Rafael Furcal, SS
Juan Pierre, CF
Nomar Garciaparra, 1B
Jeff Kent, 2B
Luis Gonzalez, LF
Russell Martin, C
Marlon Anderson, DH
Andre Ethier, RF
Tony Abreu, 3B

PITCHING: RHP Chad Billingsley

BLUE JAYS
Alex Rios, RF
Vernon Wells, CF
Matt Stairs, 1B
Troy Glaus, 3B
Frank Thomas, DH
Gregg Zaun, C
Aaron Hill, 2B
Adam Lind, LF
John McDonald, SS

PITCHING: RHP Shaun Marcum

Game #70: Dodgers at Jays pregame

Los Angeles (40-30) at Toronto (33-36)
at 7:07 p.m. ET at Rogers Centre

Today’s lineups:

DODGERS
Rafael Furcal, SS
Juan Pierre, CF
Nomar Garciaparra, 1B
Jeff Kent, 2B
Luis Gonzalez, LF
Russell Martin, C
Olmedo Saenez, DH
Wilson Betemit, 3B
Andre Ethier, RF

PITCHING: LHP Hong-Chih Kuo

BLUE JAYS
Alex Rios, RF
Vernon Wells, CF
Troy Glaus, 3B
Frank Thomas, DH
Aaron Hill, 2B
Gregg Zaun, C
Matt Stairs, LF
Curtis Thigpen, 1B
John McDonald, SS

PITCHING: RHP Roy Halladay

NOTES: According to manager John Gibbons, RHP A.J. Burnett (shoulder strain) is expected to come off the DL on schedule for a start Thursday, June 28 in Minnesota. … Toronto officially parted ways with RHP John Thomson, giving the pitcher his unconditional release. … RHP Ty Taubenheim, who is starting for Burnett on Saturday, was in attendance with the Jays. … According to GM J.P. Ricciardi, LHP Gustavo Chacin (shoulder) might begin a Minor League rehab in roughly two weeks and could be back with the Jays by mid-July. … Ricciardi also said he believed LF Reed Johnson (back) could be beack around the All-Star break in July. … As far as RHP Brandon League goes, Ricciardi didn’t sound too optimistic that the reliever would be back in Toronto’s bullpen before the All-Star break. Gibbons had stated recently that League could be back before the end of the month. … The Jays optioned RHP Lee Gronkiewicz to Triple-A and recalled RHP Brian Wolfe.

That enough notes for you all today?

What’re your thoughts on the January trio of signings of Thomson, RHP Tomo Ohka and RHP Victor Zambrano? Thomson and Ohka are officially out of the picture (Ohka was released on Monday) and Zambrano is in the Minors trying to convince the Jays to bring him back to the bigs. Obviously, young pitchers like Shaun Marcum and Dustin McGowan (minus last night’s debacle) have made the ineffectiveness of the winter signings practically a moot point, but things definitely haven’t gone according to the original plan (do they ever?). Have Marcum and McGowan made the Thomson/Ohka ordeal a non issue? Or are you as Jays fans still disappointed that adding those veterans to the mix didn’t work out. Sound off…

Game #68: Nats at Jays pregame

Washington (29-39) at Toronto (33-34)
at 1:07 p.m. ET at the Rogers Centre

Today’s lineups:

NATIONALS
Christian Guzman, SS
Ronnie Belliard, 2B
Ryan Zimmerman, 3B
Dmitri Young, DH
Austin Kearns, RF
Brian Schneider, C
Tony Batista, 1B
Robert Fick, LF
Ryan Langerhans, CF

PITCHING: LHP Micah Bowie

BLUE JAYS
Alex Rios, RF
Vernon Wells, CF
Troy Glaus, 3B
Frank Thomas, DH
Aaron Hill, 2B
Curtis Thigpen, 1B
Jason Phillips, C
Adam Lind, LF
Royce Clayton, SS

PITCHING: RHP Josh Towers

NOTES: If everything goes according to plan, RHP A.J. Burnett will make his next start on Saturday against the Rockies. … Other than that, it’s John Gibbons necktie giveaway day here at the ballpark. Gibbons was asked if he actually wears ties. His response: "That’s like putting earrings on a pig."

UPDATE: Contrary to what I wrote in the pregame notes, it looks like Burnett is headed to the DL. After the game, Gibbons said the pitcher still felt pain in his shoulder and would not start on Saturday. Someone will be called up from the Minors and more info will be available on Tuesday.

Game #67: Nats at Jats pregame

After a lovely day off, which consisted of a great jog along the lakefront and taking in a movie with my wife, I am back at the Rogers Centre — still exhausted and wondering when my body is going to get off West Coast time. Unlike the Jays fans who came out to the ballpark last night, I got to enjoy the beautiful weather. My wife and I saw the dome was closed around game time last night, and she said, "It must be broken." Sure enough. Well, it’s open again today for Game 2, which is about to get underway. So here’s today’s pregame:

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Washington (29-38) at Toronto (32-34)
at 1:07 p.m. ET at the Rogers Centre

Today’s lineups:

NATIONALS
Ronnie Belliard, SS
Felipe Lopez, 2B
Ryan Zimmerman, 3B
Dmitri Young, DH
Austin Kearns, RF
Ryan Church, LF
Robert Fick, 1B
Jesus Flores, C
Ryan Langerhans, LF

PITCHING: RHP Levale Speigner

BLUE JAYS
Alex Rios, RF
Vernon Wells, CF
Matt Stairs, 1B
Troy Glaus, 3B
Frank Thomas, DH
Gregg Zaun, C
Aaron Hill, 2B
Adam Lind, LF
John McDonald, SS

PITCHING: RHP Shaun Marcum

NOTES: Not much. The roof is working again, and there’s no news yet on RHP Tomo Ohka’s status. Toronto has until Monday to sort his situation out, which will likely end in his release. … Zaun was back in the lineup for the second day in a row, even though manager John Gibbons said Friday that he’d probably rest on Saturday. … Jays have gone 12-5 at home since May 11, which is the best home mark over that span in the Majors.

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