September 2007

Game #162: Rays at Jays pregame

Fitting that the Toronto marathon is taking place on the day the Blue Jays’ 2007 marathon comes to an end…

Tampa Bay (65-96) at Toronto (83-78)
at 1:07 p.m. ET at the Rogers Centre

Today’s lineups:

DEVIL RAYS
Akinori Iwamura, 2B
Jorge Velandia, SS
Carlos Pena, 1B
Greg Norton, RF
Raul Casanova, DH
Dioner Navarro, C
Jonny Gomes, LF
Joel Guzman, 3B
Justin Ruggiano, CF

PITCHING: RHP Jason Hammel (2-5, 6.08 ERA)

BLUE JAYS
Reed Johnson, DH
Russ Adams, 2B
Alex Rios, CF
Adam Lind, LF
John-Ford Griffin, RF
Curtis Thigpen, C
Hector Luna, 1B
Joe Inglett, 3B
Ray Olmedo, SS

PITCHING: RHP A.J. Burnett (10-7, 3.49 ERA)

NOTES: CoachGate finally is over and there are no surprises. Hitting coach Mickey Brantley is not coming back (and rumor has it that you should tune in to Off the Record on Wednesday), Ernie Whitt is moving to first base, Marty Pevey is switching to third base and Brian Butterfield will be the new bench coach. … Toronto manager John Gibbons said that he believes Toronto’s rotation should be the same heading into next season: Roy Halladay, A.J. Burnett, Dustin McGowan, Shaun Marcum and Jesse Litsch. He hinted that RHPs Casey Janssen and Brian Wolfe would likely remain in the bullpen next year.

UP NEXT:

AMERICAN LEAGUE DIVISION SERIES

New York at Cleveland
Los Angeles at Boston

COMING LATER: My postseason award picks and playoff predictions

Game #161: Rays at Jays pregame

Parting is such sweet sorrow: I wasn’t there to witness this scene firsthand, but when my MLB.com associate arrived to the ballpark this morning, soon-to-be-dismissed hitting coach Mickey Brantley was also entering the Dome. As Brantley was walking up to the door with his bike in tow, a crowd of fans swarmed around him and offered their support. Cries of "We love you Mick!" and "You still have friends here!" and "You got a raw deal!" could be heard from the crowd of die-hards. Can you feel the love?

————————————————————————————————-

Tampa Bay (65-95) at Toronto (82-78)
at 1:07 p.m. ET at the Rogers Centre

Today’s lineups:

DEVIL RAYS
Akinori Iwamura, 3B
Jorge Velandia, 2B
Carlos Pena, DH
B.J. Upton, CF
Delmon Young, RF
Dioner Navarro, C
Joel Guzman, 1B
Justin Ruggiano, LF
Josh Wilson, SS

PITCHING: RHP Edwin Jackson (5-15, 5.96 ERA)

BLUE JAYS
Reed Johnson, CF
Matt Stairs, 1B
Frank Thomas, DH
Aaron Hill, 2B
Adam Lind, LF
John-Ford Griffin, RF
Curtis Thigpen, C
Hector Luna, 3B
Ray Olmedo, SS

PITCHING: RHP Jesse Litsch (7-9, 3.94 ERA)

NOTES: CoachGate may never end. In hardly a shocking development, the announcement that was supposed to arrive on Saturday never did. Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi said he still had to "iron out" some things with some of the coaches, and he expects to have an announcement about the changes on Sunday. The likely holdup is with Ernie Whitt, who is going to be replaced as the bench coach next year by Brian Butterfield. Whitt has been asked to accept a lesser role, which he doesn’t appear to be too thrilled about. It’s possible that he opts not to take the new job. … Toronto’s two first-round picks from this year’s draft — Kevin Ahrens and J.P. Arencibia — were on hand at the Rogers Centre to take batting practice.

A DAY AT THE RACES:

ALREADY IN:
Boston, New York, Los Angeles, Cleveland

STILL UNDECIDED:

AL BEST RECORD
entering Saturday
1. Boston 95-65 (–)
2. Cleveland 95-65 (–)
3. Los Angeles 93-67 (2)

TGIF…

I’m back in Toronto, but I won’t be heading over to the Dome tonight. I’m hitting the road again in a few days for the playoffs, so I figured I’d take this night off to have a nice evening out with the misses. So, my trusty associate Gregor will be fillin’ in for me on jays.com

How about these playoffs races? It looks like a safe bet that Boston is going to wrap up the East title, barring some Mets-like collapse. But the league’s best record is still up for grabs, which is reeking havok on postseason schedule plans. But at least it’s decided who is in for the American League.

I don’t think anyone wants to clinch ANYTHING in the National League. Well, the Rockies sure do, winning 11 in a row. Nice timing, huh? I listened to the Rox-Dodgers game last night on the radio and, I’ve got to say, I’d love to see them sneak in to the dance. That’ll be a big season-ending series with the D-backs, who still have the West and the NL’s best record in their sights.

When the season ends, I’ll also be posting my picks for the award winners in both leagues. The AL Rookie of the Year, AL Cy Young, NL Rookie of the Year, and NL MVP have quite the collection of candidates. The others seem pretty straight forward, if you ask me. I’m sure you guys can debate me on that.

As for those Jays, they’re back in Toronto to wrap up this rocky 2007 season. Probables for the Blue Birds for the three games are RHP Dustin McGowan, RHP Jesse Litsch and RHP A.J. Burnett. Don’t expect Doc to take the ball on Sunday, even though he said he’d love to. On Saturday, the Jays are set to officially announce the coaching changes.

Not sure where I sit on dismissing hitting coach Mickey Brantley. Working with a injury-riddled roster this season certainly didn’t help his situation, though the offensive numbers were flat-out horrendous. He’s saying the explanation he was given was that the players "aren’t responding to him." From talking to a lot of the players, you’re hard-pressed to find anyone who doesn’t have praise for Brantley’s efforts. But, no one ever said this game was fair…

I’ll be back at the blog on Saturday…

BREAKING EVEN…Toronto needs just one win over its final three games to finish the season above .500.

A DAY AT THE RACES:

ALREADY IN:
Boston, New York, Los Angeles, Cleveland

STILL UNDECIDED:

AL EAST
entering Friday
1. Boston 94-65 (–)
2. New York 92-67 (2)

AL BEST RECORD
entering Friday
1. Boston 94-65 (–)
1. Cleveland 94-65 (–)
2. Los Angeles 92-67 (2)
2. New York 92-67 (2)

Game #159: Jays at O's pregame

Toronto (81-77) at Baltimore (67-91)
at 7:05 p.m. ET at Camden Yards

Today’s lineups:

BLUE JAYS
Russ Adams, 3B
Matt Stairs, 1B
Alex Rios, CF
Frank Thomas, DH
Aaron Hill, 2B
Adam Lind, LF
John-Ford Griffin, RF
Curtis Thigpen, C
John McDonald, SS

PITCHING: RHP Josh Banks (0-0, 4.50 ERA)

ORIOLES
Brian Roberts, 2B
Tike Redman, CF
Nick Markakis, RF
Miguel Tejada, DH
Aubrey Huff, 1B
Melvin Mora, 3B
Jay Payton, LF
Paul Bako, C
Luis Hernandez, SS

PITCHING: RHP Jeremy Guthrie (7-5, 3.65 ERA)

NOTES: CoachGate continues here at Camden Yards. Third-base coach Brian Butterfield acknowledged that he has been asked to be the new bench coach, replacing Ernie Whitt, in 2008. Whitt declined comment about the coaching situation until it’s officially announced by the club, but he did want it made known that he is not responsible for the two lineup card gaffes that occurred this season. It’s not sure what role Whitt may hold with the Jays next season — possibly that of first-base coach. Current first-base coach Marty Peavy is rumored to be replacing Butterfield at third base, but Peavy also declined comment. GM J.P. Ricciardi is expected to make an announcement on Saturday in Toronto.

BREAKING EVEN…Toronto needs just one win over its final four games to finish the season above .500.

A DAY AT THE RACES:

ALREADY IN:
Boston, New York, Los Angeles, Cleveland

STILL UNDECIDED:

AL EAST
entering Thursday
1. Boston 94-64 (–)
2. New York 91-67 (3)

AL BEST RECORD
entering Thursday
1. Boston 94-64 (–)
2. Cleveland 93-65 (1)
3. Los Angeles 92-67 (2.5)
4. New York 91-67 (3)

Game #158: Jays at O's pregame

Toronto (80-77) at Baltimore (67-90)
at 7:05 p.m. ET at Camden Yards

Today’s lineups:

BLUE JAYS
Reed Johnson, RF
Matt Stairs, 1B
Alex Rios, CF
Frank Thomas, DH
Aaron Hill, 2B
Gregg Zaun, C
Adam Lind, LF
Russ Adams, 3B
John McDonald, SS

PITCHING: RHP Roy Halladay (15-7, 3.71 ERA)

ORIOLES
Brian Roberts, 2B
Melvin Mora, DH
Nick Markakis, RF
Miguel Tejada, SS
Kevin Millar, 1B
Ramon Hernandez, C
Scott Moore, 3B
Jay Payton, LF
Tike Redman, CF

PITCHING: RHP Victor Zambrano (0-2, 6.41 ERA)

NOTES: Hitting coach Mickey Brantley discussed his upcoming departure from the Jays today. He was informed during the club’s last homestand that he would not be returning as the Jays hitting coach in ’08. Manager John Gibbons and GM J.P. Ricciardi declined comment, which sort of says it all, doesn’t it? … I also talked to Johnson about the club’s noncommittal stance on his future with the team. Check the Jays notebook online later for that. … McDonald is set to undergo surgery to correct his sports hernia on Tuesday in Philadelphia.

BREAKING EVEN…Toronto needs to post a 2-3 record over its final five games to finish the season above .500.

A DAY AT THE RACES:

AL EAST
entering Wednesday
1. Boston 93-64 (–)
2. New York 90-67 (3)

AL WILD CARD
entering Wednesday
1. New York 90-67 (–)
2. Detroit 86-72 (4.5)

AL BEST RECORD
entering Wednesday
1. Cleveland 93-63 (–)
2. Boston 93-64 (0.5)
2. Los Angeles 92-66 (2)
4. New York 90-67 (3.5)

Brantley to be let go

Check out today’s National Post, where John Lott writes that Blue Jays hitting coach Mickey Brantley has already been informed by manager John Gibbons that he will not have his contract renewed after the season. Can’t say this was a big surprise at all. The writing has been on the wall for some time. I wrote back in August that Brantley hadn’t received any reassurance from the Jays staff, and he told me back then that he kind of expected this news to come. While Lott got the scoop, the rest of us Toronto scribes will be following it up today here in Baltimore.

Game #157: Jays at O's pregame

Toronto (79-77) at Baltimore (67-89)
at 7:05 p.m. ET at Camden Yards

Today’s lineups:

BLUE JAYS
Reed Johnson, RF
Hector Luna, 3B
Alex Rios, CF
Frank Thomas, DH
Aaron Hill, 2B
Gregg Zaun, C
Curtis Thigpen, 1B
Adam Lind, LF
John McDonald, SS

PITCHING: RHP A.J. Burnett (9-7, 3.40 ERA)

ORIOLES
Brian Roberts, 2B
Melvin Mora, 3B
Nick Markakis, RF
Miguel Tejada, SS
Kevin Millar, 1B
Aubrey Hugg, DH
Ramon Hernandez, C
Freddie Bynum, LF
Tike Redman, CF

PITCHING: LHP Brian Burres (6-6, 5.27 ERA)

NOTES: Who knew I had so much influence in baseball decisions? The other day, I asked Jays manager John Gibbons if he knew rookie Josh Banks was from Baltimore. "Oh yeah?" he responded. "That’s good to know." And what do you know, Gibby said today that Banks will indeed get the nod to start for Toronto on Thursday here in Baltimore. Banks said he will have in the neighborhood of 500 family and friends making the trek to Camden Yards. The way the O’s have been drawing lately, that just might double the attendance. … 1B Lyle Overbay had surgery to remove four pins from his ailing right hand in Baltimore and Dr. Thomas Graham found a lot of scar tissue in the Jays’ first baseman’s hand. The club said the operation to clean up the hand went well. … CF Vernon Wells was also scheduled to have an operation to remove a cyst and repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder on Tuesday. Prior to the game, the club had no updates on the surgery. … Gibbons said that SS John McDonald does have a sports hernia and he will have surgery to fix the issue after the season. It’s not a serious injury and McDonald was still in the lineup. … Banks, David Smith, Josh Kreuzer, Travis Snider, Brett Cecil, Johermyn Chavez, Welington Ramirez and Yensy Perez each were awarded a Webster Award this season — the organization’s accololade for the top player at each minor league level.

BREAKING EVEN…Toronto needs to post a 3-3 record over its final six games to finish the season above .500.

A DAY AT THE RACES:

AL EAST
entering Tuesday
1. Boston 92-64 (–)
2. New York 90-66 (2)

AL WILD CARD
entering Tuesday
1. New York 90-66 (–)
2. Detroit 85-72 (5.5)

AL BEST RECORD
entering Tuesday
1. Cleveland 92-63 (–)
2. Boston 92-64 (0.5)
2. Los Angeles 92-65 (1)
4. New York 90-66 (2.5)

Game #156: Jays at Yankes pregame

Toronto (78-77) at New York (90-65)
at 1:05 p.m. ET at Yankee Stadium

Today’s lineups:

BLUE JAYS
Reed Johnson, LF
Matt Stairs, RF
Alex Rios, CF
Frank Thomas, DH
Aaron Hill, 2B
Gregg Zaun, C
Curtis Thigpen, 1B
Hector Luna, 3B
John McDonald, SS

PITCHING: RHP Jesse Litsch (6-9, 4.16 ERA)

YANKEES
Johnny Damon, DH
Derek Jeter, SS
Bobby Abreu, RF
Alex Rodriguez, 3B
Hideki Matsui, LF
Jorge Posada, C
Robinson Cano, 2B
Doug Mientkiewicz, 1B
Melky Cabrera, CF

PITCHING: RHP Andy Pettitte (14-8, 3.79 ERA)

NOTES: A few hours before the game, the Jays announced that Litsch was starting instead of RHP A.J. Burnett, who had to take care of some family business. Burnett should be fine to start on Tuesday in Baltimore. … Toronto manager John Gibbons said that RHP Josh Banks, who is from Baltimore, could get the nod for the start on Thursday. RHP Shaun Marcum (torn right meniscus) was due to start, but he’s having surgery on Wednesday. … CF Vernon Wells (left shoulder) and 1B Lyle Overbay (right hand) are both scheduled to have surgery on Tuesday. … In the bullpen, Gibbons said LHPs Scott Downs, Brian Tallet, Joe Kennedy and RHP Brandon League weren’t available on Monday.

BREAKING EVEN…Toronto needs to post a 4-3 record over its final seven games to finish the season above .500.

A DAY AT THE RACES:

AL EAST
entering Monday
1. Boston 92-64 (–)
2. New York 90-65 (1.5)

AL WILD CARD
entering Monday
1. New York 90-65 (–)
2. Detroit 85-71 (5.5)

AL BEST RECORD
entering Monday
1. Cleveland 92-63 (–)
2. Boston 92-64 (0.5)
2. Los Angeles 92-64 (0.5)
4. New York 90-65 (1.5)

Last-Minute Switch

Blue Jays right-hander A.J. Burnett, who was scheduled to start today, had to leave to tend to a family emergency. Toronto rookie Jesse Litsch will is now taking the mound in the series finale against the Yankees.  Litsch will be on normal rest due to the off-day on Thursday. Burnett resides outside of Baltimore, so he is slated to rejoin the club on Tuesday, when he’ll make his second to last start of the season for the Jays.

Game #155: Jays at Yanks pregame

Let’s play nine…

Toronto (78-76) at New York (89-65)
at 1:05 p.m. ET at Yankee Stadium

Today’s lineups:

BLUE JAYS
Reed Johnson, RF
Russ Adams, 3B
Alex Rios, CF
Matt Stairs, DH
Aaron Hill, 2B
Gregg Zaun, C
Adam Lind, LF
Curtis Thigpen, 1B
John McDonald, SS

PITCHING: RHP Dustin McGowan (11-9, 3.84 ERA)

YANKEES
Johnny Damon, LF
Derek Jeter, SS
Bobby Abreu, RF
Alex Rodriguez, 3B
Hideki Matsui, DH
Robinson Cano, 2B
Melky Cabrera, CF
Doug Mientkiewicz, 1B
Jose Molina, C

PITCHING: RHP Mike Mussina (10-10, 5.01 ERA)

NOTES: Shaun Marcum is done for the season. He suffered a torn meniscus in his right knee and is having surgery on Wednesday or Thursday. The recovery time is roughly four to six weeks before Marcum can begin his offseason training. That puts a sour end to a stellar season for the Jays starter. … DH Frank Thomas (right knee) was held out of the lineup as a precaution, but he said he should be fine to go on Monday. … Toronto manager John Gibbons said LHP Scott Downs (back strain) isn’t available today and is considered day-to-day going forward. … SS John McDonald was back in the lineup after missing four games with a lower abdominal strain. … RHP Casey Janssen wasn’t available out of the bullpen on Saturday due to a sore right shoulder, but he’s fine for Sunday, if needed.

BREAKING EVEN…Toronto needs to post a 4-4 record over its final eight games to finish the season above .500.

A DAY AT THE RACES:

AL EAST
entering Sunday
1. Boston 92-63 (–)
2. New York 89-65 (2.5)

AL WILD CARD
entering Sunday
1. New York 89-65 (–)
2. Detroit 84-71 (5.5)

AL BEST RECORD
entering Sunday
1. Boston 92-63 (–)
2. Cleveland 91-63 (0.5)
3. Los Angeles 91-64 (1)
4. New York 89-65 (2.5)

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.