September 2008

Rolen continues to amaze

TORONTO – One play that kind of got lost among the pile of twists and turns in Wednesday night’s 5-4 extra-inning victory over the Twins was an absolute gem of a grab by Blue Jays third baseman Scott Rolen.

In a 4-4 deadlock, with two outs in the top of the 10th inning and a runner on third base for Minnesota, Alexi Casilla smoked a pitch down the third-base line. Rolen glided to his right and made a swift back-handed stab at the ball as he dropped to his knees.

Rolen recovered quickly, rising to one knee — just high enough to provide enough leverage to fire the baseball across the diamond to first baseman Lyle Overbay. If Casilla was safe, a run scores and the Twins grab a 5-4 lead. But Rolen — as he’s done so often this year — made a rocket of a throw that retired the runner in time.

“Like I’ve said, Rolen is the best third baseman I’ve ever been around,” Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said. “Rolen continues to amaze me with the plays that he makes, and the accurate throws that he makes after he catches the ball from his knees.”

Shortstop John McDonald was hustling over to back Rolen up on the play, so he didn’t have the greatest view of the catch — not that Johnny Mac needed to see it. Once he figured Rolen had it in his glove, the shortstop knew it was inning over.

“As soon as [the umpire] called it fair I knew Scotty was going to make the play,” McDonald said. “He’s the best third baseman in the game, so you kind of start jogging off the field once he gets the ball in his glove.”

Today’s lineups:

MINNESOTA (77-62) at TORONTO (72-66)
at 7:07 p.m. ET at the Rogers Centre

TWINS
Denard Span, CF
Alexi Casilla, 2B
Joe Mauer, DH
Justin Morneau, 1B
Jason Kubel, RF
Delmon Young, LF
Mike Redmond, C
Matt Tolbert, 3B
Nick Punto, SS

PITCHING: RHP Kevin Slowey (11-8, 3.70)

BLUE JAYS
Joe Inglett, 2B
Marco Scutaro, SS
Alex Rios, RF
Vernon Wells, CF
Adam Lind, DH
Rod Barajas, C
Lyle Overbay, 1B
Scott Rolen, 3B
Travis Snider, LF

PITCHING: RHP Jesse Litsch (9-8, 4.01)

JUST FOR FUN: Since Gaston took over as Toronto’s manager on June 20, the club has been one of the best in the American League. Here are the the AL East standings since Gaston’s arrival:

TAMPA BAY: 41-24 (–)
TORONTO: 37-27 (3.5)
BOSTON: 36-28 (4.5)
NEW YORK: 35-31 (6.5)
BALTIMORE: 25-42 (17)

Overall, the Jays have the fourth-best mark in the league since Gaston came on board, trailing only the Angels (43-24), Rays (43-29) and Twins (40-26). Soooo, if the season started on June 20 and ended on Wednesday, the Jays would be hanging a Wild Card championship banner in the Rogers Centre rafters. Ah, well…

Sure handed

TORONTO – Anyone notice the errorless streak the Blue Jays have been on lately?

Entering tonight, Toronto has gone a frachise-record 13 consecutive games without making an error — a span of 116 innings. It’s the longest such run in the Majors this season and the longest since the Red Sox went 17 straight games without an error from June 11-30, 2006.

Toronto also ranks first in the American League and second in the game with a .987 fielding percentage. The Jays have made just 16 errors in 41 games since the All-Star break, representing the fewest in the league. On the year, the Jays have 65 errors — also the fewest in the AL.

The Jays certainly have the pitching and defense thing down.

Today’s lineups:

MINNESOTA (77-61) at TORONTO (71-66)
at 7:07 p.m. ET at the Rogers Centre

TWINS
Denard Span, RF
Alexi Casilla, 2B
Joe Mauer, C
Justin Morneau, 1B
Jason Kubel, LF
Brian Buscher, DH
Nick Punto, SS
Matt Tolbert, 3B
Carlos Gomez, CF

PITCHING: RHP Nick Blackburn (9-8, 3.75)

BLUE JAYS
Joe Inglett, 2B
Marco Scutaro, SS
Alex Rios, RF
Vernon Wells, CF
Adam Lind, LF
Rod Barajas, C
Lyle Overbay, 1B
Scott Rolen, 3B
Travis Snider, DH

PITCHING: RHP A.J. Burnett (16-10, 4.48)

Replay at Rogers

TORONTO — The Rogers Centre has its own little TiVo in the tunnel behind the first-base dugout now. Just around the corner from the visitors’ clubhouse, there is an area blocked off by a black curtain — this is where the instant replay area is at the ballpark.

Behind the curtain, there is a locked security box and inside there is a telephone with a direct line to the MLB Advanced Media headquarters in New York, as well as a nice little HD television. There’s also a box of tissues to keep the TV crystal clear. Or, maybe they’re there in case an ump needs to wipe away any tears of embarrassment after blowing a call.

So, if there is a disputed homer, the crew chief on hand will head to this little black booth, where he will call NYC to consult a video technician, along with a former umpire of an umpire supervisor. Ultimately, the crew chief at the stadium has the final say on the home run decision.

Also, your September callups: Shaun Marcum, Scott Richmond, Brian Wolfe, Brad Wilkerson, Kevin Mench and Curtis Thigpen. Marcum, who admitted he was so stunned the demotion that he almost considered just going home, will be slotted back into the rotation on Saturday.

Today’s lineups:

MINNESOTA (77-60) at TORONTO (70-66)
at 7:07 p.m. ET at the Rogers Centre

TWINS
Denard Span, CF
Alexi Casilla, 2B
Joe Mauer, C
Justin Morneau, 1B
Jason Kubel, RF
Randy Ruiz, DH
Delmon Young, LF
Brian Buscher, 3B
Nick Punto, SS

PITCHING: LHP Glen Perkins (12-3, 3.96)

BLUE JAYS
Marco Scutaro, 2B
Jose Bautista, DH
Alex Rios, RF
Vernon Wells, CF
Rod Barajas, C
Adam Lind, LF
Scott Rolen, 3B
Lyle Overbay, 1B
John McDonald, SS

PITCHING: LHP David Purcey (2-5, 5.53)

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