Covering the Bases: Game 6

Gonzalez4.jpgFIRST: So I guess I got a little bit ahead of myself when I mentioned Alex Gonzalez’s hot start in yesterday’s Covering the Bases.

Turns out he was merely warming up.

In a 5-2 win over the Orioles on Sunday, Alex went Gone-zo twice (see what I did there?). The man drilled a pair of solo homers off Baltimore’s Kevin Millwood to up his season total to four.

That’s four in 26 at-bats. Gonzalez had four in 268 at-bats last season. His fourth came on August 22 in his 75th game. Needless to say, he’s on a better pace.

This is a complete bonus for the Blue Jays. They acquired him for his glove and brought him in on a one-year deal with a club option. If he performs well with the bat, it completely plays in Toronto’s favor.

First, more offense from the lower half of the lineup means more support for Toronto’s pitching staff. Second, more offense could increase Gonzalez’s trade value or worth as a potential free agent.

SECOND: All five of the Blue Jays’ runs on Sunday came via homers. Three of those home runs came off the bats of Gonzalez, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion between the eighth and ninth innings. It was a late outburst that paved the way to the win, also taking Shaun Marcum off the hook for what would’ve been a hard-luck loss. The Jays have hit 11 homers in six games with five coming in the eighth of ninth inning. Manager Cito Gaston has said since the start of spring that he feels his team has the potential to have six or seven guys hit at least 20.

“That’s kind of what I was talking about,” Gaston said of the four homers in Sunday’s win. “I hope that they can carry that on the whole season. It’d be a very interesting season for us.”

THIRD: How about that Johnny Mac? Gaston gave McDonald the start at second while Aaron Hill continues to nurse a sore right hamstring (he might, MIGHT, be cleared to play Monday). McDonald  resonded by going 3-for-4 with two singles, one double and one sharp grounder that should’ve been his fourth hit of the game.

In the eighth inning, McDonald pulled one sharply down the line and third baseman Miguel Tejada was unable to snare it cleanly due to a bad hop. It was ruled an error, but it could have very well been ruled an infield single. Said Gaston: “Mac had a good day. He should have four hits. I hope they look at that and change that. First of all, it’s not really right for Tejada to go home feeling like he does. The ball took a bad hop. Whatre you going to do?”

More importantly, why did McDonald wait until the eighth inning to share his secret for solving Millwood? Besides Gonzalez’s solo homer in the fourth, McDonald was the only hitter to reach base against Millwood until the eighth.

“They wouldn’t listen to me for the first seven innings!” McDonald joked.

HOME: If someone would have asked you for your prediction on who would be the first pitcher to reach three wins in the Majors this year, how many of you would’ve named Casey Janssen? Thanks to these tight games and late rallies, Janssen picked up three of Toronto’s five wins on the road trip. Teammates might start calling him The Vulture if this keeps up.

“It’s just good timing,” Janssen said with a smile. “Who knows? You might go 60 more appearances and not get a win.”

Outside Jason Frasor’s blown save in the season opener, the Jays bullpen has been solid. Frasor has three saves, Kevin Gregg has two and Janssen has three wins. There have been save situations in every game, too, making it look wise for the Jays to have put three closing options (Frasor, Gregg and Scott Downs on the staff).

“The starting pitching has been great,” Janssen said. “It makes it a lot easier on the bullpen when their pitching deep into games. It shortens the game and with the guys we have down there, take your pick who you want to throw out there. Everybody’s got closer stuff.”



Janssen is understating it, the entire pitching staff has been excellent. The Jays now lead the entire AL in a number of team pitching stats including team era at 2.70, baa at .199, whip at 1.09, obpa-.285 and second in slga at .314. I would not expect this outstanding performance level to continue, but it would be very interesting if it did.

It hit me today the big difference this year versus last year, to date, is the strength of the back end bullpen with Frasor, Downs, Janssen and Gregg. Not sure any other team in the AL can boast that depth of late inning guys of this quality.

This year to date, these 4 have gone 12 innings, won 3 games, lost 1, and only given up 3 runs with 2 of them on Frasor’s meltdown-in other words they’ve been outstanding. Take those 2 Frasor runs out and the aggregate era of this group is an outstanding 0.75 in the first 5 games.

Last year we lost a ton of 1 run games because of poor performance by the back end of the pen. Remember, we lost Ryan, Janssen and even Downs for a while and suffered all year through uneven performances of Brandon League. This year we’ve already seen multiple comeback wins-maybe as many already as we had all last year.

I’m starting to think it could be the hitters have more faith in the pen capability of holding the other team down, so they don’t give up when they’re down a run or two heading into the late innings of the game.
Just maybe that explains why we’ve came back so often this year-the pen is giving the team the opportunity to win late and the hitters know it and never give up a bat regardless of the score. Just a thought!!!!!!

Lyle Overbay is now hitting .125/.211/.250 against right handers and a perfect .000/.000.000 against left handers for a combined .087/.154/.174.
He’s had slumps before, but what is a real concern is in the past when he slumped, his obp would still stay up there because he’d work a lot of walks, but that seems to be gone now too; he’s only walked twice in six games.
I recognize Cito’s putting Overbay in there everyday giving him a chance to hit himself out of this slump he’s in, but I think Overbay’s now pressing too hard and would be better served if he was given a couple of days off. His body language today at the plate showed the frustration, and the more frustrated he gets the more he presses and the worse it gets.
In addition, I think Overbay recognizes he has difficulty hitting lefties, everyone in the league knows he struggles against lefties and they know Overbay knows, they know he struggles with lefties. No one is fooled here, particularly Overbay himself.
I really don’t think it’s doing the player or the team a favor by continually putting Overbay in a situation I’m sure he himself knows he will fail at.

In addition, we have a power hitter-Ruiz sitting on the bench, with career numbers against lefties of .279/.343/.426. Yes, Ruiz is better against righties, but he also is significantly better than Overbay against lefties and should be played against lefties for the benefit of the team, Overbay and Ruiz.

I hope that the JAYS will keep this up – and hope that the streak will keep going. Let’s go Blue Jays, let’s go!

First Star: Alex Gonzales 2 HR, 2 RBI, Double Play, error, .346AVG

Second Star: John MacDonald 3 for 4, 1 run, Double Play, .429AVG

Third Star: Casey Jansen 1 IP, 0 runs, 1 SO, 9 pitched, 8 strikes

Before anybody gets too fuzzy wuzzy feeling, we might note that the Jays just beat a couple of teams that they should beat. Their next 10 home games are against Chicago, Los Angeles, and Kansas City, 3 teams that have struggled out of the gate. These are pretty good teams, so hopefully the Jays can take advantage before they get their feet under them. After that, they play 3 in Tampa, 3 vs Boston, and 4 vs Oakland, who has been very hot this year. This is where we will see what this team is made of.

Those numbers for Lyle are extremely concerning. If I were Cito, I would still be playing him tomorrow. You don’t want to take out your starter for the home opener; that would only hurt his confidence. Especially with the team performing. If tomorrow doesn’t go well, it would be a great time (7 games in) to give him a day “rest” and put in Ruiz. Hopefully this would give Overbay a good chance to reset himself. Cito can’t deny that Overbay is struggling and has to act. We are all getting frustrated seeing him struggle at the plate. His defense this year has been superb, but the lack of plate performance has me bothered. A day off is exactly what Lyle needs.


Sox have a leftie scheduled for Wednesday. Might be a better excuse to rest Lyle.


OMG you guys are like the wife with John MacDonald! You are all so misty eyed over Randy Ruiz and his feel good story that it messes up your judgment. Mark Texiera is hitting .124 after 6 games, and Papi Ortiz is hitting a nice round .111. Nobody is screaming to sit them down. As long as Overbay plays defense as well as he has, and doesn’t take his batting woes onto the field with him, you continue to run him out there, because he’s one of the best defensive first basemen in baseball. When May rolls around, if he’s still not hitting, then you have to re-think things, but in the meantime, give me a break!

Lyle is a player that this organization does not want. This is why they tried, unsuccessfully, to trade him in the off season. I am sure that Lyle is a very decent fellow. I also think that Ryan was a decent guy, too. However, Ryan can’t pitch and Lyle can’t hit. One was released, the other needs to go, too. There is no point in keeping this charade going. Nobody is being fooled here, especially Lyle. If things keep going this way, the fans are going to start booing Lyle. Those long walks back to the dugout are going to be hard. Rather than letting the situation get to that point — release him, or platoon him with Ruiz. My personal feeling is that Cito does not want to give Ruiz at-bats until Lyle has established himself as the number one first baseman. If Ruiz goes in, and hits, it will be hard to pull him out for a guy who hits once in every 10 at bats. I wish that Cito would simply manage the team and not play club-house politics. At the end of the day, it is Lyle who is going to suffer the most. Release the poor fellow and let him try and re-build his career somewhere else.

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