April 2010

Game 9 lineups: White Sox at Jays

CHICAGO AT TORONTO
at 7:07 p.m. ET
Rogers Centre

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for WhiteSox.gifWHITE SOX (3-5, 3.0 GB)
1. Juan Pierre, LF
2. Gordon Beckham, 2B
3. Carlos Quentin, DH
4. Andruw Jones, RF
5. Mark Kotsay, 1B
6. Alex Rios, CF
7. A.J. Pierzynski, C
8. Omar Vizquel, SS
9. Mark Teahen, 3B

Pitching: John Danks (0-0, 1.50)

Thumbnail image for BlueJays.jpgBLUE JAYS (6-2, – GB)
1. Jose Bautista, RF
2. Alex Gonzalez, SS
3. Adam Lind, LF
4. Vernon Wells, CF
5. Lyle Overbay, 1B
6. John Buck, C
7. Edwin Encarnacion, 3B
8. Randy Ruiz, DH
9. John McDonald, 2B

Pitching: Brandon Morrow (0-0, 9.00)

~JB

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Covering the Bases: Game 8

RomeroNo.jpgFIRST: Is that the reaction of someone who just twirled a one-hit masterpiece?

Know that Ricky Romero was smiling more after Toronto’s 4-2 win over the White Sox on Tuesday night. He was understandably disappointed for a moment, though, considering he came very close to a no-hitter.

Six outs away. Then? Blam.

Alex Rios belted a changeup into the left field seats for a two-run homer with no outs in the eighth. It was an abrupt end to Romero’s bid at history. Dave Stieb still stands alone in the club’s record book.

Vernon Wells had a nice view from center field.

“Everything is moving,” Wells said. “His two-seamer was nasty. His changeup was nasty. He threw his curveball whenever he wanted to. Everything can be plus pitches. When you have that, and you throw them from the left side, it’s dangerous.”

Before the game, Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said that Romero will only get better as he gets more experience. After the game…

“He didn’t prove me wrong tonight,” Gaston said. “He was oustanding. He made one bad pitch. What a game.”

Oh, and Romero struck out 12 hitters. Career high.

There’s always next time.

SECOND: Before the Rios home run, Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski reached on a phantom hit by pitch. Now, let it be known that there were some in the Jays clubhouse who did think Pierzynski was struck on the foot. Blue Jays catcher John Buck did not see it that way.

“I looked on film. No,” Buck said. “I guess the name of the game is to get on base and produce runs. Maybe he felt he didn’t have a chance to hit it so he just got on base any way he could. I think every single player has done that in a situation.”

It was the first pitch and Pierzynski high stepped to try to avoid the pitch as it appeared to strike the dirt. He then hopped up the first-base line as if he had been hit on the foot. Home plate ump Tim McClelland stopped A.J. for a moment, but the catcher was allowed to head to first after a brief meeting between all the umpires.

“I don’t know if I really fault him for it,” Buck said of Pierzynski. “I was just surprised he got away with it.”

Then again, Pierzynski has been in the middle of things like that before…

“Yeah. I think that’s why everybody was so unsure whether it was true or not,” Buck said. “He’s so good at selling that type of stuff. He’s a [heck] of an actor, I guess.”

Pierzynski might be best known for running to first on what appeared to be a strikeout in the 2005 ALCS against the Angels. Pierzynski treated it like a dropped third strike on a close call, and was allowed to reach. Sox won, and went on to win the World Series that year. There have been other incidents along the way, too.

“I didn’t think it hit him, but it is what it is,” Romero said. “A.J. usually is known for stuf like that. It’s cool. Whatever. It’s fun. I still had a chance at that point I still have a chance to get a groundball and get a double play, but it didnt happen like that.”

Paging Michael Barrett…

THIRD: Eight games. Eight save chances. A chance to be 8-0 if it weren’t for a pair of blown saves from Jason Frasor. On Tuesday, Gaston went with Kevin Gregg for the save, but said it had nothing to do with Monday’s outing from Frasor. Gaston said he simply wants to avoid using guys on back to back nights if possible. Gregg responded with a 1-2-3 inning, notching his third save, tying Frasor for the team lead. Who’s your closer?

HOME: There was a subtle play in the fifth inning that helped the Blue Jays to this victory. With one out and a runner on first base, Lyle Overbay grounded a pitch to first. It looked at the start like it might be an inning-ending double play. Instead, Overbay hustled down the line and beat out the relay throw back to first from Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez. From there, Buck doubled and so did Edwin Encarnacion. Two runs in. Jays up, 4-0. If Overbay is out, that Rios home ties the game and is even more costly.

~JB

Game 8 lineups: White Sox at Jays

CHICAGO AT TORONTO
at 7:07 p.m. ET
Rogers Centre


Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for WhiteSox.gifWHITE SOX
 (3-4, 2.5 GB)
1. Omar Vizquel, 2B
2. Gordon Beckham, DH
3. Carlos Quentin, RF
4. Paul Konerko, 1B
5. Andruw Jones, LF
6. A.J. Pierzynski, C
7. Alex Rios, CF
8. Alexei Ramirez, SS
9. Mark Teahen, 3B

Pitching: Gavin Floyd (0-1, 3.00)

Thumbnail image for BlueJays.jpgBLUE JAYS (5-2, – GB)
1. Jose Bautista, RF
2. Alex Gonzalez, SS
3. Adam Lind, DH
4. Vernon Wells, CF
5. Lyle Overbay, 1B
6. John Buck, C
7. Edwin Encarnacion, 3B
8. Travis Snider, LF
9. Mike McCoy, 2B

Pitching: Ricky Romero (0-0, 1.29)

~JB

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Covering the Bases: Game 7

RCopener.jpgFIRST: What an atmosphere. It’s like this for every home opener — rowdy fans, packed house – but it’s always a blast to watch a baseball game in that type of environment.

The attendance was 46,321 tickets sold (the comp tickets are not included in the total). The baseball capacity is 49,160. In previous regimes, comp tix were included. Jays don’t do that now.

“We’re still a little bit short of what we used to pack in here when we were winning,” Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said. “But it was great. It was a great night tonight.”

Said Vernon Wells, who belted his fifth homer in seven games: “Opening day is always like that. I think our goal around here is to get those crowds every night and late in the season. It’s going to take playing a little better baseball than we did tonight. It was a tough loss tonight.”

The above photo was taken by John Lott of the National Post.

SECOND: It was a tough loss for the Blue Jays because it was the second blown save in five chances for closer Jason Frasor. Toronto has had seven save opportunities in seven games, meaning they could easily be 7-0 right now. Frasor coughed up the lead on Opening Day and then in Monday’s home opener.

Frasor’s main issue right now is with the first batter he faces. He has faced five and he has allowed two walks, two doubles and one home run. The homer came on an 0-2 fastball that Frasor left over the heart of the plate to Chicago’s Mark Teahen in the ninth on Monday. Result? Tie game. Blown save.

“If you’re going to save a game, you have to get the first guy,” Gaston said. “It doesn’t happen all the time, but you’d like to see that first guy out, because it kind of knocks the other team down a little bit.”

With Kevin Gregg and Scott Downs also in the ‘pen, it might not take long for there to be an old fashioned closer controversy.

THIRD: Once again, the Blue Jays lived and died by the long ball. John Buck absolutely CRUSHED a two-run homer, sending it above the “Tony Fernandez” sign above left field. Joked Buck: “Peavy hit my bat.” Wells hit a two-run shot to center field. So far, the Jays have scored 18 of their 35 runs on homers this year.

“It’s going to be a home run team,” Gaston said. “Otherwise, we’re goinh to struggle.”

HOME: The fans let Alex Rios have it more than any other former player since I’ve been covering the team. Granted, it was a full house for the home opener, but it was relentless. Chants of “You suck, Rios!” and “Rios sucks!” went on all evening. When he got booed during player intros, Rios smiled and tipped his hat.

“That normally doesn’t happen too much here,” Gaston said of Rios’ reception. “I was kind of surprised by that a little bit. But, people come out and they paid their money.”

For what it’s worth, Wells and Rios both said they expected it (and Rios was obviously bothered since he went 3-for-4 with a stolen base). I’ll admit that I thought it would be more mixed. Rios may have performed below expectations, but he was a big part of  the Jays for many years.

I think what sealed his fate in the fans’ minds was that infamous Youtube video where he turned down an autograph request from a kid and then did not respond well to some heckling. As in most things in life, though, there was more to the sequence of events than the video clip revealed. CLICK HERE to read what I wrote last June…

At least all the booing made the atmosphere that much better.

~JB

Game 7 lineups: White Sox at Jays

CHICAGO AT TORONTO
at 7:20 p.m. ET
Rogers Centre



 
Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for WhiteSox.gifWHITE SOX
 (2-4, 3.0 GB)
1. Juan Pierre, DH
2. Gordon Beckham, 2B
3. Carlos Quentin, RF
4. Paul Konerko, 1B
5. Andruw Jones, LF
6. A.J. Pierzynski, C
7. Alex Rios, CF
8. Alexei Ramirez, SS
9. Mark Teahen, 3B

Pitching: Jake Peavy (0-0, 5.40)


Thumbnail image for BlueJays.jpgBLUE JAYS (5-1, – GB)

1. Jose Bautista, RF
2. Alex Gonzalez, SS
3. Adam Lind, DH
4. Vernon Wells, CF
5. Lyle Overbay, 1B
6. John Buck, C
7. Edwin Encarnacion, 3B
8. Travis Snider, LF
*9. John McDonald, 2B

Pitching: Brian Tallet (1-0, 2.70)

*Blue Jays placed 2B Aaron Hill (right hamstring) on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to April 8. Hill will be eligible to return on Friday, April 23 and he told reporters that he fully expects to return on time.

~JB

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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.”

~JB

Game 6 lineups: Jays at Orioles

TORONTO AT BALTIMORE
at 1:35 p.m. ET
Camden Yards

BlueJaysRetro.gifBLUE JAYS (4-1, – GB)
1. Jose Bautista, RF
2. Alex Gonzalez, SS
3. Adam Lind, DH
4. Vernon Wells, CF
5. Lyle Overbay, 1B
6. John Buck, C
7. Edwin Encarnacion, 3B
8. Travis Snider, LF
9. John McDonald, 2B

Pitching: Shaun Marcum (0-0, 3.86)

OriolesRetro.jpgORIOLES (1-4, 3.0 GB)
1. Felix Pie, LF
2. Adam Jones, CF
3. Nick Markakis, RF
4. Miguel Tejada, 3B
5. Luke Scott, DH
6. Matt Wieters, C
7. Ty Wigginton, 1B
8. Julio Lugo, 2B
9. Cesar Izturis, SS

Pitching: Kevin Millwood (0-0, 3.60)

~JB

Covering the Bases: Game 5


Thumbnail image for Eveland.jpgFIRST:
Well, who saw that coming?

Dana Eveland was outstanding in his first start of the season. That, or the Orioles were just terrible. Let’s go ahead and say it was a combination of both.

Eveland — the fifth starter — became the first pitcher this season to work into the eighth inning for the Blue Jays. No one could have predicted that, but Eveland is hoping to show that it’s not a fluke.

“I hope to do that a lot of times this year,” he said.

What was working so well?

Try Eveland’s changeup. It’s a two-seam variety that has similar action to his sinker — just six or seven mph slower. Normally, Eveland said he would rely heavily on his curve, maybe using it 40 percent of the time. In this start, he estimated that he threw five or six curves total. He just kept going to the changup. Over. And over. And over.

The Orioles never adjusted and Eveland took advantage.

Said catcher Jose Molina: “When you have a team that is chasing a pitch, you just try to keep going with it until they show you that they can make the adjustment. Tonight, the Orioles didn’t make that adjustment on him and that’s why we took advantage of it.”

SECOND: Molina got the start behind the plate on Saturday because manager Cito Gaston wanted to save John Buck for Sunday’s finale. Buck has better numbers against O’s starter Kevin Millwood. The move worked, considering Molina accounted for two of Toronto’s three RBIs in the 3-0 win.

How Molina got those RBIs was interesting in itself, though. The Orioles decided to walk Travis Snider intentionally twice ahead of Molina, with two outs to load the bases in the fourth and with two outs to put runners on first and second in the sixth. Molina was hit by a pitch in the first situation and he drove home a run with a single the next time.

Molina’s best contribution was behind the plate, though.

“Jose’s great,” Eveland said, “because I’ll make a bad pitch or make a couple bad pitches and he’ll come out and be like, ‘Hey, get your arm up,’ or, ‘You flew open a little bit. Stay downhill.’ It’s little quick things that he pops into tmy brain and he gets me right back on cue, which is nice.”

THIRD: Any notice the play of shortstop Alex Gonzalez right now? The guy signed for his defense? Gonzalez has gone 6-for-18 at the plate with two home runs and three doubles — two doubles coming on Saturday. Yeah, sample size, I know. It’s early. But the Jays will gladly take offense like that from Gonzalez. He’s also been stellar at short. In the eighth, he made a great catch and throw on a 1-6-3 double play to end the inning. As much as I love Johnny Mac in the field, Gonzalez makes really difficult plays look so effortless.

HOME: The Blue Jays are 4-1 and in sole possession of first place in the American League East. Star printing those playoff tickets! Oh, what’s that? They’ve hit .195 (8-for-41) with runners in scoring position and have stranded the bases loaded in four of five games? The surprise so far is that the Jays’ pitching has been carrying the load early on. Aside from one-inning blips from Brandon Morrow and closer Jason Frasor, Toronto’s arms are the main reason this team is doing so well right now. Consider that there have been five save opportunities in five games.

~JB

Game 5 lineups: Jays at Orioles

TORONTO AT BALTIMORE
at 7:05 p.m. ET
Camden Yards

BlueJaysRetro.gifBLUE JAYS (3-1, – GB)
1. Mike McCoy, 2B
2. Jose Bautista, RF
3. Adam Lind, DH
4. Vernon Wells, CF
5. Lyle Overbay, 1B
6. Edwin Encarnacion, 3B
7. Alex Gonzalez, SS
8. Travis Snider, LF
9. Jose Molina, C

Pitching: Dana Eveland (0-0, -.–)

OriolesRetro.jpgORIOLES (1-3, 2.0 GB)
1. Julio Lugo, 2B
2. Adam Jones, CF
3. Nick Markakis, RF
4. Miguel Tejada, 3B
5. Garret Atkins, DH
6. Matt Wieters, C
7. Nolan Reimold, LF
8. Ty Wigginton, 1B
9. Cesar Izturis, SS

Pitching: David Hernandez (0-0, -.–)

~JB

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Covering the Bases: Game 4

MorrowHat.jpgFIRST: Brandon Morrow didn’t really want to go over the details about his first inning. I honestly can’t blame him.

Let’s review:

Four walks. Three runs. One hit. One hit batter. One strikeout. Thirty-six pitches.

Coming out of the dugout for the second inning, Morrow even tripped…

“… almost caught my teeth on the front step. I figured nothing else could go wrong.”

Not much else did go wrong, actually.

Morrow looked pretty sharp the rest of the way, minus what he admittedly called a “stupid pitch” to Miguel Tejada in the fifth inning. Why did he describe the offering as such?

“It was a changeup and I don’t throw changeups to right-handed hitters,” he said. “That’s why I called it a stupid pitch.”

He threw one other “stupid pitch,” too. That changed struck Adam Jones in the back.

“I should have shook him off,” said Morrow, referring to the times catcher John Buck called for the changeups in those situations.

Morrow might not have wanted to offer up much of an explanation for his first official inning as a starter for the Jays, but Buck offered his theory: “He was just excited. He was a little erratic. He couldn’t find his fastball. Personally, I think you can just chalk it up to excitement. New team. Opening Day.”

SECOND: Prior to the 7-6 comeback win, Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said Travis Snider had been working with hitting coach Dwayne Murphy on some swing tweaks. Murphy informed Snider that he was “going around the ball” with his swing, which was causing him to be late on pitches.

“If you go around the ball, it takes you a little longer to get to the ball,” Gaston said before the game. “I think if he can come up with a couple knocks, man, he’s going to be OK.”

What’d Snider do? How about 2-for-3 with a single in the second inning, a walk in the sixth and a game-tying double in the ninth that jump-started the game-deciding rally. Making things better for Snider was the fact that his last hit came against the left-handed Mike Gonzalez.

“We saw C.J. Wilson in Texas and he gave most of us lefties a good spin around in the box,” Snider said. “He kind of threw me off a little bit. I really worked hard with Dwayne today in the cage, trying to iron out the swing a little bit, and the results paid off in the game.”

THIRD: Might as well stick with the trend here for the third category. It’s been defense every day and today is no exception. Snider turned the wrong way on a would-be flyout in the fifth inning, gift-wrapping a double for Nick Markakis. The next batter, Tejada, sent that “stupid” changeup to left for the homer off Morrow. Lesson learned: “I can’t make any excuses on that — just make a better play.” In the eighth, the Jays sure missed the arm of second baseman Aaron Hill (out with a sore right hamstring). On a relay from center field, second baseman John McDonald made a weak throw to the plate, where Buck bobbled the ball. That gave the O’s a 6-5 lead. Fortunately, the lead was temporary.

HOME: Without Jason Frasor available — Gaston gave him the day off since he notched saves in each of the past two games — the Jays turned to Kevin Gregg for the save. Gotta say, he looked good. A 1-2-3 ninth inning with two strikeouts. The first 1-2-3 save for the Jays in four chances this season. On Frasor’s days off, Gaston said he will choose between Gregg and Scott Downs for saves based on matchups.

~JB 

 

 

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