May 2010

Covering the Bases: Game 36


SniderTrot.jpgFIRST:
Travis Snider continues to pull himself out of his early-season slump. That was a big storyline within this 10-game road trip for the Jays.

While Aaron Hill and Adam Lind have struggled, Snider has been picking up some of the slack. On the trip, he hit .382 with five doubles a homer and six runs, reaching base in nine games.

In Wednesday’s 3-2 win, Snider accounted for all of the offense with an RBI double in the fifth and a two-run homer in the seventh. Both hits came against Red Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield.

Snider said he began using a heavier bat after grounding out in his first meeting with Wakefield in the third inning. Snider wanted to try something — anything — to counter Wake’s 65 mph pitch. The adjustment worked and Snider and the rest of the Jays now have an off-day to help put facing Wakefield further in the past.

More on Snider on bluejays.com on Thursday.

SECOND: Last night, I suggested that Wednesday seemed like a good time to give Hill and Lind a day off. Manager Cito Gaston agreed about Lind (.086 on road trip), sitting him and giving Randy Ruiz a start as the DH. Hill (.154 on the trip) was still in the lineup, but at the last minute was pulled and John McDonald got the start at second.

Hill was pulled due to tightness in his right hamstring. Before the game, Hill said the injury was not giving him any issues. Gaston also noted that Hill hadn’t complained about it at all. Following the game, Gaston said Hill admitted that it was bothering him a little, but the second baseman again told reporters that he was fine.

So, consider Hill day to day. And expect him back in the lineup on Friday.

THIRD: When Roy Halladay was with the Blue Jays, one of his best traits was righting the ship after a tough loss. Now, this is admittedly a small sample size, but Shaun Marcum is 2-0 with a 1.77 ERA in three starts following a Toronto loss this season. That’s the kind of production the Jays want from their No. 1.

Against the Red Sox, Marcum said he did not boast his best changeup. Instead, he got ahead with curveballs, used a strong cutter and a well-located four-seamer to fashion seven shutout innings. After Jays starters issued 18 walks over 16 1/3 innings over the past four games, Marcum’s outing was a breath of fresh air.

HOME: The Jays did not escape Fenway without some drama. In the ninth inning, homeplate ump Dale Scott called slugger David Ortiz out on strikes — on a pitch that was caught well outside. That resulted in the inning’s second out instead of a walk that would’ve put two runners on base with Boston down, 3-1.

Ortiz was asked later if he reviewed the replay: “I don’t want to. I don’t have to. Thank God I wasn’t hitting right-handed, because that would have hit me in the ribs.” Adrian Belte also had a similar call go against him in the subsequent at-bat, leading to Boston manager Terry Francona being ejected for arguing.

Beltre then singled to center to cut Toronto’s lead to one run. Gregg got out of it, collecting his 10th save, but some debatable calls definitely helped the Blue Jays’ cause in that final frame. Toronto departs Boston coming off a 7-3 road trip and the Jays are now 13-6 away from home this year.

~JB

Game 36 lineups: Jays at Red Sox

TORONTO AT BOSTON
at 1:35 p.m. ET
Fenway Park

Thumbnail image for BlueJays.jpgBLUE JAYS (19-16, 5.0 GB)
1. Fred Lewis, LF
2. Alex Gonzalez, SS
3. Randy Ruiz, DH
4. Vernon Wells, CF
5. Lyle Overbay, 1B
6. Jose Bautista, 3B
7. Travis Snider, RF
*8. John McDonald, 2B
9. Jose Molina, C

Pitching: Shaun Marcum (1-, 3.19)

Thumbnail image for RedSox.gifRED SOX (18-16, 5.5 GB)
1. Marco Scutaro, SS
2. Dustin Pedroia, 2B
3. Victor Martinez, C
4. Kevin Youkilis, 1B
5. J.D. Drew, RF
6. David Ortiz, DH
7. Adrian Beltre, 3B
8. Jeremy Hermida, LF
9. Jonathan Van Every, CF

Pitching: Tim Wakefield (0-1, 6.03)

*2B Aaron Hill a late scratch with a tight right hamstring

~JB

var OutbrainPermaLink=’http://mlblogsmlbastian.files.wordpress.com/2010/05/redsox-thumb-130×126-11673511.gifarchives/2010/04/game_6_lineups_jays_at_orioles.html';
var OB_Template = “mlbblogs”;
var OB_demoMode = false;
var OBITm = “1241712535489”;
var OB_langJS =’http://widgets.outbrain.com/lang_en.js';
if ( typeof(OB_Script)!=’undefined’ )
OutbrainStart();
else {
var OB_Script = true;
var str = ”;
document.write(str);
}

Covering the Bases: Game 35

Hillfall.jpgFIRST: I know Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston does not buy into the whole day-off-to-clear-his-head philosophy for slumping players, but…

…it might be time to consider giving Aaron Hill a day off to clear his head. Wednesday would be as good a time as any: knuckleballer Tim Wakefield on the mound and an off-day on Thursday.

Hill’s offensive slump persisted in the form of an 0-for-4 showing during Tuesday’s 6-1 loss, but that was not the concerning development. On more than one play, while there won’t be any errors in the books to use as evidence, Hill looked shaky in the field.

Gaston was asked if Hill might be taking his slump out into the field with him.

“I hope not, because you do have to separate them,” Gaston said. “When you’re on defense, you play defense. When you’re on offense, you certainly deal with offense. I hope that’s not the case. He’s a kid that had a great year last year.

“The fact is that he did get hurt down in Texas [earlier this year] and ended up on the [disabled list]. We’ll just give him a little while and see what happens. I think he’ll battle his way back.”

Right now, Hill has hit .154 (6-for-39) through nine games on the Blue Jays’ current road trip. On the season, the All-Star second baseman has hit at a .181 clip. Hill simply has not looked like himself at the plate and, now, in the field. As much as Hill’s bat is integral to the Jays’ offense, he might benefit from a day off.

SECOND: Hill is not the only slugger slumping, either. During their recent stretch of seven wins in eight games, the Blue Jays managed to make up for the fact that Hill and Adam Lind — the two big backs of 2009 — were mostly absent. They helped in spurts here and there, but the fact is Hill and Lind have not been producing of late. On the current road trip, Lind has hit .086 (3-for-35). Combined, the pair has hit .122 on the trip. Perhaps Randy Ruiz should DH and John McDonald should get the nod at second against Wakefield on Wednesday.

THIRD: Dana Eveland has struggled a little against Boston over his career. Five starts: 16 1/3 innings, 31 earned runs, 35 hits, 15 walks. On Tuesday, the lefty gave up six runs on five hits with four walks over four-plus frames. Worth noting is the fact that Eveland has never lasted five innings in an outing against the Sox. Now, while this is all true, there were a handful of poor defensive plays that cost Eveland this time.

Travis Snider failed to catch a blooper down the right-field line, which led to a double for J.D. Drew in the first. A groundout and a sac fly later, Boston had two runs. In the fourth, a bloop single from Bill Hall dropped between three fielders in shallow left. Center fielder Vernon Wells picked it up and threw wildly beyond the reach of Hill at second. Two men on instead of a forceout at second base. One batter later, a double scored one more for the Sox. In the fifth? Try a wild pitch to score a run from third base. That’s an MLB-high 22 wild pitches now.

HOME: Obviously, there was not a whole lot of positives in this latest loss. And worth noting is the fact that Boston righty Daisuke Matsuzaka was particularly sharp, which did the Jays no favors. He worked seven innings, scattered three hits and allowed one run with nine strikeouts. Dice-K also had no walks. Yeah, you read that right. In 76 career starts, Dice-K has had zero walks in an outing just six times. This was his first no-walk game against the Jays.

Catch you from the Fens tomorrow.

~JB

Game 35 lineups: Jays at Red Sox

TORONTO AT BOSTON
at 7:10 p.m. ET
Fenway Park

Thumbnail image for BlueJays.jpgBLUE JAYS (19-15, 4.0 GB)
1. Fred Lewis, LF
2. Aaron Hill, 2B
3. Adam Lind, DH
4. Vernon Wells, CF
5. Lyle Overbay, 1B
6. Alex Gonzalez, SS
7. Jose Bautista, 3B
8. John Buck, C
9. Travis Snider, RF

Pitching: Dana Eveland (3-1, 3.82)

Thumbnail image for RedSox.gifRED SOX (17-16, 5.5 GB)
1. Marco Scutaro, SS
2. Dustin Pedroia, 2B
3. J.D. Drew, RF
4. Kevin Youkilis, 1B
5. Mike Lowell, DH
6. Adrian Beltre, 3B
7. Jason Varitek, C
8. Bill Hall, LF
9. Darnell McDonald, CF

Pitching: Daisuke Matsuzaka (1-1, 9.90)

~JB

var OutbrainPermaLink=’http://mlblogsmlbastian.files.wordpress.com/2010/05/redsox-thumb-130×126-11673515.gifarchives/2010/04/game_6_lineups_jays_at_orioles.html';
var OB_Template = “mlbblogs”;
var OB_demoMode = false;
var OBITm = “1241712535489”;
var OB_langJS =’http://widgets.outbrain.com/lang_en.js';
if ( typeof(OB_Script)!=’undefined’ )
OutbrainStart();
else {
var OB_Script = true;
var str = ”;
document.write(str);
}

Covering the Bases: Game 34


MorrowBOS.jpgFIRST:
So it’s back to the drawing board for Blue Jays pitcher Brandon Morrow. Or at least it’s back to the original drawing board.

Morrow turned in an “embarrassing start” — six walks (five in one frame) and six runs allowed in 1 2/3 innings — against the Red Sox in a 7-6 loss on Monday night and said much of it dealt with poor mechanics.

The fact that the Jays lowered his arm slot earlier this season has been well documented. That worked beautifully from the start. One of the only issues was that Morrow felt better out of the stretch than the wind-up.

So over the past week, Morrow and pitching coach Bruce Walton tried to work on changes that would hopefully create a similar feeling out of the wind-up as from the stretch.

 “It all starts, I think, with my leg kick a little bit,” Morrow explained. “I was collapsing on my back side, meaning my leg was dropping and I was spinning off real bad. I was just a mess really. We’re going to erase this whole week pretty much and go back to what I was doing the last four.

“We know what we were working on prior to that. We know what we worked on this last week and we know what didn’t work. We’re going to wipe that out and try to keep going forward.”

SECOND: All hail the Bullpen Fox. After Morrow’s performance, and one run allowed in 2 1/3 innings by Josh Roenicke, lefty Rommie Lewis entered for the Blue Jays and was sharp. Lewis held Boston off the board for three innings, giving Toronto’s offense time to hopefully mount a comeback. The Jays fell one run short, but Lewis’ effort in this one should not go unnoticed.

THIRD: The Jays nearly escaped the disastrous second inning with a 4-3 lead. As manager Cito Gaston said after the loss, though, there were a whole lot of “ifs” in this one. “If” second baseman Aaron Hill did not make the uncharacteristic throwing error he made in the second, who knows how that might have altered the course of the game.

With one out and the bases loaded, Morrow got Boston’s Victor Martinez to chop a pitch to shortstop Alex Gonzalez. After gloving the ground, Gonzalez flipped it to Hill at second base (one out) and Hill fired it to first to complete the would-be double play. The throw sailed wide, two runs scored and the rest is history.

Hill also went 0-for-4, making him just 2-for-his-last-29, or 10-for-51, dating back to April 28. Gaston was quick to point out that Hill had a good seven-pitch at-bat with Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon in the ninth. Down 0-2, with a foul ball to left that nearly served as a game-tying homer, before working the count full prior to a groundout.

“Hopefully he’ll take that home and not the other things tonight,” Gaston said of the at-bat.

HOME: The Blue Jays also lost their first home run review of the season, and the first at Fenway Park this year. In the second inning, Gonzalez belted a pitch from John Lackey over the Green Monster in left for what was ruled a double. Gaston came out to argue and the umps reviewed the hit. The ruling stood, because the ball hit the red line on the wall, according to Gaston. He was told it has to hit the green above the line to be a home run. Gaston said there were a lot of angles on the play, some where the ball appeared to hit above and others where it looked like it hit the line. “Inconclusive, I guess,” Gaston said with a shrug.

~JB

Game 34 lineups: Jays at Red Sox

TORONTO AT BOSTON
at 7:10 p.m. ET
Fenway Park

Thumbnail image for BlueJays.jpgBLUE JAYS (19-14, 4.0 GB)
1. Fred Lewis, LF
2. Aaron Hill, 2B
3. Adam Lind, DH
4. Vernon Wells, CF
5. Lyle Overbay, 1B
6. Alex Gonzalez, SS
7. Jose Bautista, 3B
8. John Buck, C
9. Travis Snider, RF

Pitching: Brandon Morrow (3-1, 5.40)


Thumbnail image for RedSox.gifRED SOX (16-16, 6.5 GB)
1. Marco Scutaro, SS
2. Dustin Pedroia, 2B
3. Victor Martinez, C
4. Kevin Youkilis, 1B
5. David Ortiz, DH
6. Adrian Beltre, 3B
7. Jeremy Hermida, LF
8. Darnell McDonald, CF
*9. Jonathan Van Every, RF

Pitching: John Lackey (3-1, 3.89)

*JD Drew a late scratch due to “vertigo”

~JB

var OutbrainPermaLink=’http://mlblogsmlbastian.files.wordpress.com/2010/05/redsox-thumb-130×126-11673514.gifarchives/2010/04/game_6_lineups_jays_at_orioles.html';
var OB_Template = “mlbblogs”;
var OB_demoMode = false;
var OBITm = “1241712535489”;
var OB_langJS =’http://widgets.outbrain.com/lang_en.js';
if ( typeof(OB_Script)!=’undefined’ )
OutbrainStart();
else {
var OB_Script = true;
var str = ”;
document.write(str);
}

Covering the Bases: Game 33


LewisFives.jpgFIRST:
Thanks in part to one big swing from Fred Lewis, the Blue Jays mnaged to do what they couldn’t one day earlier.

They overcame some shaky pitching with a pile of offense.

Ricky Romero didn’t have his best stuff (five walks, 5 1/3 innings) and the bullpen struggled behind him. Shawn Camp gave up a homer to Alex Rios, Scott Downs hit Juan Pierre with the bases loaded and Jason Frasor allowed a run.

Have no fear, though, @fdotlew is here. With two on and the Jays down 7-5 in the ninth inning, Lewis drilled a pitch from Bobby Jenks to right for a three-run shot that regained the lead for the Jays.

“A burst of energy came out of nowhere when I saw those guys out there on base,” Lewis said. “I was like, ‘Man, I’ve just got to hit this ball somewhere.'”

Boy, did he ever.

Lewis is looking more and more like a great addition, making for a bit of a mess in terms of what to do when Edwin Encarnacion is ready to return from the disabled list. My guess is the Blue Jays continue to take their time with EE while Travis Snider is heating up, Lewis is producing and Jose Bautista is holding steady at third base.

Lewis’ heroics aside, one of the better developments on Sunday was some life out of the bats of Aaron Hill and Adam Lind. The bullpen struggled on Saturday, but Hill and Lind combined for an 0-for-8, making a comeback that much harder. On Sunday, Hill snapped an 0-for-18 with a double in the third and then scored when Lind snapped an 0-for-12 with a two-run single.

The Jays can only hope that’s a start of a turnaround for their dynamic duo.

SECOND: When Downs hit Pierre with a pitch in the seventh, forcing in a run with the bases loaded, it got me thinking. It sure seems like the Jays have allowed a good chunk of runs to score on walks or hit batters with the bases loaded this year. I mean, Casey Janssen walked in two runs just a day ago.

I hate when I’m right…

The Blue Jays have allowed eight runs to score with the bases loaded on either walks (six) or hit batsmen (two) — the most in baseball. Ouch. On Sunday, Toronto had six bases-loaded plate appearances, and the pitchers allowed five runs on two hits (another two came in on grounders.

Overall, the Blue Jays have allowed 29 runs to score on 11 hits with the six walks and two hit batters with the bases loaded. That’s in 34 plate appearances for opposing batters. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but that’s not that good.

THIRD: This just in: Rios loves facing the Blue Jays. Who knew? In eight games against Toronto this year, Rios has hit .394 (13-for-33) with three doubles, three homers and five RBIs. On Sunday, he went 4-for-4. Rios wasn’t even being booed for extra motivation this time around.

HOME: I’d love to end on a high note, like the fact that the Jays have four wins when trailing after eight innings or that they have 11 comeback victories already. But, I’m going to head back into Debbie Downer territory for a moment…

Ricky Romero leads baseball with 12 wild pitches — more than double the No. 2 man, Tim Wakefield. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, this is not all Romero’s doing. In fact, I applaud him from still pounding the lower half of the zone, even though his catchers — two signed for their defensive abilities — have struggled so mightily to block pitches this season.

Catch you from Fenway.

~JB

Game 33 lineups: Jays at White Sox

TORONTO AT CHICAGO
at 2:10 p.m. ET
U.S. Cellular Field

Thumbnail image for BlueJays.jpgBLUE JAYS (18-14, 5.0 GB)
1. Fred Lewis, LF
2. Aaron Hill, 2B
3. Adam Lind, DH
4. Vernon Wells, CF
5. Randy Ruiz, 1B
6. Alex Gonzalez, SS
7. Jose Bautista, 3B
8. Travis Snider, RF
9. Jose Molina, C

Pitching: Ricky Romero (3-1, 3.00)

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for WhiteSox.gifWHITE SOX (13-18, 7.0 GB)
1. Juan Pierre, LF
2. Gordon Beckham, 2B
3. Andruw Jones, DH
4. Paul Konerko, 1B
5. Alex Rios, CF
6. Carlos Quentin, RF
7. Alexei Ramirez, SS
8. Ramon Castro, C
9. Jayson Nix, 3B

Pitching: Gavin Floyd (1-3, 6.89)

~JB

var OutbrainPermaLink=’http://mlblogsmlbastian.files.wordpress.com/2010/05/whitesox-thumb-100×121-1081041-thumb-100×121-10810811.gifarchives/2010/04/game_6_lineups_jays_at_orioles.html';
var OB_Template = “mlbblogs”;
var OB_demoMode = false;
var OBITm = “1241712535489”;
var OB_langJS =’http://widgets.outbrain.com/lang_en.js';
if ( typeof(OB_Script)!=’undefined’ )
OutbrainStart();
else {
var OB_Script = true;
var str = ”;
document.write(str);
}

Covering the Bases: Game 32


Thumbnail image for HillLind.jpgFIRST:
First, the bright side. The Blue Jays are 8-2 over their last 10 games.

That is an especially silver lining considering Toronto has been picking up wins without much assistance from their two big dogs: Aaron Hill and Adam Lind.

Over that 10-game span, the Hilldebeast and Mighty Lind have combined to hit .150 (12-for-80). Hill is 8-for-40 and Lind 4-for-40 across that stretch of contests.

In the two losses, Hill and Lind have combined to go 0-for-15 in the batter’s box. During Saturday’s 7-3 loss to the White Sox at The Cell, Hill and Lind went 0-for-8. In a game where the Jays struggled to get much of anything going on offense againse Jake Peavy, production from that duo is sorely missed.

“It’d certainly be a little bit easier if they were hitting the ball,” Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said. “They’ve done their share here and there.”

Gaston said it reminds him of last season, when Vernon Wells and Alex Rios were slumping and Hill and Lind actually helped pick up the slack (on their way to a combined 71 homers and 222 RBIs). This year, it’s been guys like Wells, Alex Gonzalez and John Buck carrying most of the load (26 homers, 67 RBIs combined through 32 games).

SECOND: Casey Janssen suddenly appears to be the low man on the totem pole in the Blue Jays’ bullpen. Before Saturday’s forgettable appearance, it had been one week since Janssen worked in a game. “That might have been some of his problem,” Gaston admitted. Tough to get everybody work when the rotation is lasting deep into games, though.

Janssen walked in a pair of runs with the bases loaded in a four-run seventh for the White Sox. That makes it six inherited runners across home plate for Janssen over his past five appearances. Over that span, he’s allowed seven runs on nine hits in 4.2 innings. This after and great spring and a 1.17 ERA across his first seven games.

THIRD: One outing after flirting with a perfecto, lefty Brett Cecil issued a one-out walk and a two-out homer in the first inning against the White Sox. Cecil then walked in a run with the bases loaded in the second. Sox appeared to have done plenty of homework against Cecil and his changeup. Here’s what the lefty said: “It just seemed like every changeup I threw they would check swing or they were just spitting on it. I just don’t think it was in the zone long enough for them to even offer at it.”

HOME: Ah, the hometown call. It’s the difference between reliever Josh Roenicke’s ERA staying at 0.00 and ballooning to 8.31. In the decisive seventh inning, Roenicke made a throwing error on a one-out bunt “single” off the bat of Juan Pierre. Watching the replay, a clean throw clearly would have beat Pierre to first base. That should have meant Pierre reached on an E-1, not on a single.

Instead, Pierre got credit for a hit and then advanced to second on the E-1. Roenicke then caught a flyout, which would’ve ended the inning under normal circumstances. What followed was two extra-base hits, four walks and four runs. Now, the inning was ugly when it was all said and done. But, it says here that Roenicke should’ve been charged with four unearned runs.

Catch you tomorrow.

~JB

Game 32 lineups: Jays at White Sox

TORONTO AT CHICAGO
at 7:10 p.m. ET
U.S. Cellular Field

Thumbnail image for BlueJays.jpgBLUE JAYS (18-13, 5.0 GB)
1. Fred Lewis, LF
2. Aaron Hill, 2B
3. Adam Lind, DH
4. Vernon Wells, CF
5. Lyle Overbay, 1B
6. Alex Gonzalez, SS
7. Jose Bautista, 3B
8. John Buck, C
9. Travis Snider, RF

Pitching: Brett Cecil (2-1, 2.61)

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for WhiteSox.gifWHITE SOX (12-18, 7.5 GB)
1. Juan Pierre, LF
2. Gordon Beckham, 2B
3. Andruw Jones, DH
4. Paul Konerko, 1B
5. Alex Rios, CF
6. A.J. Pierzynski, C
7. Carlos Quentin, RF
8. Mark Teahen, 3B
9. Alexei Ramirez, SS

Pitching: Jake Peavy (1-2, 6.31)

~JB

var OutbrainPermaLink=’http://mlblogsmlbastian.files.wordpress.com/2010/05/whitesox-thumb-100×121-1081041-thumb-100×121-10810815.gifarchives/2010/04/game_6_lineups_jays_at_orioles.html';
var OB_Template = “mlbblogs”;
var OB_demoMode = false;
var OBITm = “1241712535489”;
var OB_langJS =’http://widgets.outbrain.com/lang_en.js';
if ( typeof(OB_Script)!=’undefined’ )
OutbrainStart();
else {
var OB_Script = true;
var str = ”;
document.write(str);
}

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.