May 2010

Game 31 lineups: Jays at White Sox

TORONTO AT CHICAGO
at 8:10 p.m. ET
U.S. Cellular Field

Thumbnail image for BlueJays.jpgBLUE JAYS (17-13, 5.0 GB)
1. Fred Lewis, LF
2. Aaron Hill, 2B
3. Jose Bautista, 3B
4. Vernon Wells, CF
5. Lyle Overbay, 1B
6. Alex Gonzalez, SS
7. Randy Ruiz, DH
8. John Buck, C
9. Travis Snider, RF

Pitching: Shaun Marcum (1-1, 3.12)

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for WhiteSox.gifWHITE SOX (12-16, 7.0 GB)
1. Juan Pierre, LF
2. Omar Vizquel, 2B
3. Andruw Jones, DH
4. Alex Rios, CF
5. A.J. Pierzynskui, C
6. Carlos Quentin, RF
7. Mark Teahen, 3B
8. Mark Kotsay, 1B
9. Alexei Ramirez, SS

Pitching: Mark Buehrle (2-4, 5.30)

~JB

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Covering the Bases: Game 30


EvelandSox.jpgFIRST:
Dana Eveland feels the pressure from the other pitchers on the Blue Jays staff.

Shaun Marcum flirted with a no-hitter on Opening Day. Ricky Romero took one into the eighth inning early in the year. Brandon Morrow toyed with a no-no one night. Brett Cecil upped the anty, carrying a perfecto into the seventh on Monday.

Eveland?

“These guys have been motivating me to throw the ball well,” Eveland said. “It’s almost a little competition between all of us. Obviously, we want all of us to succeed, but at the same time I want to pitch just as well as the other guys are.”

Well, Eveland pitched on Thursday and the Blue Jays picked up a 2-0 win over the White Sox. Does that tell you anything?

No, Eveland didn’t flirt with history or anything like that. What he did was keep the Sox hitters off-balance with a strong changeup — something that had abandoned him over his past three starts — and a well-located four-seamer. Eveland said he relied less on his cutter and slider, mainly due to the effectiveness of his change.

The result was seven innings of two-hit shutout ball on just 90 pitches. And, let’s be honest, Eveland needs to keep it up to convince the Jays to keep him in the rotation. Think about it, there’s a wave of Minor Leaguers on the cusp, and a handful of injured arms on the mend. It’s hard to see Marcum, Romero, Morrow or Cecil going anywhere.

SECOND: The Jays went pretty quiet offensively against John Danks (again) on Thursday. In the fifth inning, though, Toronto finally broke through. The man behind the runs was Fred Lewis, who doubled home the only two runs managed by the Jays. Lewis said he felt really good about coming through since he admittedly made a poor decision to try to steal third base in the first inning. Over his past six games, Lewis has hit .440 (11-for-25). He’s been a nice little addition up to this point.

THIRD: As Eveland noted after his outing: “To have a good outing, there always seems to be one or two special plays” on defense. Eveland got his in the form of a spectacular running catch by Vernon Wells to end the second inning. Chicago’s Mark Kotsay sent a pitch deep to right center field — looked like a homer off the bat. Wells snared it right before crashing into the wall. No one else really hit the ball hard against Eveland.

HOME: How about this? The Blue Jays are now 10-3 on the road this season. It marks the first time in franchise history that Toronto has won 10 of its first 13 games away from home. Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said before the game that there’s no way to pinpoint why the Jays are playing so well on the road right now. I don’t know… ever since the Jays’ manager of team travel, Mike Shaw, switched a few of the team’s hotels, the wins have been pouring in. Hmm…

~JB

Game 30 lineups: Jays at White Sox

TORONTO AT CHICAGO
at 8:10 p.m. ET
U.S. Cellular Field

Thumbnail image for BlueJays.jpgBLUE JAYS (16-13, 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: Dana Eveland (2-1, 4.76)


Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for WhiteSox.gifWHITE SOX (12-16, 7.0 GB)
1. Juan Pierre, LF
2. Gordon Beckham, 2B
3. Andruw Jones, RF
4. Alex Rios, CF
5. Carlos Quentin, DH
6. Alexei Ramirez, SS
7. Ramon Castro, C
8. Mark Kotsay, 1B
9. Jayson Nix, 3B

Pitching: John Danks (3-0, 1.85)

~JB

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Covering the Bases: Game 26


marcumwin.jpgFIRST:
Well, that took long enough. Shaun Marcum is back in the win column. The righty helped lead the Jays to a 9-3 victory over the A’s on Sunday afternoon, earning his first ‘W” in…

 …598 days.

Marcum’s last win came against the White Sox on Sept. 11, 2008 — shortly before he underwent reconstructive elbow surgery that cost him all of last season.

This year, Marcum had been solid through his first five outings for Toronto, but whether it was due to a lack of run support or a shaky bullpen, he simply was not able to pick up any wins. Not until Ben Sheets absolutely imploded for the A’s on Sunday, allowing the Jays to run out to a 9-1 lead after four innings.

Marcum worked 6 1/3 innings, scattered six hits, struck out six and walked four. He allowed just the one run in the 105-pitch effort. True to his character, Marcum downplayed finally getting a win and instead said it was just great that the team found the win colum. Good on him.

Also, good on the crowd for its stading ovation as Marcum headed off the hill in the seventh. Those used to be reserved for a certain ace, but Marcum — now in Doc’s old slot in the rotation — was the recipient this time around. Much like the good doctor did for years, too, Marcum gave a quick tip of the hat in response.

SECOND: The Blue Jays scored nine runs combined over Marcum’s past three starts. So nine runs on 13 hits was much appreciated by Marcum this time (even though he wouldn’t admit it). But, this was more about the ineffectiveness of Sheets than the awesomeness of the Blue Jays’ offense.

Sheets faced 22 batters and this is what happened: 10 outs, 10 hits at a cost of $10 million for the A’s. The Jays drew two walks, pounded out two singles, four doubles, one triple and three home runs against the righty. Over his past two starts, Sheets has allowed 17 runs across a grand total of 7 1/3 innings.

Every Blue Jay in the lineup had at least one hit with the exception of Adam Lind and Jose Bautista. Fred Lewis launched a two run homer in the fourth that actually bounced up when it hit the seats in the second deck. He and Aaron Hill went back-to-back, and Hill finished a triple shy of the cycle. Alez Gonzalez hit his eighth homer (two-run shot in the first) and John McDonald (!) went 2-for-4 with a double and a triple.

Sheets? Boom! Roasted.

THIRD: Beyond all the guys mentioned above, how about that John Buck? A few days after launching a trio of home runs, Bucky put a few dents (see what I did there?) in the wall in left with three doubles against the A’s. Since manager Cito Gaston and hitting coach Dwayne Murphy held a sťance to revive Buck’s bat, the catcher has gone 8-for-12 at the plate with three homers, three doubles and seven RBIs.

HOME: In the first edition of “You Know It’s Getaway Day When…” let’s take a look at one telling stat from Sunday’s tilt in Toronto. After running out to a 9-1 lead through four innings, exactly ZERO Jays hitters looked at a called strike. The final 15 Toronto batters gripped it and ripped it, bringing a speedy end to the contest. The last player to take a strike was Gonzalez during the final at-bat of the fourth inning. Consider that seven of the first 13 Jays hitters and 10 of the first 24 took at least one called strike. In the first inning, six of seven hitters took a called strike on the first pitch.

NOTE: I will not be in Cleveland for the upcoming series between the Blue Jays and Indians. I will be tweeting and blogging again about your Jays from U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago, beginning on Thursday.

–JB

Covering the Bases: Game 25


flewis.jpgFIRST:
Should he stay or should he go? That was the question Fred Lewis had running through his mind as he sprinted around the bags in the seventh inning of Saturday’s 4-3 loss to the A’s.

The Jays’ offense had struggled for most of the game and was finally putting together a rally. There were two outs, though, and Lewis drove on into the right-center gap for a sure double.

Lyle Overbay scored on the play to cut Oakland’s lead to one run. If Lewis holds up at second base, he’s likely a single away from scoring. If he legs out the triple, a wild pitch or passed ball ties the game. There was a catch, though…

“It’s like I was telling my third base coach,” Lewis said. “Out there in the gap, you can’t see the ball with the sign out there. So I told him, I said, ‘If we had that dark out, I probably would’ve pulled up.'”

There are video boards built into the walls in the right-center and left-center gaps at Rogers Center. For years, players, coaches and managers on both sides have complained about them. In short, the complaint is that baseballs disappear when they fly in front of the signs, making it hard for runners to properly track the ball.

This is what happened with Lewis. He said he could not tell where the ball was. As it turned out, right fielder Gabe Gross was picking it up and making a quick relay to second baseman Adam Rosales. Lewis nearly made it to third, but the throw came into third just ahead of Lewis.

Lewis was out. The rally was over. And the A’s went on to win.

“It was one of those tough plays,” Lewis said. “It was real bright out there in that gap, I couldn’t tell if he had the ball or not. [Third base coach Brian Butterfield] told me they’ve been trying to tell them about it for years.”

SECOND: Dana Eveland wasn’t sharp in the early going for the Jays, allowing four runs on six hits over the first four innings. The pitch that hurt the most came in the fourth, when Eveland allowed a two-run homer to rookie catcher Josh Donaldson with one out and a runner on third base.

Congrats to Donaldson, though. Nice way to get your first big league hit.

“I really wish i could have that pitch back,” Eveland said. “I was trying to get in. It was a runner on third, less than two out situation. A lot of times, hitters are looking for balls out over in that situation, trying to get a sac fly or drive a ball up the middle. So I tried to get in on him and I threw it inner half and up.

“He can pull the ball — that’s one thing I remember about him from when we played in Spring Training a year ago. He hits the ball pretty well to left. He’s got some pop. I just didn’t get it in enough.”

THIRD: Don’t look now, but manager Cito Gaston has used five pinch hitters in the past four games (yes, I realize John McDonald’s appearance was bases on the rout yesterday). On Saturday, Gaston called upon Lyle Overbay as a pinch hitter with two outs and a runner on first base in the seventh. Overbay doubled to right, helping to continue the rally that later ended with Lewis being thrown out at third base. And, what do you know? Overbay is 8-for-his-last-24. His average has climbed to .181 in the process.

HOME: The bullpen had been thrown under the bus quite a few times in recent days, so now it’s time to show some love. Scott Downs and Casey Janssen turned in 2.1 shutout innings in Saturday’s loss, giving the bullpen no runs allowed over its last 8.1 innings of work. That’s called progress. In their previous 18.1 innings, the relievers combined to give up 21 runs.

~JB

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