Covering the Bases: Game 109

As much criticism as Kevin Gregg has faced this season, it seems only right to take a moment to give the closer some credit.

Sure there’s been plenty of suspense — there was again in Friday’s 2-1 win over the Rays — but Gregg has converted 25 saves in 29 chances with a 3.59 ERA.

I’d say that’s as good, or perhaps better, than people expected when he was named Toronto’s closer.

The last time he faced the Rays in Toronto, Gregg endured a 40-pitch disaster. It was June 1 and he surrendered four runs on one hit with five walks. And he was ejected from the game. Talk about forgettable.

This time around, Gregg allowed a leadoff single (panic!), but retired the next three Rays hitters in order. He caught Willy Aybar looking at a 3-2 pitch to end a 9-pitch at-bat. He then induced a flyout off the bat of Ben Zobrist and got Jason Bartlett to ground into a game-ending fielder’s choice.

Since that June 1 meltdown, Gregg has posted a 2.41 ERA over 19 games, picking up 11 saves in 12 opportunities. Really, has it been that bad?

SECOND: The key moment in this victory came in the sixth inning, when Cecil put the first two hitters on base in a 1-1 game. He walked B.J. Upton and then gave up a single to Sean Rodrigues. No worries, though.

Evan Longoria followed with a 5-4-3 groundout, finished off with a nice scoop by Lyle Overbay at first base.

“If you get the ball up to [Longoria],” Cecil said, “he’s going to drive it to right-center or left center, depending on where the pitch is. They key with him is really staying down. It was a back-door cutter. It got a little bit more over the plate, but it had that good tilt to it and ended up getting a ground ball.”

After walking Aybar to put runners on the corners with two outs, Cecil then struck out Zobrist on a 3-2 fastball. Inning over. Tie game preserved.

“I’ve had good success in the past throwing him chest-high fastballs,” Cecil explained. “It was a fastball right below his hands and that’s where he swings at it the most. That’s where he likes it. He doesn’t necessarily always hit it. It got the job done.”

Over his last six starts, Cecil is now 2-0 with a 2.06 ERA. Could be 6-0 with a little more run support.

THIRD: Twice, the Blue Jays scored shortly after the Rays made a costly throwing error. In the third inning, Edwin Encarnacion scored from second base when Rodriguez caught a line drive and threw wildly to second, trying to double Edwin up.

In the seventh inning, it was Matt Garza’s turn to make a gaffe. Jose Bautista hit a pitch back to the mound, and Garza misfired to Zobrist at first base. Bautista reached and later in the inning Overbay delivered a two-out double to left field to put Toronto up, 2-1.

From the “Who knew?” department… Overbay has been a consistent threat for the Jays in late and close situations this year. That’s when Toronto is tied, ahead by one run or the tying run is on-deck circle in the seventh inning or later. In such scenarios, Overbay has hit .357 (25-for-70) with two homers, four doubles and eight RBIs this season.

HOME: So where was catching prospect J.P. Arencibia? Don’t fret, Jays fans. He’ll be behind the dish on Saturday afternoon to catch lefty Brad Mills. Manager Cito Gaston is keeping Brandon Morrow paired with Jose Molina, and that means Molina will start Sunday. With Saturday being a day game after a night game — a situation Gaston won’t use the same catcher twice — Molina got the nod Friday and Arencibia Saturday. Gaston noted that Arencibia will likely get the bulk of the playing time behind the plate until veteran catcher John Buck (right thumb) returns from the disabled list.



The Jays played well tonight. They kept it together in a close game and capitalized on some Ray errors. This is the type of game the Jays would have lost last year, but now they seem to have the confidence to play to the bitter end and come up with the W.
Go Jays!

They were saying that the Jays have been outscored by the Rays 30-3 in late innings this year, so it’s nice to see the bullpen step up and hold this one. It’s also nice to see them scoring runs off the other team’s mistakes. They played like a good team last night.

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