Wednesday, April 20, 2011

That Was Fun Wasn't It?

It's 5-3 for the Yankees heading into the bottom of the ninth in Toronto with the best closer in baseball coming out of the bullpen for the Yanks.  Game over right?  Not this time!

Rivera came out for the save in the ninth and Yunel Escobar welcomed him to the game by smacking a double to centre field.  Then came Snider, who after breaking his bat in frustration over his thigh after striking out earlier in the game, grounded out to second moving Escobar to third.  Jose Bautista then drew a walk and Escobar scored on the wild pitch.  Adam Lind then hit a Rivera offering into shallow centre field for a single, allowing Bautista to move to third.  Then came Johnny Mac, who laid down a bunt which not only scored Bautista to tie the game, but got himself in to first base safely as well.  Tie game 5-5, and a blown save for Mariano Rivera, his first of the year.  That was all the damage Toronto would do in the ninth.  Molina singled before Patterson grounded into a double play to end the inning.

Jon Rauch came on to pitch the top of the tenth for the Jays.  He walked two but got the job done, giving the Jays a chance to win it in their half of the tenth.

Normally a starter, Ivan Nova was out to pitch for the Yankees in the tenth.  With Encarnacion on first and two out, Travis Snider who was 0 for 5 on the day, and has a season avg. of just .153 tattooed a pitch to deep centre field for a double, scoring Encarnacion from first and giving the Jays a walk off win from the Yankees in extra innings. 

I love watching the Yankees lose to any team, at any time.  But a walk off loss against Toronto... easily my favorite way for them to lose.

If I could have hand picked someone to be the hero in last nights game, it would have been Snider.  You could almost see the weight come off of his shoulders as the Jays were celebrating their walk off victory.  Hopefully this was a turning point for him.

Drabek started the game for Toronto, and got through 5.1 innings throwing 93 pitches.  He allowed 4 earned runs on 6 hits, striking out only 2, and walking 4.  The pitching high point of the night for Toronto though came from the bullpen in the form of 3 and 1/3 innings of one-hit shutout relief by Marc Rzepczynski, Carlos Villanueva, Shawn Camp and Jon Rauch.

After a rough finish in Boston to a rough road trip, this was a great homecoming for the Jays.

Frank Francisco was activated from the DL yesterday, and Jesse Litsch was optioned to AAA Las Vegas.  I don't really agree with this at all.  I understand that Reyes is out of options, but Litsch has arguably been the third best starter for the Blue Jays so far this season.  I would have much rather seen them send down Luis Perez and move Reyes to the bullpen.  However I do see their point that they want to see what Reyes can do in the rotation.  We have played this game before (remember Dana Eveland?).  I suspect Perez will be the one to go when Morrow is activated from the DL, unless of course something happens with Juan Rivera.

Tonight it's Brett Cecil and Bartolo Colon as the Jays try to sweep this mini set with the Evil Empire.  Then Friday, Tampa Bay comes in to town and I will finally be making the trip to the rogers centre for the first time this season.  It will be my second MLB game this year, but first Blue Jays game.  I'm looking forward to it.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Jays Trade Purcey

Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports and Sportsnet is reporting that the Toronto Blue Jays have traded David Purcey to the Oakland Athletics for pitcher Danny Farquhar.  Danny Farquhar was the closer in New Hampshire last year, and was traded to Oakland in the Rajai Davis deal.

Jays also sent cash to Cleveland today for minor league reliever Yohan Pino.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

These West Coast Trips Are Always Exhausting

I guess they wouldn't be if I went to bed...  But why go to bed when there's baseball to be watched?

I almost made it last night.  I was awake when Bautista threw out Langerhans at the plate to end the eighth inning.  That was it for me though, as I must have nodded off during the commercials before the ninth inning.

The Blue Jays lost another close one last night going down 3-2 to the Mariners in a game where both starting pitchers Rickey Romero and Michael Pineda were a pleasure to watch.  Romero gave the Blue Jays' bullpen a much needed rest, pitching all eight innings for Toronto,  He allowed 2 earned runs on 5 hits over his eight innings, while striking out 8 and walking just 2.  On the other side, Pineda threw 7 and a third, allowing just 1 earned run on 5 hits, striking out 7 and also walking only 2 on route to his first big league win.

Romero really only made one glaring mistake.  Unfortunately Langerhans sent that mistake into the seats for a two run shot in the third inning.  Toronto's runs came courtesy of Corey Patterson, who hit a 2 run single in the eighth inning to drive in Encarnacion and Escobar.  Patterson then stole second, and when catcher Miguel Olivio threw the ball away trying to catch him stealing he moved on to third.  However when Patterson tried to come home on a fly ball to shallow right from Bautista, M's first basemen Justin Smoak nailed Patterson easily at the plate.

There are positives we can take away from this.  Ricky Romero's curve ball looked downright nasty last night.  Five of the Blue Jays' six losses this season have been by one run, and the bullpen should be ready to go again after having a much needed  night off.

The bullpen also received some help as some roster moves were made last night.  The Blue Jays placed Rajai Davis on the 15 day DL, and designated David Purcey for assignment after his latest blunder on Monday night.  To replace them they have recalled Casey Janssen and Brad Mills form AAA Las Vegas.  It's really too bad about David Purcey.  After his short stint in the bullpen during the second half of last season I really thought they might have something there.  Possibly a future closer candidate.  Unfortunately this season he has been having a lot of trouble getting the ball over the plate.  The Jays now have ten days to either waive, trade, or give Purcey his outright release.  There are rumors that the Houston Astros are interested. 

So for the first time this season the Blue Jays find themselves both below .500, and at the risk of being swept in a series.  Seattle will have the brooms out this afternoon when they send Jason Vargas (0-1) to the hill against Kyle Drabek (1-0). 

Less than two hours until game time.  The Jays need to leave Seattle on a high note before heading to Boston for four.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

What Happened??

The Bullpen imploded.  That's what happened.

I was downstairs last night fighting hard with my eyelids as I attempted to watch as much of the ball game as I could.  Finally, when I conceded defeat and reached for the remote, it was the end of the fifth.  The Blue Jays were up 5 to 0 with all five runs coming off of King Felix.  The game seemed to be well at hand.  I headed upstairs to retire for the night feeling good that we had gotten a win from Seattle's best, scratch that, the American League's best starting pitcher.  What a great way to start the series.

Then I woke up.

A few minutes after rising this morning I picked up my blackberry to check the overnight emails.  As my weary eyes adjusted to the screen, I saw a message from Sportsnet Radio.  "Mariners Clip Jays"

What?  How the?  Whaaat?  But as I'm sure you already know, it was true.  The Blue Jays went on to take a 7 to nothing lead on those Mariners, and then literally let the Mariners 'walk' all over them in the eighth and ninth to take home the win.

The Blue Jays were leading 7 to 1 heading into the eighth and the Blue Jays turned to David Purcey to hold the Mariners.  The move made sense as Purcey was the only Jays reliever that wasn't a part of the 14 inning (that should have been 13 inning) marathon with the Angels on Saturday night, and they had a six run lead.  Well, it would have made sense if he had been able to throw strikes.  After falling behind 3 and 1 to Micheal Saunders, Purcey gave up a single to him.  Then promptly walked Brendan Ryan on four straight pitches before getting down 3 and 1 again this time to Jack Wilson.  Purcey got lucky and Wilson flew out.  The next batter was Ichiro, who smacked a single on the first pitch and loaded the bases.  That was it from Purcey.  He threw 16 pitches, 10 of them balls.

Unfortunately, it got much worse.

Octavio Dotel came in next and waked the first two batters he faced, bringing in two runs.  Dotel threw 12 pitches, 8 of them balls.  Exit Dotel, enter Rzepcynski for the lefty lefty match up with Jack Cust.  He walked him on four pitches.  Justin Smoak worked a 3-2 count before smacking a two run double.  Thus ending Rzep's day.  Rzepcynski threw 10 pitches, 7 of them balls.

Shawn Camp was next.  Camp's first offering to Miguel Olivio induced an inning ending double play.  Jays escape the eighth with a 1 run lead.

However the Mariners weren't finished yet.

In the ninth, Camp gave up a lead off double to Micheal Saunders.  Brendan Ryan bunted Saunders to third.  One out.  Jack Wilson grounded out to short.

Jays are up by a run with two out in the ninth.

Ichiro is the next batter.  Camp starts him out with two balls, and Farrell opts to put Ichiro on with the count at 0 and 2.  So with the intentional walk, Ichiro goes to first.

Runners at first and third, bottom of the ninth, Jays still clinging to a one run lead.

Luis Rodriguez is the batter.  Ichiro steals second, to put both runners in scoring postion.  After a long at bat, Rodriguez singles and brings in both runs.  Mariners come all the way back from 7 - 0 and walk off with am 8 - 7 win.

It's a terrible way to lose a ball game.  What makes it worse is Felix probably won't give up 7 earned runs to any team the rest of the season.  Actually, he almost certainly will not.  The Jays got to Felix, and couldn't pull it out.

Frankly, I'm kind of glad I went to bed and didn't see it happen.

Here's hoping they can still leave Seattle with a series win and head into Boston on a high note.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Six Down, Twenty Four To Go!

That was an experience!  Last night I made the trip over to Arlington visit my sixth big league park:  Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. 

If only the Jays could one day again obtain a fan base like these Rangers have.  The atmosphere was incredible.  On a Monday night they drew 37000 screaming Ranger fans who were all there to support their team and their love of the game, not just because it's something to do or they scored free tickets from somewhere.  That place was loud, and you could count the number of people who left before the game was over on one hand.  Everybody stayed until Feliz threw that final pitch to Ichiro to end the game and earn his first save of this young 2011 season.

Not only was it a great game, nice park, and great place to watch a game, but there was plenty to do before the game too with a number of kids games, attractions, and of course lots of shops to pick up the latest Ranger gear.

I wasn't there to experience any of the hoopla however.  I was there to watch Canadian Erik Bedard make his first start since 2009 against these Rangers in their home ranch.

Above:  Canadian Erik Bedard plays long toss before last night's bout with the Rangers at Ranger's Ballpark in Arlington.
Below:   Olivio and Bedard loosening up before last night's game.

The results?  Not great, but not bad for a first time out.  Bedard appeared to have a little bit of trouble locating his pitches early on, but he settled down and went on to throw 96 pitches over 5 innings, 60 of those for strikes.  Bedard gave up 5 runs, 3 of them earned on 4 hits.  He struck out 3 and walked 2 along the way.

Unfortunately 2 of the 4 hits allowed by Bedard were home runs.  One to Elvis Andrus in the first, and one to Nelson Cruz in the fourth inning.  The home run from Cruz is his fourth in as many games.

Bedard pitches to Josh Hamilton in the first inning of last night's 6-4 loss to the Rangers.

Again, not a great start, but not a bad one from Bedard.  3 earned runs on 4 hits over 5 innings against a hot team in their home park.  It could have been much worse.

The Blue Jays are back in action tonight on their first "Tweeting Tuesday" at the Rogers Centre where they welcome the Oakland Athletics for a three game set before heading out west to take on Vernon Wells and the Angels in Anaheim.  The Jays will send Jo Jo Reyes to the hill and the A's will counter with Brandon McCarthy.  I won't get to watch or listen to tonight's game but I will be sure to read the box score and check the highlights later. 

Tonight's my last night in Texas.  Tomorrow I do the trek back to Ontario and reality, so I'm not likely to post tomorrow.  Then again, you never know.  If something exciting happens tonight, then I will tell you all about it tomorrow.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Hello From the Lone Star State.

The Jays came close, but they couldn't quite sweep the Twinkies out of town yesterday falling 4 - 3.  I didn't see or hear any of the game yesterday, but from what I understand the bottom of the ninth inning brought an atmosphere to the dome that had many in attendance on their feet.  With two on and two out in the ninth, Jose Bautista was at the plate, and worked his way back from 0 and 2 to earn a walk, and bring up Lind with the bases loaded down by a run.  Unfortunately the first pitch to him was a slider that he grounded to first to end the game.  Tough break, but a great series played by Toronto.

As I said I didn't see or hear the game today.  Normally, at the very least I keep my eye on the score using my trusty "Score" application on my blackberry.  Believe me when I tell you that if I don't know what's happening in the Jays game on any given day, it's because of circumstances beyond my own control.  Thus was the case yesterday.  Yesterday I was driving and flying my way to Texas in a trip that started at 5:45 Eastern time, and ended two hours behind schedule at approximately 6:40 Central time. 

The trip started off well with a drive down the 401 to #6 to the QEW to arrive at the border on route to the Buffalo International Airport.  The border wasn't bad, as there were only two cars ahead of me when I lined up to cross.  What was disconcerting however was that both cars ahead of me were flagged off to the side to be searched.  As I wearily pulled ahead, and handed my passport to a very grumpy border guard I wondered if the extra 90 minutes I had allowed myself would be enough to get to the airport in time to catch my flight.  But after about three minutes of very pointed (and thorough I might add) questions, I was on my way again.

The flight out of Buffalo was uneventful.  It was the stop over at the Charlotte North Carolina air port where things got interesting.  Our flight was to board at 2:15pm EST and take off at 2:45pm.  They started boarding those who needed assistance, and first class customers at 2:15 right on schedule.  I had a seat in the seventh row so I was among the last to board.  Upon boarding, we then sat in the plane and waited.  After about 15 minutes the pilot came on to tell us that the mechanics had just found one last thing before we could take off, and that we would be departing shortly.  Another half hour passed and once again the pilot came on over the intercom.  This time to tell us that the plane had been deemed "Unfit for flight" and we all needed to leave the aircraft.

This is all fine with me and as far as I'm concerned, no big deal right?  Apparently not.  I could not believe the amount of complaining from my fellow passengers when we were instructed to leave the plane.  Wouldn't they rather leave the unfit aircraft?  Is the inconvenience of leaving late, or perhaps not leaving at all not more favorable than the inconvenience of possibly crashing?  I vote yes.  A crash would have greatly inconvenienced my day!

Upon evacuating the aircraft and once again crowding the gate inside the airport, we were told that there was another plane coming to gate B16 to pick us up as soon as possible.  My first thought was "Awesome!  We're still going to get there today, we're just going to be a little late.  We don't have to stay overnight!  Great!"  Unfortunately my fellow travelers did not share my sentiment.  Sometimes I think people need to take a step back from the moment they are in, and take another look at the big picture.

The point of the story is that I did land safely at the Dallas Fort Worth International Airport two hours behind schedule where my lovely bride was waiting for me at the gate.  Two hours later we were enjoying a late dinner together outside on a patio, and yes, I was wearing short sleeves.  (I hear there was snow at home?  He he he)

What does this have to do with baseball you ask?  Well, let me tell you.  The Blue Jays have the night off tonight, but I on the other hand do not.  I will be hopping in the rental car for the short drive to Ranger's Ball Park in Arlington to watch Navan Ontario native Erik Bedard make his first start since the 2009 season when his Seattle Mariners play the home town Texas Rangers.  Erik hasn't pitched since 2009 because he had to have a few surgical procedures performed.  I've been a Bedard fan since he first broke into the league, and I sincerely hope that he is able to have a successful comeback and hopefully a healthy career from this point forward.  Bedard has always had the stuff and the talent to be great, but has never really been able to realize his potential due to injuries.

I've never been to Texas before so this will be my first time going to the Ranger's park.  It should be a lot of fun!  I will be writing, and posting pictures, to tell you all about it tomorrow!

K is for Kyle! Or is Kyle for K?

Saturday April 2, 2011

The Toronto fans followed up Friday's opening day sell out with a showing of 27,194 today to watch 23 year old Kyle Drabek make his season debut against the Minnesota Twins and Francisco Liriano.  Drabek delivered, going seven innings giving up only one run on one hit while striking out seven and walking only one to capture his first big league win.  The Jays beat the Twins 6 to 1.

I didn't see all of today's game, but from what I did see Drabek is definitely deserving of the spot he earned in the Jays rotation this spring.  

The Jays offense was provided by some unlikely power sources, and a few timely hits.  Jose Molina homered on a ball that bounced off the top of the wall in left field in the third inning, and newly acquired Jayson Nix homered to deep left field in the fourth inning.  Farrell started Nix at third today because he has good career numbers against Liriano.  In the fifth inning Edwin Encarnacion singled to bring in Bautista, and then Travis Snider came off the bench to hit a two run double scoring Lind and Encarnacion making it 5 to 1.  Toronto's last run came in the eighth when Hill hit a sac fly to left that brought Molina home.

Minnesota's only run came from an RBI ground out from Justin Morneau. 

What amused me about today's performance, is that Drabek thought he should have done better.  "The control of my pitches wasn't the best today" Drabek said. "It was just the situations where I needed a good pitch, it was there. I think that helped me out a bunch this game."

This statement sort of sums up how I feel about this team.  They are a young, motivated, close group who expect the best from themselves every time out.  I love the fact that the starting pitchers all hang out together at and away from the ball park.  I love to hear stories like the one from spring training about Yunel Escobar.  How after trying to make a flashy play, and then botching it, John Farrell had gone into the club house to talk to him about it.  However when Farrell got there, he found Edwin Encarnacion already scolding Yunel so to speak.  Telling him that this is not how we play here.  I love that they appear to no longer be one dimensional offensively.  I love the confidence that some of these young players are emitting.

If we have learned anything over the years from teams like the Florida Marlins and Tampa Bay Rays, it is that young, motivated teams can be very, very dangerous.

I've said it before and I will say it again.  I am really excited to see what this team can do this year.

Opening Night, and Oh What a Night!!

Friday April 1, 2011

Ladies and Gentlemen... BASEBALL IS BACK!!

Even though this will be posted a few days late, what a game for the Blue Jays on opening night!

The Blue Jays opened their season at home tonight against the Minnesota Twins, pounding the Twinkies into submission with a 13 - 3 route. 

Rajai Davis led off the first inning with a hard grounder to Twins shortstop Alexi Casilla.  Casilla fielded the ball cleanly and fired to first base but Davis beat the throw for an infield single.  Man can this guy run.  I've always liked him as a player and was excited when the Blue Jays brought him in, but after seeing him on Wednesday in a televised spring training game against Tampa, then again tonight on opening night, Jays fans have reason to be excited about the new running game that Farrell said he wants to add to the 2011 Jays offensive arsenal.  However Rajai wasn't done showing off his speed yet.  Davis was thinking two bases and wandered just a little far from the bag when Pavano turned and threw to first catching Rajai in a rundown.  Rajai should have been out, but after a little back and forth Davis accelerated and committed back to first base diving in safely under a stretching Pavano who had to reach to catch the high throw back to him. 

The next batter was Yunel Escobar who singled to left field on the first pitch moving Davis over to second.  That brought up Jose Bautista, and on the first pitch to him, Davis and Escobar both took off and executed a double steal.  Something we would not have seen last year.  Pavano walked Bautista, loading the bases with nobody out for Adam Lind.  Pavano hit him, walking in the first run of the game, and the season for the Jays.  Aaron Hill and Edwin Encarnacion each hit a sac fly to bring in the next two runs, followed by a base hit from Travis Snider that got away from Twins new second basemen Tsuyoshi Nishioka to bring in a fourth run.

Four runs in the first inning and not one home run.  Welcome to the new version of Blue Jays baseball.  Don't worry though, the old brand is still alive and kicking.  In the fifth inning, Jose Bautista and Adam Lind treated the sold out crowd at Rogers Centre to back to back homers.  Baustista's bomb going to deep left centre, and Lind's to deep right. 

But as far as the long balls go, the story tonight was JP Arencibia.  After having a terrible spring at the plate while working primarily on his defensive game, Arencibia started his season off with a bang.  Well, two bangs and a triple actually.  The first one to deep centre field coming in the fourth inning with Travis Snider on board.  Then in the fifth inning he almost went deep again.  This time JP hit one off the wall in centre field that went for a triple, scoring both Travis Snider and Juan Rivera.  In the eighth inning, he did go deep again to right field.  JP finished the night going 3 for 4 with 5 RBI and two pies to the face.  If you count a load of shaving cream in a towel as a pie of course. 

Not to be lost in the 13 run assault was the outstanding performance from Ricky Romero in his first career opening day start.  Romero threw 6 and a third innings, giving up one earned run on seven hits, striking out seven, and walking nobody!  A great outing for Romero.

Minnesota's three runs all came in the seventh inning.  Young scored on a throwing error from Edwin Encarnacion.  Kubel scored on a double from Alexi Casilla, who then scored on a Denard Span's groundout.

It was very nice to see Canadian Justin Morneau back in Minnesota's lineup tonight for the first time since suffering a concussion in Toronto back on July 7 of last year.  Morneau ended the night going 0 for 4, but belting one ball back to the warning track in right field.  It may not have been his best game, but it is great to see him playing again regardless.

I think this 2011 Blue Jays club is going to be a very exciting one to watch.  I mentioned earlier the televised spring training game against Tampa Bay on Wednesday.  In the first inning of that game, Davis got on first base, then took off for second on the first pitch to Yunel Escobar.  Escobar hit a double play ball, but by the time it was fielded Davis was a step past second base on his way to third already.  The only play was at first base, which they bobbled.  All of the sudden the Jays had runners on first and third with nobody out, on what should have been a double play.  We haven't seen that brand of baseball here in a long time.  I'm really not worried about where the runs will come from this year.  I think this team can manufacture runs.  If the pitching holds up, I really think they finish ahead of an improved Baltimore team, and a Tampa Bay team that saw some of their stars and almost their entire bullpen leave this offseason.

My official prediction for the Blue Jays this season is 85 to 87 wins.  Having said that, if they win 90 it won't surprise me at all.  Yes, I really did just write that.

Tomorrow young Kyle Drabek takes the ball for his 2011 debut looking for his first big league win.  The twins counter with Francisco Liriano.  First pitch at 1:07 in front of hopefully at least 35000 to follow up tonight's capacity crowd.