Sunday, April 15, 2012

Wrapping Up the Rest of the Week

After a masterful outing from Ricky Romero against Jon Lester and the Red Sox on Wednesday, the Blue Jays enjoyed an off day Thursday before welcoming Baltimore in for a three game set over the weekend. 

I didn't get to see any of Wednesday's game (darn work gets in the way of life's important things), but I did get to listen to some of it.  From what I hear of the game, Romero was lights out.  He ran into a little trouble in the third, giving up one run.  After that Romero set down 17 Red Sox in a row.  After eight innings Romero's pitch count was only at ninety, so he was sent back out in the ninth to try and finish it off.  Romero walked two (his first walks of the day) and got one out before giving way to Sergio Santos who came into the game with runners at the corners with two out.  Santos shut down the next two hitters and picked up his first save of the season.  After the game Sergio was placed on Paternity leave so he could be with his wife for the birth of their third child.  Santos will be back on the active roster today. 

So when the Red Sox left town, the Jays found themselves 4 and 2 with two series wins in their back pocket.  Now... My Mom always told me if I haven't got anything nice to say, I shouldn't say anything at all... Perhaps that means at this point I should stop typing?

Friday night the Baltimore Orioles came into town.  The Jays sent Brandon Morrow to the hill, looking for his second win of the season.  Morrow pitched seven innings, giving up four runs on six hits while striking out four but walking only one.  Despite the four runs given up, when Morrow left the game the Blue Jays were in possession of a 5-4 lead. 

Then came the bull pen.  Toronto's re-vamped pen has not had the best opening week.  Frasor, Oliver and Janssen worked the rest of the game, each of them giving up one earned run.  With Oliver taking the loss.    

Positive notes from this one:  Kelly Johnson and Edwin Encarnacion each hit their second home run of the season.  While Colby Rasmus and Yunel Escobar both got their home run tallies started for the season. Rasmus had another nice game in centre field. 

Unfortunately yesterday's outcome wasn't much different, with the bull pen once again handing the game back to the O's in the late innings. 

Henderson Alvarez lasted seven innings, allowing three runs on six hits with two strike outs and one walk.  He left the game with a one run lead.  Janssen and Cordero worked the eighth and ninth, with Janssen giving up one run and Cordero allowing two.  Cordero took the loss.

In the first six games of the season, the Baltimore Orioles didn't score a single run in the eighth or ninth inning.  So far this weekend, that's when they've been winning the game. 

Postive notes from Saturday:  Colby Rasmus had three hits in four at bats with two RBI's.  He also had yet another nice play out in centre field.  Brett Lawrie went two for two.  Kelly Johnson hit his third home run of the season and his second in as many days.

I'm headed to the park today to watch the Jays try to take one win from the Orioles.  (That just sounds wrong... trying to take one win from the Orioles?  they should be sweeping the freaking Orioles.)  Kyle Drabek will start for Toronto and Baltimore counters with Brian Matusz. 

Hopefully Toronto will be able to finish the weekend on a winning note before Tampa arrives on Tuesday. 

See you at the game!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Jays Beat Sox 7-3 To Tie Up Series

Alright, not going to lie, I'm going to keep this short cuz I need to get some sleep.

Kyle Drabek was very impressive tonight in his first start since June 12 of last year.  Drabek pitched five and a third, holding the Sox to one run on three hits while striking out four.  He did walk three batters, but over all he looked very good.  I really hope that this is a sign of things to come for Drabek.

On the other side, Daniel Bard threw five innings and was charged with five runs on eight hits while striking out six and walking only one.

Frasor and Perez followed Drabek with a scoreless inning and a third each before Casey Janssen came on in the ninth with a 7-1 lead and allowed two runs, but closed it out for the 7-3 victory.  Then It was smiles and high fives all around from the Jays as they congratulated one another and headed for the club house.

Some Notables from this game:

Edwin Encarnacion, who continues to hit the ball well, hit his first home run of the season in the seventh inning and he stole two bases. (I called 25 home runs or more for Edwin back in February.  I'm sticking by my prediction)

Escobar, Lind and Lawrie each contributed with two hits a piece. 

Brett Lawrie attempted to run through a wall while trying to catch a foul ball as it went into the stands. The wall won.  He did almost catch the ball though.

Jose Bautista released some of the frustration he's been feeling at the plate when he got to throw a ball at, and hit Dustin Pedoia.  Ok, so maybe his intent wasn't to nail him.  The throw from right field was online for third base though and he probably would have gotten the out had the ball not caught Pedroia on his way to the bag.

Tomorrow it's the battle of the lefty aces as Rickey Romero and Jon Lester take the ball for game three at 12:30 eastern.

Sure would be nice to take a series win from Boston this early in the season.   To quote Jake Taylor:  "Okay Ricky, lets get nasty!"

What To Make Of Daniel Bard: Game 5 preview BOS 1-3 @ TOR 2-2


After having their home opener spoiled by a ninth inning loss at the hands of Dustin Pedroia and company, the Blue Jays seek redemption tonight at Rogers Centre in game two of the three game set.

Kyle Drabek gets the ball for the Blue Jays.  While Boston will counter with Daniel Bard, making his first start as a member of the Sox rotation.

For the last two seasons, Daniel Bard has been a dependable, imperative piece for the Red Sox as their eighth inning guy.  Last year he struck out 74 batters in 73 innings and had a WHIP under 1 at 0.959.  In 2010 he had 76 strike outs in 74.2 innings pitched, with a WHIP of 1.004 and a sparkling ERA of just 1.93.  Bard has been dominant.

This year however, Bard has made the conversion to be a starter and was able to nail down the fifth rotation spot after a less than stellar spring.  In Grapefruit League action this March, Bard threw 24.2 innings with only 18 strikeouts and 16 walks.  Finishing with a spring ERA of 6.57 and a WHIP of 1.5.  Well above his career numbers.

I saw Bard pitch against the Blue Jays on March 25 and found him to be much less impressive than when I last saw him during the 2011 season.  He gave up 5 runs on 6 hits (including an Adam Lind HR) and 3 walks through 6 innings. 

With the trouble that Boston has been having in the late innings with their bull pen (excluding last night of course) you would have to think that if Bard struggles early, he will be headed right back to the pen.  All signs so far point to Bard struggling as a stater, but we all know that spring numbers don't count.  Otherwise the Jays would already be in first place by a mile.

Toronto counters with Kyle Drabek.  Last year Kyle struggled early with his control and was sent to Vegas to work things out.  This spring his numbers were pretty good, but the walks are still a bit of an issue.  I got the chance to talk to Buck Martinez in Dunedin and he spoke very highly of Drabek.  Saying that he was looking very good and appeared to be very receptive of the coaching staff and was working hard to be better.  Buck seemed to be of the opinion that if Drabek made the rotation out of spring training, he would stick.  I hope he is right.

First pitch is at 7:07.  After a sell out last night, I hope to see a lot of people back at the ball yard tonight with the hopes of a better result.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Sergi-Oh No! Jays Drop Home Opener

Sergi-Oh No!
Everything was shaping up to be a great home opener for the Blue Jays.  The Rogers Centre was packed.  Henderson Alvarez made the start and went six strong innings, allowing only one run on four hits.  The Jays were terrific defensively throughout the game, highlighted by another stellar running/diving/sliding/holy @#*! catch from Colby Rasmus in the third.  Heck, Martin Short was on hand for goodness sakes.  How can you have a bad night with Martin Short in the house??

Colby hit a triple, then scored on a fielder's choice.  Escobar scores in the same inning.  Things were looking up!

The Jays took a 2-0 lead in the third and hang on to it until the sixth when Dustin Pedroia took Alvarez deep to get Boston on the board.  The Pedroia home run seemed inconsequential however.  That 2-1 lead held heading into the ninth inning with our closer, the hired gun we traded for coming in to take the ball.  Unfortunately, Sergio Santos's second opportunity to get his first save as a Blue Jay went even worse than the first opportunity did.

Pedroia struck again to start off the ninth.  Lacing a double into left field.  Then a passed ball allowed Pedroia to move to third, from which he was able to score on a sac fly from Adrian Gonzales.  Kevin Youkilis was next and Santos struck him out swinging for the second out.  At this point I thought we were heading to extra innings again.  The Red Sox however had other plans.  Santos walked the next two batter in David Ortiz and Cody Ross.  Darnell MacDonald was brought in to pinch run for Ortiz.  Then Sweeney drove in MacDonald and moved Ross to third and a wild pitch allowed Ross to score.

So effectively, Santos kind of gave this one away.  He never did get out of the inning either.  Luis Perez came in and immediately got Mike Aviles to ground out and end the inning.  The Jays went down 1-2-3 in the bottom half.

Sox win their first game of the season.  Jays drop to 2 and 2.

Positives to take away from this one:  Henderson Alvarez threw six quality innings of four hit ball.   The defense the entire game was great.  Colby Rasmus is still hustling, making plays and now appears to be starting to hit.  I'm getting concerned that I might start to like him... 

Negatives?  Sergio blows his second save (I'm not worried... yet...) and Escobar still can't seem to get good wood on the ball.  Not really worried about him at this point either. 

Tomorrow Kyle Drabek gets his first start of the season against converted reliever Daniel Bard.  I will try to find time to preview that one before first pitch.

Previewing Tonight's Home Opener TOR 2-1 vs BOS 0-3

Henderson Alvarez will become the youngest Blue Jay in team history to start a home opener when he gets the ball tonight in front of a sold out crowd at the Rogers Centre against the Boston Red Sox.  He replaces Dave Stieb on the list, who started the home opener in 1980 at the age of 22.  Alvarez will turn 22 next Wednesday.

Alvarez made ten starts last season for Toronto finishing with an ERA of 3.53 and a very nice WHIP of 1.13.  Now I generally try not to get overly excited about a young player before they get a few years under their belt.  But I have to tell you, I am excited about this kid.  This spring he threw 15 innings, allowing only 3 walks and striking out 10.  His spring ERA was a solid 3 and again he again threw to a WHIP of 1.13.  I know that spring stats aren't usually a valid reflection of a players performance.  However what I'm taking from this is that he has good control of his stuff and he gets people out. 

Alvarez, ArencibiaOn March 24 I watched Alvarez in Dunedin start against an Atlanta lineup that included all of the regulars aside from Dan Uggla and an injured Chipper Jones.  Alvarez allowed one hit over five innings and walked no one.  What really impressed me though was how well he dominated the lower half of the strike zone and induced ground ball outs.  He is young and he may have a sophomore slump.  That being said, I like the way he plays the game. 

The Red Sox will counter with left hander Felix Doubront.  Doubront won a rotation spot after posting a 1-0 record with an ERA of 2.70 in Grapefruit League action this spring.  Boston is still looking for their first win of the year after being swept out of Comerica Park in Detroit this weekend.

If Toronto is going to have a shot at competing this season, they need to win these early games against Boston while the likes of Beckett, Bailey and Crawford are out.  Here's hoping they get off to a good start at home tonight behind Alvarez.

One thing is for certain.  It's gonna be loud!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Looking Back on the Weekend That Was

Well the first series of 2012 for the Blue Jays is in the books and as fans I don't think that we can be overly disappointed.  A record breaking Opening Day that saw the Jays fight back in the ninth inning to tie it up, then win it in the 16th.  Game two consisted of two strong pitching performances from each team's starter, both of which winding up with a no-decision as it was the Indians this time who tied it up in the ninth to force extras.  The game was decided by the bullpens in the twelfth inning when a double from Rajai Davis drove in two, to seal the victory.  Followed by a game three which the Jays dropped but only by one run.  Let's face it, if Toronto were to actually win two out of every three games all year we all will be pretty darn happy.  So when you look at the scorecards and the standings, things are looking pretty good for the boys in blue.

However, if you watch what's happening on the field and in the dugout, it's even more exciting.

Jose Bautista hitting his first home run of the year on Opening Day.  Kelly Johnson and JP Arencibia each going deep as well.  Edwin Encarnacion smacking three doubles and performing a pretty snazzy shuffle and slide dance in the dug out.  Five players with three or more hits in the series.  Some great defensive plays made.  Rasmus is hustling and made a great diving catch.  Rajai Davis is stealing bases.  Most of our relief staff looked strong and showed us what kind of depth Toronto has coming out of the pen this season.  Lots of smiles, high fives and leaps up from the bench. 

This is a young, excited, motivated group.  They think they can win. 

They're fun to watch.

Buckle in kids, it's gonna be an exciting ride!

Jays Top Indians 7-4 in Extras

Wait... Didn't that already happen?

For the second time in as many games the Blue Jays and the Indians went to extra innings to decide game two of the three game set on Saturday afternoon at Progressive Field.  This time it was the Indians tying it up in the ninth to force the additional frames.  The Blue Jays and Indians have now already played the equivalent of three games (plus an inning) against one another.

Brandon Morrow and Ubaldo Jimenez both had strong outings, going seven innings with three walks, three strikeouts and allowing only one hit each.  Each pitcher also allowed 2 runs, however Morrow's were unearned after a throwing error by Arencibia in the fifth inning allowed the inning to continue for Jason Kipnis to hit a two run home run giving Cleveland the lead.  Toronto tied it up on a two run single from Brett Lawrie in the seventh.

Then in the ninth Kelly Johnson hit his first home run of the year just over the glove of a leaping Micheal Brantley to give Toronto a 3-2 lead for Sergio Santos heading to the bottom of the ninth.  Santos retired the first batter he faced, but then surrendered a solo home run to Asdrubal Cabrera tying the game once again and sending it to extra innings.

Rajai Davis was the hero in the twelfth, smacking a two run double to give the Jays a 6-3 lead.  Colby Rasmus promptly added to that number, collecting his first hit and RBI of the season driving in Davis from second with a single.  Francisco Cordero came on in the bottom of the twefth and despite giving up 3 hits and a run, he got the job done.  Jays win 7-4.

Some positives that I take from this game:

Morrow looked very good.  I think that if he keeps his walks under control, this year will be the break out year that we've been waiting for from Brandon Morrow.

Colby Rasmus hit the ball hard a couple of times and came up empty.  Don't worry about him, he is going to hit.  I fear that if this keeps up I may actually wind up a Rasmus fan...

I never got a chance to post about spring training, but Kelly Johnson looked great in Dunedin when I saw him and it appears he is continuing to see the ball well and drive it when he connects.  I really think he is going to have a nice year this year.

Casey Janssen continues to look stellar.  Working two no-hit innings, striking out two and walking no one.  Despite Santos giving up the HR to Cabrera, the bullpen was still effective.

The Blue Jays are now 2 and 0 and have secured their first series victory.  Game three goes this afternoon with Joel Carreno taking the hill for the Jays against Derek Lowe.

First pitch is at 1:05.  The question is, what inning will the last pitch be thrown in?

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The 2012 Season is Officially Underway


I love opening day.

It's a new beginning.  A fresh start.  For players like Adam Dunn, it's a chance for redemption after a disappointing season.  For players like Alex Gordon, it's a chance to prove that you are the real deal and last year wasn't just a fluke.  Jose Bautista was in that very position on opening day 2011.

Everybody shares the home run lead.  Every pitcher has a zero in the loses column.  Every team is in first place.  I love opening day.

For Blue Jays fans this opening day, there seems to be a little bit more to be excited about.  A re-vamped bull pen.  A new second basemen and a new centre fielder since last opening day.  A young Canadian phenom playing third.  A catcher back for his sophomore year after breaking the franchise record for home runs by hit by a catcher while in his rookie campaign last season.  A young team who think that they can win right now.

Even though it took them a little extra time, on Thursday in Cleveland that's exactly what they did.  The Blue Jays and Indians played 16 innings on opening day at Progressive Field to kick off the 2012 season.

I'm sure everyone knows the story by now so I won't recap the whole game, just a few highlights that caught my attention.  Ricky Romero did not look like himself and was having trouble controlling the ball.  He did seem to settle down a little after the home run that put Cleveland on top 4-1.  Justin Masterson pitched very well for Cleveland and attacked the lower half of the strike zone.  He was also very effective in throwing breaking pitches low and outside that had some Toronto hitters chasing.  Through eight innings he allowed only 2 hits and one run.  That run coming from a home run off the bat of the reigning home run champ.  The other hit was a double from Adam Lind.

Colby Rasmus was great in centre field which was very good to see.  I have not been shy about how I felt about the Rasmus deal when it was completed and after the end of the year last season.  Some of my concerns with Rasmus was that when he got here he didn't seem to want to hustle.  His sense of indifference to the game he played and some comments he made were also unsettling.  I said earlier this year that I would be happy to deal him back to St. Louis for Rzepczynski straight up and this was my stance until two weeks ago when I saw him at spring training.  He wasn't hitting, but he was hustling.  He played centre field very well and his only hit in the two spring games we saw was an infield hit to short that he ran out and beat the throw at first base.  That is something we never would have seen out of him last year.  After Thursday's game of solid defense and a fantastic diving backhand catch.  He has almost made a believer out of me.

Toronto's Bullpen was brilliant.  I have said many times that I love the bullpen Toronto has this year and we got our first look on opening day.  Romero exited after five and the seven bullpen pitchers combined for eleven innings of shut out baseball.  I would be comfortable with a relief staff that included Frasor and Janssen as the seventh and eight inning guys.  The fact that the Jays have these arms available to them at the front end of the pen is fantastic.  I know it is only one game, but I really believe that this is the type of performance we can expect out of this bullpen moving forward.

In the ninth, Edwin Encarnacion hit a double that my friend and I were convinced was gone.  So was Edwin.  However the wind kept the ball in the park and it bounced off of the wall scoring two and tying the game.  Then, seven innings of great pitching later, JP Arencibia got his home run count for 2012 started.  After missing a sign and attempting to bunt, Arencibia smacked a 1-2 pitch over the left field wall to put Toronto up 7 - 4.  Following a slight mix up on the part of Luis Perez, Santos came in and retired the final two Cleveland hitters to seal the victory for the Blue Jays.

Game two is Saturday afternoon in Cleveland.  Brandon Morrow gets the start for Toronto after a strong spring.  I think Morrow is going to have a very good season.  Let's hope Saturday gets it started for him.  After all, we are tied for first place.