Game 64: No Excuses For Escobar

Sunday, June 08 2003 @ 12:24 PM EDT

Contributed by: Coach

The Jays try to shake off last night's disappointment this afternoon, while the Reds will be fired up from their latest miraculous comeback. Cincinnati starter Jimmy Haynes isn't quite as bad as his 0-4, 9.42 suggests -- since returning from the DL May 27, he's got two no-decisions, allowing two runs in five innings at Atlanta, and holding the Yankees to three runs in six innings at the Smallpark. Still, you have to expect the Toronto bats to do some damage, as usual. Cat, Delgado and Myers have all had success against Haynes in the past.

Kelvim Escobar was superb through four innings in his last start, allowing a fluke infield single and no walks while striking out five. Then, in the fifth, he started shaking his right hand while pacing nervously around the mound between pitches, and (not being very patient with Kelvim) I thought, "oh, boy, here we go again." Sure enough, he coughed up the 2-run lead his mates had given him against Card's ace Matt Morris, and he was gone after six, taking the loss. What I didn't know is that Escobar's hand wasn't numb because of the (possibly psychosomatic) nerve problem that bothered him in his last stint in the rotation. After the game, he explained -- when batting in the top of the fifth, he got jammed fouling off a Morris fastball, and it really stung.

Like other Jays this season, notably Walker and Hinske, Kelvim didn't admit the extent of the pain and gamely, but foolishly, tried to pitch through it. Today against a potent Reds attack, he has little margin for error. How he handles Dunn, Casey and Griffey in the first inning could set the tone for the whole game. The Toronto bullpen is shaky and overworked, so the team is counting on Escobar to go seven innings, and he won't be on a pitch count. If he rises to the occasion and pitches anything like he did in those first four frames last week, our boys should return home 2-4 for the ludicrous NL road trip and a very respectable four games over .500 for the season, with winnable series on deck against the Pirates and the (probably Sosa-less) Cubbies. If the prospect of seeing Sammy twice caused you to already shell out $200 per head for the SkyDome sleepover next weekend, my sympathy.