Rays 8, Jays 5: Smashed Windshield

Thursday, April 07 2005 @ 08:55 AM EDT

Contributed by: Jordan

Remember the old joke about the New Orleans Saints fan who was so disgusted with his team's play that he left two tickets on the dashboard of his car, hoping they'd be stolen? He returned an hour later to find his windshield smashed and four more Saints tickets lying there.

Well, it was a smashed-windshield sort of game yesterday afternoon in Tampa. If there was one game to miss this year, this was it.

Every loss has its scapegoat, and this one comes with two of those animals already gift-wrapped: lefty reliever Scott Schoeneweis, who failed to retire any of the left-handers he was brought in to face, and manager John Gibbons, who brought the portsider in to pitch for a third consecutive day. Yesterday's Game Thread contained plenty of missiles lobbed at these two:

Rob: "Schoeneweis pitching three days in a row? I wouldn't do that. If Gibby is going to use his lefty for the L-L matchup every night, the Jays need another one on the roster. And right on cue, Crawford tripled."

robertdudek: "Again, Gibbons is slow to get his relievers ready, so Schoeneweis has to face Huff."

But you know, blame is like peanut butter -- it's great fun to spread around. In that spirit, here are two other candidates for the goat horns today.

To begin with, in all the rush to torpedo the SS Loogy for his ineffectiveness, it should be noted that Justin Speier was responsible for the tying, go-ahead, go-further-ahead, and put-the-game-out-of-easy reach runs crossing the plate. After retiring Nick Green, Speier allowed an RBI single to Chris Singleton and a three-run dinger to Jorge Cantu, who's going to top a lot of most-added lists in fantasy baseball leagues today. So don't forget to raise Speier during the blamestorming session, and be sure to save some love for the Jays' young right fielder:

Elijah: "Rios made a poor decision to throw to third. It was not even that great of a throw and by the time the throw got to Koskie, Crawford was halfway between third and home. May not have made a difference but Alex still needs to grow more into the RF position. It'll still take some time."

BC Mike: "Not sure I like that squeeze call, especially since it appears Rios missed it. The third base coach and the batter need to make sure that the runner at third is at least watching the signs."

Every team talks about getting "the fundamentals" right, by which they mean, doing the bare minimum expected of big-league ballplayers: hitting the cutoff man, throwing to the right base, watching the coaches, knowing how many outs there are, etc. Alex Rios had himself a bad day on the fundamentals side of the ledger. He missed the cutoff man on the Crawford inside-the-parker and threw to the wrong base, dropped a flyball in the 7th to load the bases, and misread the drag bunt by Adams early in the match. Making one mistake in a game isn't serious, but making several, each showing a lack of judgment or attention, is a good way to get lectured about having your head in every game, including the April matinees in Tampa.

Elijah: "I'm glad that Gibbons tried to get to the bottom of the 9th by putting in Cat and worrying about defense later."

Yes, and this is a point worth making. When he pinch-hit Frank Catalanotto, Gibbons had no shortstops left on his bench. Nada. Not even the ghost of Manny Lee. But who cares? Get the tying run across the plate, and then worry later about how ugly the infield defence would look in a hypothetical bottom of the 9th. And really, you'd be in more trouble if you couldn't field a third baseman: the opposition would just keep dropping bunts down the line, and a team like the Rays, with speed to burn, could kill you that way.

So, altogether, not one for the highlight reels yesterday. But it seems like every team has one of these games in April, where everyone seems to have a collective sort of brain- and energy-fade. A midweek afternoon game in early April in a Florida dome on getaway day, with a home opener against the World Series champions next on the schedule, is a textbook example. That the Jays came as close to sweeping this series as they did is nonetheless an excellent sign (as was Josh Towers' solid starting performance), and sends a message from Toronto to Tampa: don't get your mail redirected from last place quite yet.

Some highlights from the wires:

Gabe Gross likely headed back to Syracuse -- it really is the best thing for him: he needs to play every day. Gross made it into the Opening Day lineup in the major leagues, and that should both please and further motivate him when he does go down. He won't be there long.

A bad start for star closers -- Mariano Rivera blew his second save in as many days against Boston, while Eric Gagne performed the rare feat of getting ejected from a ballgame while on the disabled list. So Schoeneweis and Speier shouldn't feel too bad.

Mariners release Ryan Anderson -- remember the Little Unit? A never-ending wave of injuries and surgeries ruined one of the most promising pitching prospects of all time. Dustin McGowan and Francisco Rosario are other abject lessons for Jays fans of the rule: never invest too much hope in a pitching prospect, because they're simply not reliable.

No choice? A detailed and sensitive report from Mike Ulmer on the life and tragic death of Doug Ault.