"Not the box factory again, Seymour."
Game Of The Week returns with the June 11th game against the White Sox in Chicago. This game featured the Blue Jays debut of onetime New York sinkerballer Chien-Ming Wang, opposed by Chicago lefthander Jose Quintana.
The scoring began in the second inning with Toronto up to bat. Mark DeRosa reached on an error by the shortstop Alexi Ramirez and moved up to third base on an Adam Lind double. This brought up J.P. Arencibia with one out and two runners in scoring position. Quintana unleashed a pitch that White Sox catcher Tyler Flowers should've handled but didn't, scoring DeRosa and putting the Blue Jays in flight. After an Arencibia strikeout, Maicer Izturis hit a deep single to score Lind and extend the lead. 2-0 Toronto.
In the bottom of the second inning a big swing from Adam Dunn connected squarely on a ball and usually when that happens the baseball goes a long way. This one sailed well over the centrefield wall for a solo home run. 2-1 Toronto.
The bottom of the fourth began just as I finished work that evening. We had a television with the game on so I decided to watch an inning there before dashing home to catch the rest of the game. With one out Alex Rios singled, stole second and advanced to third on a flyball to right field. Adam Dunn walked (do two things really, really well I suppose) and Dayan Viciedo singled in Rios, tying the game at 2-2. That brought up Chicago third baseman Connor Gillaspie who turned his bat on an 1-1 Wang sinker up and inside (it doesn't sink much up there), poking it over the rightfield wall for a three run shot. 5-2 Chicago. In my ten minutes free from work I'd witnessed the Blue Jays go from a one run lead to a three run deficet. I cursed "Man this team sucks" under my breath and went on my way home.
I missed the next few innings but to summarize: Melky Cabrera doubled in the top of the fifth inning and later scored on an Encarnacion home run. 5-4 Chicago. Then both teams got some hits and some runners on but there were some pitcher strikeouts and ground balls hit to fielders and slow jogs down the first base line oh and a lot of people in baseball uniforms ran on and off the field. Yep. To the top of the eighth!
Still trailing 5-4, the Blue Jays opened against White Sox reliever Matt Thornton with Rajai Davis, who singled into right field. Adam Lind stayed in the game to face the lefty Thornton and thousands of Blue Jays fans everywhere screamed for manager John Gibbons and his head. Fortunately Adam Lind is invincible to right-handed, left handed and three handed pitchers these days, as he smoked another line drive into left field. Runners at first and second, nobody out. A prime spot for Toronto to tie the game or even take the lead for J.P. Arencibia.
On the first pitch from Thornton, Rajai Davis took off for second base and so surprised the defence that there was no throw from the catcher, nor did Davis even bother to slide. It was if he was taking a jog down his neighbourhood street to get ninety feet away from tying the game, still with nobody out.
Then it was Arencibia Time. I believe it was a 2-0 count when Arencibia swung and missed a breaking ball in the dirt. No big deal. Then on 2-1 (I think) Arencibia swung and missed the exact same pitch. Again, no big deal. On 3-1 you're probably looking for a fastball and Thornton's probably looked like it was coming right into J.P's sweet spot before dropping into the dirt. After a high fastball that missed it was a 3-2 count and as a hitter you've got to think. You've got to be aware that the only pitch the guy on the mound has fooled you with is that breaking ball in the dirt, and on 3-2 a pitcher is extremely likely to go back to the only pitch that has worked against you in the at-bat. Makes sense, right? It sure didn't make sense to Arencibia, though. Thornton threw that same pitch in the exact same spot on 3-2, and J.P chased it again and swung just as it bounced in front of home plate. One unproductive out deserves two more, of course. On the very next pitch from Thornton, Maicer Izturis hit a ground ball to the shortstop.and the inning was over. There are certain kinds of frustration that words cannot do any justice.
An uneventful bottom of the eight followed two uneventful outs in the bottom of the ninth, summoning Jose Bautista to the plate for Toronto against Chicago slinger Addison Reed. Reed got ahead of Bautista quickly 0-2, and I was already planning a late night dinner and writing this game off. Reed then threw a nasty slider on the outside corner that maybe missed the plate by an inch, maybe, and Bautista was still alive.
The next pitch was in on Jose's hands, a bad move by Reed who clearly missed his location. Bautista got in front of it and sent a laser beam fast into the dark Chicago night. The left fielder drifted back, teasing the home crowd that he had a chance to catch it, but it was twenty feet over his head and landed in the second row of the seats. 5-5.
Toronto could not muster anything else so to the bottom of the ninth we went and enter Brett Cecil. Wow. Exit Brett Cecil and welcome extra innings. Once again Rajai Davis led off an inning with a single, this time against recent White Sox callup Ramon Troncosco. Davis then swiped second base and advanced to third on a deep fly ball from Lind, bringing up Arencibia in a familiar situation. Luckily, the first pitch from Troncosco slipped under the glove of catcher Tyler Flowers and skipped a dozen feet behind home plate, scoring Davis and giving Toronto a 6-5 lead. Arencibia then hit a ball into right field, naturally.
With two out Maicer Izturis singled up the middle. Munenori Kawasaki then poked a ball into the left field corner that bounced up against the wall. Chicago left-fielder Alejandro De Aza got to the ball quickly and made a perfect throw to the infield cut-off man just as Izturis was rounding third. Luis Rivera for some bizarre reason waved Izturis in, and the throw to the catcher Flowers was right on target and beat Maicer by ten feet. Flowers twisted himself left to tag Izturis, but the collision between them knocked the baseball loose from Flowers' glove. Maicer scrambled to touch the plate and was safe. 7-5 Toronto.
I was now watching the game online and thought it'd be funny to listen to the White Sox commentary as Casey Janssen entered the game for the save. Janssen struck out the leadoff man De Aza looking on a beautiful outside fastball, which prompted Hawk Harrelson to mutter loudly "Annnnd the umpire blows that call. One out." I found it amusing, and it was definitely a strike. Janssen then struck out Alexi Ramirez swinging (no "blown call" there) but gave up a two out single to Rios. Konerko walked and suddenly the winning run was at the plate in Adam Dunn. It was a superb battle, with Dunn fouling off one Janssen cutter after another. On the seventh pitch, Dunn knocked a ball to Izturis at third base, who smoothly flung it over to first base to end the game. FINAL: Toronto 7, Chicago 5.
Reyes Early Return
I heard Buck Martinez say the other day that he wouldn't be surprised to see Jose Reyes back in the Blue Jays lineup this weekend. While this is Uncle Buck talking, this organization has foolishly rushed players back from injuries before so you never know. It's great to see that Reyes is healing quickly but lets not get ahead of ourselves. Let him play a tasty platter of minor league games, make sure his ankle feels great and then we can enjoy his return to Toronto.
He's clearly lost a few mph on his fastball from his heyday with the Yankees. Whatever, so far so good. As long as he locates that sinker in good spots low in the strikezone he is going to be a worm's worst nightmare. It seems to me that his arm angle is a little lower than it was before.
Now as a starter pitching from the full windup, Rogers does something very similar to what Felix Hernandez and Johnny Cueto do. As he brings his left leg up, he turns it back into his hips, twisting his upper body back as a sort of torso-recoil before delivering a pitch. Brandon Morrow does a version of this also. I wonder if this technique is new to Esmil or if he's always been doing it (some old video of his Colorado days might answer that) but it sure seems to be working so far. What's most impressive is that it looks like he's actually throwing harder as a starter, and yet throwing even more strikes. I'm sold.
Statline To Chew On
I've been giving J.P. Arencibia a hard time lately and while some (much) of that might be deserved, we've all guilty of forgetting there is a perfectly valid reason for his presence in the starting lineup: he's got a big power bat against left-handed pitchers and--
2013 -- .237/.250/.356 (59 AB)
Okay yeah, I'm cherry picking here and to be honest, those numbers were a lot worse a few days ago. Fifty-nine at-bats is not a fair sample at all. I'm not convinced he's an everyday starting catcher on a big league team but he's still a very useful player to have around. He runs well for a catcher, he can hit a home run for you, and he makes the team tens of thousands of dollars a season on ticket sales from teenage girls. What actually concerns me about J.P though is this:
.217/.269/.385 (538 AB)
Those are his career road numbers. His OPS is 96 points lower away from the Dome.
Division of the Lousy -- as of June 16th
Toronto Blue Jays 31-36 --
Seattle Mariners 31-38 1
Los Angeles Angels 30-38 1.5
Los Angeles Dodgers 29-38 2
Chicago White Sox 28-37 2.5