The Blue Jays (10-9) got their first real taste of the uphill battle that is the AL East this season (as if that’s different from any other year!) as they dropped two of three games against the Tampa Bay Rays. A great effort in Friday night’s 6-5 win gave way to a pair of bullpen failures in weekend losses.
- The Jays’ bullpen is taking the ‘relief’ out of ‘relief corps. Over 5.1 innings during the series, they allowed 12 earned runs for a 20.25 ERA. On Saturday, Scott Downs and Casey Janssen combined to manage just one out between them while allowing seven earned runs to negate a stellar start by Ricky Romero. Meanwhile, Sunday marked Jason Frasor’s turn, as he allowed four earned runs over just two-thirds of an inning. The blown opportunities are disappointing, but perhaps the greatest damage is being done to the trade value of Downs and Frasor.
- Another disappointing element of the pen’s weekend performance was how it ruined a strong trio of starting performances. Brett Cecil, Ricky Romero and Brandon Morrow combined for a 2.40 ERA (19.2 innings / eight earned runs) over the three-game set. On a related note, how does Romero (1.80 ERA and 30 innings pitched) have just one win through four starts?
- The pressure’s on for Blue Jay hitters to produce (well, as much pressure as there can be on a non-contending team with woeful attendance). It is a perfect storm for Toronto’s offence whereby inexperienced starters, poor relief performances and a string a solid opposing pitchers have combined to put the heat on the line-up. Coming off a series in which they faced Matt Garza and David Price, they will see Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, Justin Duchscherer and Brett Anderson within the next week. As such, it doesn’t bode well that the team has only produced three runs and 12 hits over their last 21 innings.
- Alex Gonzalez deserves better than the No. 6 spot. When Aaron Hill returned from the disabled list on Friday, it was a given that he’d ultimately retain his No. 2 slot in the line-up. However, his return led to Gonzalez’s surprising plummet down to No. 6 in the order, behind the struggling Lyle Overbay. It’s time for performance to overcome loyalty for Cito Gaston, and for Overbay to be dropped down into the bottom third of the order in favour of Gonzalez.
- Jose Molina did everything he could to keep the Jays afloat in the series finale. Against the speedy, aggressive Rays, Molina threw out four runners attempting to steal second… within the first four innings. How rare is such an achievement? It marked a Jays’ franchise record and was the first time any catcher had thrown out four runners in a game since Charles Johnson of the Marlins turned the trick in 2002. Oh yeah, he also had one of the team’s four hits in the game.
The Jays return home to host the Boston Red Sox (8-11), a team that may already be entering desperation mode as they sit fourth in the AL East and already six games back of the rival, division-leading Yankees. In the opener, Beckett gets the call for the Bosox against Dana Eveland.
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