There wasn’t a routine game to be had in the Blue Jays’ (31-24) three game series against the Tampa Bay Rays at Rogers Centre. Despite holding leads heading into the ninth inning of each game, the Jays only managed to take one of three against the Rays’ potent, clutch offence.
These guys are good
Go figure: when the Jays win, they are successfully overcoming all pre-season expectations and a lack of perceived talent but when they lose, the fault lies within them. Granted, it’s tough to swallow the late inning collapses experienced against the Rays, but can there be no allowance for an exceptionally talented team coming through with the game on the line? The Rays, quite simply, are good, and it’s no surprise when guys like Carl Crawford come through when it counts.
No need to panic about Gregg yet
The effects of a poor series from Jays closer Kevin Gregg were evident on Tuesday, when he was visibly angry and, ultimately, ejected after a heated confrontation with home plate ump Angel Hernandez. After narrowly avoiding disaster on Monday to earn his 14th save, Gregg suffered a meltdown that included four earned runs and five walks in a painful two-thirds of an inning in Tuesday’s loss. The reality is that Gregg is far from an elite closer, but he remains the best option that the team has and someone who, provided he can regain a measure of composure, could perform well enough to be a trade chip moving forward. Cito Gaston must have a longer leash for him than a pair of shaky outings.
And now, the response
Yep, the Jays lost the latter two games of the Rays series in heartbreaking fashion. And yes, they now have to regroup in a hurry as they welcome the Yankees to town. Whether they can do so will represent an intriguing test for the club early in what is widely perceived as a make-or-break month.
Well, at least the starters stepped up…
Overlooked through a three-game set that was more about the final inning than the first eight was the performance of Jays starters Brandon Morrow, Brian Tallet and Shaun Marcum. Collectively, the three allowed just five earned runs over 21.0 innings against the Rays’ potent bats, numbers which should have been enough to secure more than one win. Each individual performance made a unique impression in and of itself – Morrow carried a no-hitter into the sixth, Tallet returned to the rotation by throwing 5.2 innings of no-run, four-hit ball and Marcum continued to reign as one of just four pitchers with 12 starts and a sub-3.00 ERA.
It’s good that the Jays rotation has been as solid as it has to date, as the reinforcements look like they could be slow to arrive in light of the Dana Eveland trade to the Pirates. Namely, there had been hope that Jesse Litsch would return to form after last season’s Tommy John surgery. However, Litsch is not coming along as quickly as may have been hoped, with an 0-2 record and an ugly 8.83 ERA through three starts with the Las Vegas 51’s of the Pacific Coast League. Needless to say, Tallet’s spot in the rotation is safe for now.
For one weekend, the Jays can expect a temporary solution to their recent attendance woes: a visit from the New York Yankees. After a Jays off-day, the Bronx Bombers will send former Jay A.J. Burnett to the hill against Brett Cecil on Friday night. Looking further ahead, Alex Anthopoulos will be on the hot seat as he embarks upon his first draft as general manager on Monday.
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Written by Ben Fisher