Losers of seven of their past eight heading into the series, the Blue Jays (43-43) gained a nice confidence boost by taking two of three games from the Twins at Rogers Centre. After a 7-6 loss on Tuesday that seemed to signal a prolonging of the team’s woes, the Jays picked up a quirky 6-5 win and then clinched the series by cruising to an 8-1 victory yesterday.
Well, at least they still have the homer thing
It’s probably a cold comfort to a team fading from the pack in the AL East standings, but the Jays still find their name atop the MLB home run hitters. Toronto belted another 10 (yes, 10) long balls against the Twins, including an inside-the-park shot from league leader Jose Bautista, whose 23 home runs through 85 games give him seven more than any other season total in his 11-year career. Other eye-popping stats on the team’s homer-happy ways: they have 18 more home runs than the nearest competitor; they have eight hitters already boasting double digit home run totals; despite ranking first in long balls, they currently sit 28th in on-base percentage.
Rcepczynski raises eyebrows by being… adequate
It’s a fairly damning assessment of Jesse Litsch’s performance since returning from Tommy John surgery that Marc Rcepczynski can get fifth starter consideration after one mediocre start. Observers have already suggested that the 24-year old, who made his season debut on Wednesday, may be poised to supplant Litsch as the No. 5 guy in the rotation once Shaun Marcum returns from injury. And just what was his line on Wednesday? Four earned runs and eight hits over 5.2 innings of work, hardly a sparkling outing but still an improvement over Litsch’s numbers – 0-3 with a 7.30 ERA in five starts – to date.
Coming through in the clutch
Wednesday’s win was notable for several reasons – Rcepczynski’s start, Bautista’s inside-the-park home run, Vernon Wells’ game-winning double to break an 0-for-21 slump – but also for one overshadowed rarity: a Toronto win in a one-run game. As the Jays have taken a nosedive of late, so too has the team’s ability to win close games. Prior to Wednesday, the Blue Jays owned a 10-17 record in one-run games this season and had lost their last five (including Tuesday’s 7-6 decision). Perhaps this can be attributed to opposing pitchers adjusting to the team’s aggressive, swing-free approach or because the squad had grown too reliant on the long ball. But strong situational hitting can turn a team’s momentum in a hurry, which is hopefully what happened here.
Cecil’s start – a tease, or the real deal?
Lost amidst the Jays’ five-homer barrage in Thursday’s finale (all solo shots, of course) was an excellent outing from Brett Cecil, his second in a row following a string of shaky outings. Cecil appeared composed and comfortable in scattering one earned run and four hits over seven innings of work. We know that the 24-year old lefty has the tools to be a frontline starter, but we don’t know if the consistency is there yet. Sure, Cecil is undoubtedly a part of the team’s long-term plans no matter what, but if he can harness his talent so as to perform like that consistently, he could be special and the Jays’ rotation could be dangerous.
It could be a home run brigade at Rogers Centre this weekend, as the Boston Red Sox, the majors’ second-most frequent long ball hitters, come to town. Ricky Romero gets the call in the opener against Jon Lester, as the Jays look to narrow the gap in the AL East.
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Written by Ben Fisher