Thank goodness for the Baltimore Orioles. The Blue Jays (47-45) continued their mastery over beleaguered Baltimore to the tune of a three-game series sweep at Camden Yards, moving back above .500 and gaining momentum as they encounter a favourable portion of the schedule.
The woeful O’s
One of my first Jays articles brazenly predicted that the Blue Birds would be a 100-loss team, thanks both to their own deficiencies and the marked improvement of Baltimore. Boy, was I wrong. Not that Toronto is setting the league on fire with a 47-45 record, but they need just 16 more wins to avoid the 100-loss total I predicted. With regards to the Orioles, they seem well on their way to 100 losses (currently 29-62) thanks to a lack of production from members of their young core (namely Adam Jones, Matt Wieters and Brian Matusz), unimpressive veterans and the loss of clubhouse leader Brian Roberts to abdominal issues early in the year. Really, they just weren’t all that good to begin with. As a result, the Jays are now 9-0 against their fellow birds on the season and have won 16 of the last 17 meetings.
Encouraging signs early
So goes the logic in a quirky, unpredictable sport that when a shortstop with no home runs debuts with a homer-happy ball club, naturally that player goes on to hit the team’s first grand slam of the season within his first series. The second inning slam in Sunday’s 10-1 win was the highlight to Yunel Escobar’s first three games with the Jays, but the entire weekend offered an encouraging look at the new shortstop. Friday’s 4-2 victory brought a bunt single and a pair of eye-catching defensive plays, while Saturday’s 3-2 win saw him collect two hits and score a run. Another promising sign from the trade: Jo-Jo Reyes pitched eight innings of scoreless, one-hit ball at Double-A New Hampshire on Friday night.
Cito Gaston has found a creative – albeit, temporary – solution to the nice problem created by Shaun Marcum’s return from the disabled list. Marcum had a solid if imperfect outing on Sunday, holding Baltimore to just one run over five innings but also allowing nine hits. In preparing for his return, the team designated Nick Green for assignment, a surprising move given that it left the Jays in the rare position of having more pitchers (13) than position players (12). As such, the club will move forward with a six-man rotation including both Jesse Litsch and Marc Rcepczynski. The move allows frontline starters Ricky Romero and Marcum to pitch against the Detroit Tigers instead of the weaker Kansas City Royals, but also puts Rcepczynski in the position of battling Royals ace Zack Greinke on Wednesday.
As a big league closer, you need to embrace the pressure of pitching with the game on the line, something which Kevin Gregg does. But there is a fine line between embracing that pressure and acknowledging when you simply don’t have it, as Gregg did on Saturday. Having walked three batters to load the bases with two outs in the bottom of the ninth in a one-run game, the Jays reliever wanted to get his team out of the self-created mess, something which Gaston did not allow him to do. Gregg was understandably upset, but chose to project that anger towards his manager instead of internally, as he shouted back while walking off the mound. He, simply, has not been good enough this season, nor was he good enough on Saturday, to question Gaston’s decision.
The Jays have an opportunity to extend their winning ways in the second half as they face another struggling club in the Royals. Brett Cecil gets the call in the opener at Kaufman Stadium against Kyle Davies.
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Written by Ben Fisher