Nothing breaks up the dog days of August quite like a three-game sweep of the Tampa Bay Rays in which the Blue Jays (59-52) enjoy two of the most remarkable single-game performances in recent memory. After Saturday’s game, it felt like people would be talking about J.P. Arencibia’s stunning debut for a long time to come. But it only took one day for Brandon Morrow’s near no-no to bring all eyes back to another Jays player.
Overshadowed no more
He didn’t achieve the no-hitter (what is it with Toronto pitchers losing them in the ninth?) and didn’t match Roger Clemens’ club-record 18 strikeouts, but Morrow cemented his place in Jays’ lore with the second-best pitching performance in franchise history. It’s hard to suggest that his one-hit, 17 K effort was better than Dave Stieb’s no-hitter in 1990, but it was a commanding performance against a talented team (albeit one that seems to have a penchant for occasionally taking games off offensively) that didn’t fall short by much. So what does it mean for Morrow? It’s a nice feather in the cap of a player who has come a long way since joining the team this season and making the full-time conversion to starter, but he remains more of a pitch-to-contact hitter, so don’t expect him to make another run at Clemens’ strikeout record anytime soon.
Not bad for a rookie
It won’t always be that easy, but Arencibia’s debut was, nonetheless, worth celebrating. He wasn’t the only offensive star for the Jays in Saturday’s 17-11 outburst, but the club’s catcher of the future was the main story with four hits, two homers, three runs scored and 11 total bases. The memorable moments were plentiful, from the post-game pie-face and Gatorade shower to the Arencibia clan in the stands to Jose Bautista’s mock-unimpressed look after the rookie flied out to right during his fifth at-bat. The short-term meaning is minimal – when John Buck is cleared to play, Arencibia remains the odds-on favourite to be sent down. However, the 24-year old entrenched himself firmly in the consciousness of Blue Jays fans after just one game, and many will be waiting to see what he can do for an encore.
Litsch out, Mills in
Even with the three-game sweep and pair of historic performances, it wasn’t all good news in Toronto over the weekend. The team announced on Thursday night that Jesse Litsch had been shut down for the season in anticipation of hip surgery which is scheduled to take place this coming week. Litsch had looked out of sorts since returning from Tommy John surgery in June and had appeared unhappy over some recent hooks by Cito Gaston that he perceived to be premature. For Litsch, this latest setback further clouds the future of his pursuit of an increasingly-competitive rotation spot. For Brad Mills, meanwhile, Litsch’s surgery provides an opening to build on his sparkling July 28 outing against Baltimore. If he wants to keep the No. 5 spot, he’ll have to do better than a five-run, four-walk effort in four innings against Tampa on Saturday.
One week away
Even with the non-waiver trade deadline behind him, Alex Anthopoulos’ work is hardly done this season. One major loose end will be resolved – one way or another – in the next week, as the GM attempts to sign first round pick Deck McGuire before the August 16 deadline. Anthopoulos had emphatically denied early reports that McGuire was not happy as a Jays draftee, but this week offers him a chance to back up his words and get the Georgia Tech right-hander inked to a contract. If the team can’t sign him, it would represent the first significant knock against the Anthopoulos regime during what has been an impressive first season in power.
Excitement at Rogers Centre should continue to build as the Red Sox come to town for a three-game set. Arencibia will be back in the line-up in Tuesday night’s series opener against Daisuke Matsuzaka. Ricky Romero will pitch for the Jays.
About the Author
Written by Ben Fisher