Currently 10.0 games out of the division lead and nine games off the wild card pace, the Blue Jays (62-55) are, as expected, playing out the string. But they are doing so with a team pride and optimism surrounding what appears to be a bright future. During a three-game weekend set in Anaheim against the Angels, the Jays appeared to be the better team in earning a 2-1 series win. In doing so, they broke a string of nine straight series losses in visits to Anaheim, dating back to 2005.
Romero signs, then wins
It was an eventful return home for Jays ace Ricky Romero. The Los Angeles native celebrated a new five-year, $30.1 million contract (with $100,000 being donated to the Jays Care Foundation) by allowing one run and six hits over seven innings to earn his 10th victory of the year on Sunday. The contract seems a little steep (by comparison, Boston’s Jon Lester, who is the same age as Romero, got an identical contract in March, having won 22 more games over his career and having made six postseason starts), but is necessary in solidifying one of the young, core players around whom the team is being built.
Rzepczynski’s job to lose?
The No. 5 starter job for the Jays has been a revolving door that may now be coming to a close, after Marc Rzepczynski returned to the rotation with seven scoreless innings of two-hit ball in Friday’s 3-0 win. With Brad Mills back at Triple A Las Vegas, Cito Gaston talking about a six-man rotation and the rosters set to expand come September, Rzepczynski could be primed for a long look over the final stretch of the 2010 season. More outings like Friday night will keep him here for good.
Home run or bust
I haven’t had a good ‘this team needs to get on base more’ argument in a while, so here it goes. Toronto’s one-dimensional offence reared its ugly head again against the Angels, as the home runs weren’t coming (only two in the three-game set) so the offensive output stalled (nine runs and 20 hits). Strong pitching ensured a series win, but doesn’t change the fact that the Jays rank 26th in on-base percentage despite holding the major league home run lead by a wide margin (currently have 20 more homers than No. 2 Boston). For all of his early success, it’s curious that Alex Anthopoulos, a disciple of J.P. Ricciardi who, in turn, was under the tutelage of Billy Beane, has not placed greater emphasis on players who can get on base. One statistical aside: Jose Bautista went homer-less in the three-game set, bring to an end his franchise-best streak of homering in 11 consecutive series.
It wasn’t a great weekend for apparent closer-in-waiting David Purcey. The newly-minted reliever was placed on the 15-day disabled list – retroactive to August 12 – with a right foot injury, slowing down his progress in asserting himself as a bullpen mainstay. Jesse Carlson will see his first opportunity with the Jays this season in place of Purcey. Conversely, current closer Kevin Gregg proved that he can thrive in the role, nailing down an efficient pair of saves (his 26th and 27th of the season) against his former team while striking out four Angels over two innings. Since his mid-July meltdowns against Baltimore and Kansas City, Gregg has allowed just one run in nine innings of work while striking out 10 and recording six saves.
The West Coast swing continues for the Jays, as they head to Oakland, with Shaun Marcum and Brett Anderson on the hill tonight. Meanwhile, Anthopoulos will be in another kind of battle, as he faces a midnight deadline to sign 2010 first round pick Deck McGuire.
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Written by Ben Fisher