The Blue Jays (63-57) were sitting pretty after Monday’s series opener, having won three of four games on their West Coast road swing and looking primed to head back east with a winning record on the trip. However, momentum took a swift downward turn and the Jays struggled through a defensive implosion on Tuesday followed by a futile comeback that ultimately led to a series-clinching walk-off win for the A’s on Wednesday.
Young arms under the microscope
Toronto relievers, take note: an increased scrutiny of the innings absorbed by the Jays’ young arms may very well mean more of a workload over the last month and a half of the season. Brian Tallet and Jason Frasor are already aware of this, having found themselves in the middle innings of games against Oakland in place of Brandon Morrow and Marc Rzepczynski, respectively. Tallet worked two innings of Tuesday’s 6-2 loss after an ineffective Morrow had given up two earned runs, four hits and three walks over for innings while, most importantly, throwing 80 pitches. Rzepczynski was pulled in favour of Frasor after 4.1 innings of work in which he allowed three runs on five hits with five walks over 74 pitches. Both young men could rebound from their poor starts (Morrow, especially, can be forgiven after throwing 138 pitches during his one-hitter and then having a nine-day lay-off), but it could also be a sign of two players nearing their limit for the season. The team will be watching.
What could be better for the Jays than a Shaun Marcum one-hitter in a 3-1 win? How about the down-to-the-wire negotiations by Alex Anthopoulos and his staff that resulted in the $2 million signing of 2010 first-round pick (11th over-all) Deck McGuire. Sometime around the fifth inning, or approximately when Edwin Encarnacion was hitting a two-run home run as Marcum still had a no-hitter intact, McGuire signed his deal at 11:59 pm ET to solidify Anthopoulos’ debut draft effort and further strengthen the team’s farm system. Marcum’s outing marked the second one-hitter by a Blue Jay in eight days, following Morrow’s commanding performance against Tampa Bay.
It was only a matter of time before teams started catching on to Jose Bautista’s transformation into a suddenly-dangerous hitter, a recognition that may have helped A’s pitchers keep the major league’s home run leader at bay for much of the series. True, Bautista had both his 37th home run and 90th RBI in the three-game set, but those were rare highlights in a series that also saw him go 1-for-10 with six strikeouts. Oakland hurlers were able to get to the right fielder / third baseman with a slew of off-speed, breaking pitches and enticed him into his share of big, swing-for-the-fences cuts. In what would be a reversal of the team’s hitting approach to date, Bautista may be well served to remain patient, take some pitches and force opponents to walk him or throw him something good.
An option to exercise
Jose Molina had a four-hit day in Monday’s win, but that isn’t why I see him sticking with the club beyond this season. In a year that has seen Toronto enjoy surprising contributions from bargain bin free agent pick-ups (namely, John Buck, Alex Gonzalez and Kevin Gregg), Molina has successfully handled a young rotation from the backstop (specifically Morrow) and offered solid defence. Unlike Buck, he won’t offer a great deal of offence or catch on any All-Star teams. But he can be retained easily thanks to his affordable $1 million team option (compared to Buck, who will likely merit a nice pay raise after a strong season) and can provide much-needed stability backing up J.P. Arencibia, who has already shown that growing pains are inevitable.
Following an off-day, the Jays will visit the Red Sox, a team that has absolutely owned them thus far this year (Jays are 3-9 against Boston on the season). Buck is expected to return for Friday’s opener, when Brett Cecil takes to the mound against Cy Young candidate Jon Lester.
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Written by Ben Fisher