It wasn’t easy, but the Blue Jays (66-60) managed to secure a 2-1 series victory over the Yankees – one 3-2 contest and one closer-than-the-score-indicates 6-3 game. Sluggers Jose Bautista and Vernon Wells each had a chance to shine, Brandon Morrow and Brett Cecil enjoyed solid outings and Marc Rzepczynski showed he still has some work to do.
The Jays’ new Mr. Clutch?
Few followers of the Jays have been actively seeking the club’s next big-game pitcher for the simple reason that they just aren’t involved in many big games. However, in a season in which Toronto won’t contend for a play-off spot, Cecil has been showing a penchant for rising to the occasion. The 24-year old secured his 11th win of the season in Wednesday’s finale after holding the Yankees to two runs over eight innings of work. On the year, Cecil owns a 7-1 record and a sparkling 2.14 ERA against AL East division rivals, suggesting that he could step in as the big-game hurler the team needs.
Changing on the offensive guard
Among the many questions for the new Jays manager to figure out in time for the 2011 season is just who are the team’s middle-of-the-order hitters. Spots that, at one time, seemed comfortably in the hands of Adam Lind and Aaron Hill are now in flux as the two have struggled while Bautista and Wells have enjoyed breakout and comeback seasons, respectively. The contrasting directions that the two pairs of players are heading in were on display against New York, as Bautista had his sixth multi-homer game of the season on Monday and Wells had a four-RBI outing on Wednesday, the same day that Hill was bumped to the No. 8 spot in the batting order. While the struggles of Lind and Hill, who recently signed long-term deals with the club, is cause for concern, Bautista’s home run power and Wells’ bounce back season have been welcome surprises.
It doesn’t seem to have taken long for opposing teams to figure out the 24-year old Rzepczynski. Just two starts after befuddling Angels’ hitters to the tune of just two hits allowed over seven innings, the left-hander imploded on Tuesday, surrendering six earned runs and eight hits over three innings. Perhaps more concerning was his tendency to leave pitches high in the strike zone, which opened the door for three of New York’s five home runs en route to an 11-6 win. Rzepczynski is next scheduled to pitch on August 29, which is notable not only for being his 25th birthday but also as a start which could go a long way to determining his status with the club moving forward.
Gaston explains Snider’s lead-off role
Seeing Travis Snider’s name at the top of the line-up regularly over the past month has perplexed some Jays observers, who note that the outfielder is neither particularly fleet of foot (four career steals in seven attempts) nor a consistent on-base threat (an uninspiring 310 on-base percentage this season). However, as Cito Gaston explained on Monday, the placement of Snider has more to do with the rest of the line-up than the lead-off spot. Given that Snider typically occupies regular lead-off man Fred Lewis’ left field spot when he plays, Gaston has elected to swap out the two men without disrupting the rest of the order.
The home stand continues, as the Tigers hit Rogers Centre for a four-game set. Red-hot Max Scherzer takes to the hill on Thursday for Detroit against Jays ace Ricky Romero.
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Written by Ben Fisher