The Jays (72-68) could not build on a strong 2-0 start to the four-game series against Texas, dropping the final two games thanks to a power outage that saw the club score 15 runs on Monday and Tuesday but manage just three runs over the Wednesday and Thursday losses.
Derek Holland’s dominance of Jays bats on Wednesday (5.0 innings, no runs, three hits, eight strikeouts) highlighted an all-too-common trend with the team this season that Alex Anthopoulos should look to amend in the off-season. To say the Blue Jays have struggled against left-handed pitching this year would be an understatement. The team’s batting average is 43 points higher against right-handed hurlers (.258) than lefties (.213) to go along with a jarring home run discrepancy (184 vs. righties, compared to 34 against left-handers). The home run totals can be partially explained by the team’s more frequent facing of right-handers as opposed to left-handers, but the batting average numbers point to an unbalanced offensive attack that lacks a dangerous left bat. Among the team’s left-handed regulars, Adam Lind may fill that role, while Fred Lewis is a nice but hardly dangerous hitter and Lyle Overbay will likely fly the coop as a free agent this winter.
It won’t be easy, but it’s possible
So here we are, with 22 games remaining on the 2010 slate for the Blue Jays and really nothing to play for beyond the spoiler role. But for those still looking for meaning at the tail end of an encouraging but largely meaningless season, look no further than the team home run record that remains on the horizon. The Jays are sitting at an MLB-high 218 home runs on the season and riding an 11-game homer streak. They’ll need that streak to continue, with 26 long balls still between them and the 2004 club record of 244. It won’t be an easy mark to catch, but could inject some interest into the remainder of the schedule and offer further incentive to get behind Jose Bautista in his push towards 50 homers (he has 44 currently). It hasn’t, however, done much to put butts in seats, as the team fell below 11,000 fans for all but one game of the four-game Texas set.
For Vernon Wells, the salary will always outweigh the contributions in the minds of most. After all, how would one go about justifying the seven-year, $126 million deal that Wells signed in 2006? A .270 average with 27 home runs and 77 RBI won’t do it, but those numbers are enough to make Wells a key contributor on the club he will be with for at least four more seasons. There’s nothing that Anthopoulos can do about the mega-deal that will pay the centerfielder $23 million next year and $21 million in each of the three years after that, but take away the contract and you find yourself with a perfectly serviceable, veteran hitter. It certainly doesn’t hurt when said hitter can produce five hits, five RBI, three home runs and four runs scored, as he did in the first two games of the Rangers’ series.
The All-Tommy John team?
It seems that Anthopoulos has the market cornered on pitchers who have had Tommy John surgery. Already with Shaun Marcum and Jesse Litsch in tow, the team brought up Georgetown, ON native and two-time Tommy John surgery recipient Shawn Hill to make his first start since April 25 of last year and picked up Taylor Buchholz, who has also been sliced and diced TJ-style, off waivers from Colorado. The Tommy John element is more a common thread than a cause for concern, as both men seem healthy and ready to contribute. Hill had a decent outing in a losing effort against Texas (three earned runs over 5.1 innings) and will be afforded the opportunity to get his rhythm back over the remainder of the season. Buchholz, meanwhile, has only had 10.0 innings of work this year, but boasts strong command and could be an asset next season to a relief corps that will likely be without free agents Kevin Gregg, Scott Downs and Jason Frasor.
Tampa’s back in town for a three-game weekend set that will see the Jays look to play spoilers. Brett Cecil goes to the mound tonight seeking his 13th win against James Shields and the Rays.
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Written by Ben Fisher