The weekend at Fenway Park kept getting progressively worse for the Blue Jays (7-9), who started off with a promising 7-6 win on Friday night, only to be outscored 21-3 over the rest of the four-game series. Each of Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and Daisuke Matsuzaka shut down Toronto for Boston’s first win streak of the season.
A Closer Look
Concerns over Starting Pitching Depth: After the Seattle series, the focus was on the struggles of the relief corps (more bullpen talk, specifically about the David Purcey trade, to come later). But this weekend pointed to issues with the bottom portion of the starting rotation. Sure, Ricky Romero found himself responsible for five earned Red Sox runs in just 4.1 innings, but there is more reason to believe that he will rebound than, say, Jo-Jo Reyes or Jesse Litsch. Reyes lasted just three innings in Saturday’s control-less debacle in which he allowed four earned runs, seven hits, five walks, a hit batter and a wild pitch (that’s right, 13 base runners in three innings). Litsch, meanwhile, wasn’t terrible (four earned runs in 6.0 innings with five strikeouts), but was giving up an awfully lot of solid contact and hasn’t looked particularly sharp through three starts. Even worse, Brandon Morrow was hardly lights out during his final rehab outing on Sunday (two runs, three hits, three walks through four innings) and is no guarantee to pick up where he left off last season when he returns on Friday.
Farrell has ‘em Running: Has any team’s offensive identity changed as dramatically as the Jays, who went from leading the league in long balls last season to leading in stolen bases in 2011? No one Jay is taking charge in the base stealing department (Aaron Hill and Travis Snider co-hold the team lead with five steals), but John Farrell is putting a distinct mark on a club that is more aggressive on the base paths and focusing on a new-found small ball identity.
Cecil Tops Boston, but is he Back?: It’s hard to criticize a pitcher that surrenders just two hits over 6.0 innings, particularly against an offence as potent as Boston’s. That being said, I’m not ready to anoint Brett Cecil as being back to 2010 form. For one thing, his velocity is still down and he dealt with control issues (four walks) on Friday night. That both of his two hits allowed were home runs also makes me nervous. However you look at his outing, his Wednesday start against the Yankees will be fascinating to watch.
Two Sides to Luis Perez: Two games into the career of the 26-year old left-hander, we’ve seen two very different Perez’s. Perez No. 1 came in his MLB debut on Saturday, where he pitched 1.1 innings of two-strikeout, one-hit ball and showed no nerves despite pitching in the pressure-packed environment of Fenway. Perez No. 2 came on Monday, when he failed to stop the bleeding in allowing three earned runs over the same 1.1 innings pitched. The outings represent a lesson in patience for Jays fans – if you want to see some of the young farmhands get their shot, you need to be prepared to live with the inconsistency and growing pains.
Purcey Traded: David Purcey was Dana Eveland’ed on Monday. That is, he was jettisoned as a pitcher who, while still young and full of potential, didn’t fit into the team’s long-term plans and, in fact, was standing in the way of other developing players. As recently as last season, Purcey was thought of as a potential set-up man in waiting for the club, but simply never took hold of a full-time job in the bigs and soon found himself losing ground to both veteran signees and young up-and-coming arms. His exit (he was traded to Oakland for one-time Toronto draft pick Danny Farquhar) paves the way for Frank Francisco to re-join the team. The 24-year old Farquhar, meanwhile, will also be groomed for a bullpen slot down the line after allowing no earned runs and seven hits over 8.0 innings of relief work with Sacramento of the AAA Pacific Coast League this season.
The Other Guys: Forget about the slumping Carl Crawford, pitching will be the key to helping Boston emerge from their slump. While Clay Buchholz is still coming around, all of Beckett, Lester and Matsuzaka shined against Toronto. The much-criticized Matsuzaka was particularly strong against the Jays, tossing seven innings of scoreless, one-hit ball for his first win of the season.
The Jays are 4-2 at home against a 3-7 record on the road, so they are clearly happy to return to the friendly confines of the Rogers Centre for a five-game homestand, starting with a short two-gamer against the Yankees On Tuesday, Kyle Drabek takes the ball for his first home start since April 2 against AJ Burnett and the Bombers.
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Written by Ben Fisher