A John McDonald walk-off home run was the lone highlight during a tough three-game home set in which the Jays (9-12) dropped two of three to Tampa Bay. Injuries and precious little offensive support for Jose Bautista caught up with Toronto, as they lost 6-4 on Saturday and were shut out 2-0 on Sunday following Friday night’s 6-4 win.
A Closer Look
No Help for Jose: Bautista’s weekend: .750 average (6-8), three homers, seven runs scored, three RBI and five walks. The rest of the team: .170 average (16-94), one homer, three runs, seven RBI and four walks. Particularly glaring is the lack of offensive support from the guys that are supposed to help form the heart of the line-up. Adam Lind is hitting .232 with a .270 OBP and minimal (one home run, eight runs and 12 RBI) power numbers. The average and OBP are actually down from his 2010 season, which he hoped to leave behind him this season. Aaron Hill is injured again (he was placed on the 15-day DL after Sunday’s game), but he certainly isn’t leaving his 2010 slump in the dust, either, hitting .242 with a .265 OBP and no homers through 16 games. However, Lind and Hill practically look like MVP candidates compared to the early “contributions” of Travis Snider (.164 average, .259 OBP and eight fewer hits – 12 – than strikeouts – 20).
The Injuries Hurt, Too: Looks like that relatively healthy 2010 campaign was just a one-time deal rather than an encouraging trend. Already this season, Octavio Dotel, Frank Francisco, Brandon Morrow, Corey Patterson, Rajai Davis, Yunel Escobar, Jayson Nix and now Hill have missed time due to injury, not to mention the still-yet-to-debut Scott Podsednik. All that adds up to a team that still doesn’t really know what they have talent-wise (six of the nine players are Jays newcomers) and is lacking in pitching, infield and outfield depth. The greatest concern, however, may fall on Brett Cecil, who was sent down to the minors, but is clearly off, as evidenced by his loss in velocity so far this year.
The Cardiac Jays?: Give Toronto some credit, though, for a start that has seen them endure a tough schedule and cope with injuries while maintaining a positive clubhouse energy. It is that energy that has helped the Jays enjoy five come-from-behind victories among their first nine wins. After Johnny Mac’s blast on Friday, the team nearly experienced the same late game heroics on Saturday, with the popular long-time Jay at the plate with one out and runners on second and third in a 6-4 game. Of course, they couldn’t pull off the feat on consecutive days and two questions were raised: 1) there was no better bat available on the bench than McDonald and Mike McCoy (who came up after McDonald grounded out)?; and 2) couldn’t the team have saved themselves the comeback trouble and not allowed runs in each opening inning of the series?
No More Vegas?: It was a relationship that began on rocky ground, but it is nevertheless surprising to hear GM Alex Anthopoulos speak openly about his displeasure with the relationship between the big club and their AAA affiliate, the Las Vegas 51’s. In an on-air interview with Buck Martinez and Pat Tabler during Sunday’s broadcast, Anthopoulos alluded to Vegas being a tough environment in which to develop young players as he spoke about the recently-promoted Chris Woodward’s positive influence. Between the distance between Vegas and Toronto, as well as the potential distractions around Sin City, it stands to reason as to why the team keeps most of their premium prospects at AA New Hampshire and that the team may be looking for a new AAA home once their contract with Las Vegas expires at the end of the season. Anthopoulos has gone on record in the past in lamenting the lack of minor league affiliates within Canada, so could Ottawa be back in the picture?
The Other Guys: Tampa Bay still has an awful lot of talent, albeit without any threatening middle-of-the-order bats. B.J. Upton still hasn’t proven himself to be a consistent No. 3 hitter, Matt Joyce doesn’t strike me as an intimidating offensive threat and the loss of Carlos Pena (yes, even after his woeful 2010 campaign) took much of the pop out of the line-up. Even with tremendous protection throughout the rest of the order (Ben Zobrist, Sam Fuld and Reid Brignac are dangerous, while Johnny Damon simply knows how to hit), there just isn’t anyone who needs to be pitched around. Maybe that will be Desmond Jennings one day?
It doesn’t get any easier for the Jays, who now embark on a 10-game road trip against the leaders of the AL West (Texas Rangers) and AL East (New York Yankees), as well as these same Rays. Starting things off will be Kyle Drabek, who gets the ball against Colby Lewis and the defending AL champion Rangers.
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Written by Ben Fisher