The Blue Jays (22-21) and Rays have now played eight games against one another this season, with no game decided by more than two runs. Therefore, it shouldn’t be surprising that they emerged with a 1-1 split through a close pair of tilts at Rogers Centre, with Jesse Litsch’s lack of control and some poor defence leading to a 6-5 Wednesday loss before Ricky Romero led the team to an emotional 3-2 win on Thursday.
A Closer Look
Winning One for Ryley: It’s easy to get lost in the minutiae of a 162-game regular season schedule, but you’ll inevitably come upon the odd game that holds special meaning. For Romero and J.P. Arencibia, that game came on Thursday night. Romero and Arencibia had learned earlier in the day that two-year old Ryley Martin, who, along with his family, had met the two Jays during pre-game batting practice prior to the April 2 game against the Twins, had lost his battle with leukemia. Both men were clearly running on high emotions, with Romero writing Ryley’s initials in the dirt on the mound before facing his first batter of the night and Arencibia writing them on his batting gloves. The little guy with what Romero called a ‘magnetic smile’ was apparently looking out for them, too, as the team ace earned his fourth win of the season thanks to seven sharp innings of work and the rookie catcher hit a game-winning two-run homer.
Encarnacion’s Days Numbered?: Edwin Encarnacion probably hasn’t played his last game in a Blue Jays’ uniform, but that fact hardly alleviates any long-term questions surrounding his future in Toronto. Encarnacion was held out of the line-up on Thursday after a two-error performance (which was probably more like three or four errors) in Wednesday’s mess of a game, a move which manager John Farrell downplayed as simply a “mental break” for the third baseman. But Farrell’s denial can’t mask the bigger issue of a guy who has already been on the outs with the organization more than once and now leads the league in errors (10, which is precisely 10 higher than his home run total) and is blocking the path of blue chip prospect Brett Lawrie. Encarnacion clearly isn’t part of the team’s long-term plans and, really, he shouldn’t be part of the short-term ones, either.
Eager Eric Debuts: It’s about time for hitting coach Dwayne Murphy to sit call-up Eric Thames (that’s ‘thAYmz’, not ‘temz’) down and just get him to breathe in and out a little. Nothing against what has been an impressive start for the 24-year old, who has a hit and a walk in each of his first two major league games (including an RBI and run scored on Wednesday). But he’s taking cuts as though it’s long ball or bust and, accordingly, has three strikeouts to show for it. It’s pretty damn fun to watch, but may not be so fun once big league pitchers figure out how to throw to him.
Hill Getting There: It’s still a process for Aaron Hill to get the bat speed back and, most importantly, find the confidence needed to re-establish himself as a potent offensive force, but he looks like he just might be getting there. The 29-year old second baseman is hitting nearly .300 since returning to the line-up after a DL stint due to a sore right hamstring, hardly putting up head-turning numbers but enjoying a marked improvement over his 2010 struggles that spilled into this year. Plus, it was enough for Farrell to move Hill into the No. 4 spot in the order (mind you, it didn’t hurt that Adam Lind is on the DL and Encarnacion and Juan Rivera are hardly putting up big numbers).
The Other Guys: Not the most impressive two-gamer from the Rays, seeing as how Toronto basically beat themselves on Wednesday and Tampa’s hitters offered Wade Davis no run support on Thursday. One highlight came in the play of early AL Rookie of the Year front-runner Matt Joyce, who hit his seventh homer of the season and reached base three times on Wednesday. Joyce currently owns a .354 average, good for third in the majors among players with 100+ at-bats.
It’s interleague time, which has hardly been music to the Blue Jays’ ears during its 15-year history (overall record is 115-132). Coming to town will be the Houston Astros, who will make their first ever visit to Toronto armed with former Jays prospect Brett Wallace at first and former pitching coach Brad Arnsberg in the dugout. Jo-Jo Reyes gets the ball in the opener against Aneury Rodriguez.
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Written by Ben Fisher