16 runs over three games have helped get the Blue Jays (39-39) back on track offensively and contributed to a timely sweep over the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium. Home runs from Jose Bautista, Juan Rivera and J.P. Arencibia helped the Jays to their first three-game sweep since beating the Twins in mid-May.
A Closer Look
Hill Coming Around: While it was Bautista, Rivera and Arencibia (and, to a lesser extent, Edwin Encarnacion) who struck biggest against the Cardinals, the most consistent hitting from the Jays came from an encouraging and mildly surprising source. Aaron Hill collected five hits against St. Louis, including multi-hit games on Friday and Saturday. The second baseman’s numbers (.247/.291/.421) won’t earn him any All-Star votes, but they represent a significant upgrade from where he was a season ago. He also seems to be earning the trust of manager John Farrell, given his recent move to the No. 5 spot in the batting order. On a team with plenty of personnel facing questions about injuries and under-performance (Kyle Drabek, Brett Cecil, Jesse Litsch and Travis Snider, to name four), it has to be re-assuring to see Hill overcome some of those questions.
Strong Relief Showings: I’ve often maintained that being a reliever is a largely thankless job – the only time you’re noticed is when you screw up. So let’s recognized Toronto’s bullpen for what has been an excellent stretch in recovering from a slew of shaky outings and blown saves. Frank Francisco, Jason Frasor, Jon Rauch and Marc Rcepczynski followed up strong outings from Brandon Morrow and Carlos Villanueva by holding St. Louis bats to one earned run and four hits over five innings of relief before Ricky Romero cut them a break in Sunday’s finale by going the distance in a complete game shutout.
Alvarez to Futures Game: Henderson Alvarez is living proof of the newfound pitching depth enjoyed throughout the Blue Jays’ organization. He isn’t an ‘on the cusp’ guy in the vein of Zach Stewart or Drabek (before, you know, his recent, highly disconcerting flameout), nor is he a long-term ace hopeful along the lines of Deck McGuire. He’s simply a 21-year old righty who has gotten better at each stage of his development and now seems to have found his niche as a front-of-the-line starter for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats. Alvarez owns a 4-2 record with a 2.30 ERA and has been a big reason for the Cats’ Eastern League-leading 46-27 record. With room for two organizational prospects in the Futures Game, David Cooper (.371/.435/.576 at AAA Las Vegas) and Reider Gonzalez (6-1, 2.56 ERA, six saves at AA New Hampshire) both can make cases that they were unjustly snubbed.
The Other Guys: You have to figure that Cards fans have at least had the horrifying thought cross their minds that this 4-6 week absence of Albert Pujols may be a harbinger of what’s to come when baseball’s best player becomes a free agent. SI’s Jon Heyman recently penned a free agent handicapper that had one unnamed agent suggesting Pujols would walk away with a 10-year, $300 million contract. Most in baseball circles like the club’s chances of retaining their first baseman, but he has already turned down at least one offer and – upon closer inspection – this is a team without much to be excited about moving forward. If Pujols flies the coop, this team is comprised of Matt Holliday, Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia and a lot of spare parts.
A scheduled day off on Monday will instead be used to make up a May rainout in Detroit, with Stewart taking to the mound against Max Scherzer. I’ll be back to recap the Jays’ three-game set at home to the Pirates this week, starting on Tuesday as Jo-Jo Reyes takes on Kevin Correia.
About the Author
Written by Ben Fisher