A come-from-behind, 14 inning win on Tuesday provided the Blue Jays (50-49) with the necessary momentum to sweep through the rest of the series and extend Seattle’s losing streak to 12 straight games. The series saw Jose Bautista return from injury, while Rajai Davis offered a spark with his bat and Brandon Morrow held his former mates to three runs over seven innings in Wednesday’s win.
A Closer Look
Davis Comes Through: It doesn’t make up for what has been a predominantly disappointing first season in Toronto, Rajai Davis spent much of the series offering a taste of just how dangerous he can be if he can get on the damn bases. Davis didn’t even start Tuesday’s extra-inning marathon, but proved to be the difference after coming on as a pinch runner. His aggressive approach on the base paths earned him three stolen bases, including a pair off a single in the 14th that put him in position to be cashed in on John McDonald’s game-winning sac fly. On Wednesday, all Davis did was go 2-4 with a walk and a run scored, only to cap off his memorable series with a game-winning two-RBI double after once again entering the game as a pinch runner. Davis’ greatest asset is his base path prowess that not only gets him securely into scoring position, but pulls the focus of opposing pitchers away from the hitter. If he can maintain his hot bat, he could be a tremendous asset for the club down the stretch.
What to Do About Arencibia?: No one can be completely sure on how to explain the struggles of J.P. Arencibia (Rookie wall? Lack of focus? Figured out by opposing pitchers?), but I’m not sure the reasons behind the slump really matter. The fact is, he looks lost at the plate (want numbers? .210 average, hitless in last 14 at-bats, no home runs since June 30 and 26 more strikeouts than hits on the year) and it isn’t helping to have him step into the batter’s box filled with frustration and devoid of any confidence. Clearly, some sort of shake-up is necessary, be it a move to DH or even a demotion. Of course, it isn’t easy to find ready-made solutions for the catching position, with Jose Molina not suited to take on full-time duties and none of Brian Jeroloman, Travis d’Arnaud nor A.J. Jimenez ready for the big show. Ironically, the team had to endure a grand slam on Thursday from Miguel Olivo, whom Toronto acquired in November before declining his option when they opted to go with the rookie. Jays’ brass has to be concerned with the effect that these hitting woes are having on Arencibia’s confidence and, thus, his long-term development, and you have to wonder whether sticking Molina back there for the remainder of what is a lost season wouldn’t be the best course of action at this point.
Revisiting the Trade: It was basically a change of scenery deal on both ends when the Jays traded Brandon League and minor leaguer Johermyn Chavez to the Mariners for Morrow – and it looks like the change of scenery has worked each way. Morrow still battles inconsistency, but the soon-to-be 27-year old has won five straight decisions and has displayed tantalizing flashes of the front-of-the-rotation arm he could still be (his 17-K one-hitter last season will likely stand as the best individual pitching performance in Jays’ history for a long time to come). Meanwhile, Toronto’s expansion-mates out West have to be pleased with League, who recently took part in his first career All-Star Game (still no ASG appearances for Morrow) thanks to a season which has seen him earn 23 saves as the M’s closer. The 22-year old Chavez, meanwhile, has struggled since moving up from a hitter-friendly ballpark at Single-A High Desert to AA Jacksonville. While the stats (17-11 record with a 4.43 ERA for Morrow as a Blue Jay, 10-11 mark with 29 saves and a 3.41 ERA for League as a Mariner) are hard to compare, I’ll give the present edge to Seattle with Morrow still having a chance to turn the tide.
The Other Guys: At this point, it certainly isn’t hard to pile on the plummeting Mariners, who now own a share of the AL West basement thanks to their current 12-game losing streak and were outscored 22-11 in the Jays’ series after the second inning of Tuesday’s game. But are they really that far away? Their rotation, anchored by Felix Hernandez and ROY front-runner Michael Pineda, is among the AL’s top three and they reside in a fairly wide open division (I still don’t totally buy the Rangers as a perennial contender). Good hitting, as most front office types will tell you, is easier to acquire than good pitching and plenty should be available this winter in a free agent market that includes Albert Pujols, Jose Reyes and Prince Fielder and is likely to feature many more sluggers as potential trade chips.
Speaking of the West-leading Rangers, they will host the Blue Jays for a weekend set beginning Friday night. Jo-Jo Reyes, who has won three straight but looked awfully shaky in his last outing against the Yankees, takes the ball against Texas righty Colby Lewis.
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Written by Ben Fisher