The Blue Jays’ (72-72) 3-1 series win over the Boston Red Sox doesn’t exactly feel like a triumph over a division foe – especially given Boston’s 28-19 edge in runs and Tuesday’s 14-0 demolition. However, it does speak to the fight of a Jays’ team that claimed two separate one-run victories and a 7-4 win in which Boston sent the tying run to the plate in the ninth inning.
A Closer Look
Is McGowan’s Fast Track the Right Call?: It was a significant silver lining in the dark cloud that was the 14-0 loss to see Dustin McGowan back on the mound. For four capable innings he showed flashes of his sparkling stuff – including five strikeouts. Besides being a great story, McGowan also happens to be a pitcher that needs to be measured against the other arms in the organization.
Let’s not kid ourselves – three earned runs and five hits over four innings isn’t the stuff of Cy Young winners. The announcement that he will start Sunday’s game against Baltimore raises concern that he is experiencing too much, too soon. I’m certainly not opposed to seeing Luis Perez get the boot from the starting rotation after allowing 13 runs and 16 hits over 7.2 innings in two September starts, but surely there are better candidates than McGowan – a 29-year old working to get his bearings back at the major league level. What about Kyle Drabek? While I don’t advocate “rewarding” the former blue chip prospect for a cringe-worthy season, I also don’t understand the logic in bringing him back up to the majors if not to put him in position to regain his groove as a starter.
What to Make of Arencibia’s Season: I got a good deal of (probably deserved) flak after my pronouncement of J.P. Arencibia’s season being an offensive flop. Part of that may have been due to Arencibia popping three HR over the following two games (did he read my column?). After another torrid series for the rookie, it seems like as safe a time as any to re-evaluate Arenibia’s first full major league season.
Defensively, the 25-year old has done everything that could be expected of him as a catcher – and more! Gradually JP earned the trust of his pitchers as a game caller and even aiding in the development of some of the organization’s young arms. Offensively, he’s been a one-dimensional power hitter (his 22 HR are a franchise record at the position, but account for more than 25% of his hits this season) who can’t hit for average or get on base consistently.
Because he’s a rookie, he has yet to gain the pitching respect of similar power hitters like Baltimore’s Mark Reynolds, whose .224 average is somewhat off-set by a .325 on-base percentage – due, in large part, to 69 walks. Arencibia by contrast, has 31 walks or less than a third of Reynolds’ total. Consider this my back track from the earlier pronouncements, although I will still say that the Sportsnet crew’s homer-heavy suggestions of Arencibia being in the AL Rookie of the Year discussions were laughable.
Down on the Farm: Contrary to popular belief, some of the Blue Jays’ prospects did remain on the farm after Tuesday’s call-ups – and many of them are part of the New Hampshire Fisher Cats’ first round AA playoff series against the Reading Phillies. Game one – a 2-0 Cats’ victory – took place on Thursday night and offered many promising signs for Jays’ brass. First and foremost among those signs was a terrific outing from 2009 first rounder Chad Jenkins, who held the Phillies to just four hits over seven innings while striking out nine. The high strikeout totals continue a trend that saw Jenkins whiff 118 batters over 167.2 innings this season combined at New Hampshire and Dunedin. Also coming up big in their postseason debut were Travis d’Arnaud (2-4 with an RBI) and Anthony Gose (2-4 and scored a run).
The best-of-five first round will also see Nestor Molina take the ball for New Hampshire tonight, while Drew Hutchinson could have a chance to close out the Phillies tomorrow.
The Other Guys: It’s hard to believe a club like Boston with a $160 million payroll has so many rotation questions - particularly as they prepare for postseason play. Right now, it’s pretty much Jon Lester and pray for rain, with Josh Beckett (ankle sprain) out and no one else appearing primed to step up. Even with a healthy Beckett come October, the Sox will have to make due with some combination of John Lackey (6.11 ERA and 14 runs allowed over his past three starts), Tim Wakefield (hasn’t won since July 24 and is never a sure thing with the uncertainty of his knuckleball), Clay Buchholz (hasn’t pitched since June 16 due to a back injury) or an unproven youngster like Andrew Miller (signed off waivers).
Against the rotations of potential playoff opponents Texas (C.J. Wilson, Colby Lewis, Matt Harrison, Alexi Ogando, Derek Holland) or Detroit (Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Rick Porcello, Doug Fister, Brad Penny), it’s hard to see that pitching staff holding up.
Baltimore comes to town this weekend. Toronto hopes to maintain their series unbeaten streak against the O’s this season. Brett Cecil and Jeremy Guthrie face each other in the opener, ten days after neither one got a decision in the O’s 6-5 walk-off win in Baltimore.
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Written by Ben Fisher