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Jays Maintain Reign Over O’s

Posted By Ben Fisher On Sep 13 2011 @ 12:53 pm In Toronto Blue Jays | No Comments

What Happened

It wasn’t easy or all that pretty, but the Blue Jays (74-73) capped off another season of dominance over the Orioles, winning all six series against their fellow AL East birds this season (12-6 total record). Despite getting owned by Jeremy Guthrie on Friday, the Jays rebounded with a pair of one-run, come-from-behind wins

A Closer Look

Relief Comes into Focus on Sunday: The story of Sunday’s series finale – and rightfully so, might I add – was another redemptive step for both starting pitcher Dustin McGowan and re-born offensive standout Adam Loewen, who hit his first career major league home run. But the reality remains that neither man is likely to start next season with a significant role on the team (McGowan isn’t likely to be a full-time starter and Loewen’s fate will be left to Alex Anthopoulos this summer). But another element that played out during the Jays’ 6-5 win was the role of a bullpen unit whose members are fighting for 2012 jobs. Each of the five relievers that came in after McGowan’s three innings of work could be in the mix come next March. Carlos Villanueva, who scattered three hits over two innings, seems to be back in a comfort zone in long relief, but enters the off-season as a pending unrestricted free agent and the Jays may not be able to (or want to) keep him if another team offers a starting job. Shawn Camp, who allowed one O’s run in his inning of work, is 34 years of age, is also approaching free agency and has struggled to shoulder an increased workload this season, but might be brought back to provide an inexpensive veteran presence. Joel Carreno, who got the win, is forcing his way into the 2012 conversation with just one run allowed over 10 innings of relief. Casey Janssen, who got the hold, should see a significant raise from his $1.1 million contract this year and is likely to take on either a set-up or closer role next year. Finally, Frank Francisco got his 14th save of the season to right the ship after two shaky appearances and could be brought back to ease the transition of the ninth inning role to a younger pitcher, albeit at a discounted price from his $4 million price tag this season.

Yu The Man?: I like that Anthopoulos and the Jays are smack dab amidst the pack of teams kicking the tires on Yu Darvish – I just don’t want them to actually sign him. Pursuing the Japanese phenom further asserts the franchise’s status as an international player and offers more proof that the GM is doing his due diligence in tracking anyone who may help his club. And Darvish may be the right guy, but not at the $100 million+ he is likely to command between posting fee to the Nippon-Ham Fighters and his contract. Taking that kind of plunge (and swallowing up the remainder of the Vernon Wells’ savings) should be reserved for a sure thing, like a Prince Fielder, not an unproven commodity from overseas. Now, I find it at best lazy and – at worst – xenophobic to dismiss Darvish based on the prior struggles of other hyped Japanese hurlers like Hideo Nomo and Hideki Irabu. But putting nationality aside, you’re left with little more than a talented, intriguing prospect who, at 25 years of age, is a bit old for a player who has yet to experience life as a major leaguer (and no, neither the Nippon Professional League nor striking out Brian Roberts and David Wright during the 2009 World Baseball Classic equal major league experience).

Down on the Farm: The New Hampshire Fisher Cats have reached the AA Eastern League Finals and they did so with some superb pitching. Aside from a Nestor Molina blow-up in the second game of their first round series against the Reading Phillies, Fisher Cats’ pitchers allowed just two total runs on 14 hits over the other three games – all wins. Most encouraging were the performances of Chad Jenkins, who we discussed in this space after the Red Sox series, and Drew Hutchinson, who shut down the Phillies over six innings in Game 4 while allowing just two hits and striking out six. On offense, no one exactly shone, but Travis d’Arnaud had a nice series with a pair of multi-hit games, Mike McDade collected hits in each of the four games, including a 3-for-4 effort in the clincher and Danny Perales enjoyed an “unlikely hero” moment by securing the series with a game-winning two-run homer in the clincher. The Finals kick off on Tuesday with New Hampshire visiting the San Francisco Giants-affiliated Richmond Flying Squirrels (awesome name, by the way).

The Other Guys: Hard to know what positives to take out of this season if you’re a Baltimore Orioles fan. Last season ended with measured promise after a surprise late run thanks to Buck Showalter’s arrival, but at an AL-worst 58-88, it’s clear that the magic wore off quickly. So… positives: Guthrie has looked competent (especially against the Jays) despite a 7-17 record, Zach Britton enjoyed some early season rookie shine and has a rotation spot locked up for next year and the outfield (Nick Markakis and Adam Jones) and middle infield (J.J. Hardy and Robert Andino) look solid. Still, this is a team lacking any semblance of star power or any promise on the way (Manny Machado could be a star, but still won’t be enough to boost Baltimore’s sagging fortunes).

Up Next

It’s back to Boston to face the reeling Red Sox for a quick, two-game set at Fenway. Tim Wakefield will go for his 200th win yet again against Brandon Morrow and the Blue Jays.

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