Over the past eight days, the Blue Jays (75-74) have won three of five games against the Boston Red Sox. They also happen to have been outscored 50-30 over those games, with the Bosox combining for 32 runs over their two wins. The two-game Fenway set between the teams maintained the strange trend of Boston’s dominance, combined with Toronto managing to eke out a win, as the Jays rebounded with a come-from-behind 5-4 win after an 18-6 shellacking. In other news, the 2012 schedule came out on Wednesday and will see the Jays kick off the season in Cleveland, with the possibility of a debut Toronto appearance for Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper when the Nationals come to town in June during Interleague play.
A Closer Look
Morrow Sorrow: 14 earned runs over six innings. That was the accumulative total of Toronto pitchers Brandon Morrow, Luis Perez, Brad Mills and Danny Farquhar on Tuesday night. Morrow (seven runs – five earned – over 5.1 innings) was bad enough that he didn’t need any added help from a deplorable relief effort, but he got it anyway. Heck, Joel Carreno and Chad Beck’s combined one earned run over two innings looks positively sparkling by comparison. While it’s hard to draw much of a conclusion from a group of inexperienced young relief pitchers simply overmatched by a white hot Red Sox offence, there is plenty to take away from Morrow’s start – and none of it good. It is time to question what, if any, faith the club can put into the flame-throwing righty heading into next season and whether he can ever figure it out. This is exactly the type of ‘tantalized by his talent, but frustrated with the results’ situation that Mariners’ brass found themselves in when they elected to trade him prior to the 2010 season. While I’m not suggesting that (it’s never been Alex Anthopoulos’ style to trade a guy at the basement of his value), I would strongly suggest that Morrow is muddying the outlook of the 2012 starting rotation. If he had found any consistency this season, he would have already been comfortably slotted into the No. 2 role behind Ricky Romero and allow the club to focus on either signing or developing late rotation arms. Now, with the starting five cloudy behind Romero, Anthopoulos may be forced into making a bigger splash for a guy who doesn’t have a 9-11 record with a 5.23 ERA.
Loewen Makes His Case: It’s easier to find stories of struggle amidst the Jays’ September call-ups than those of triumph. Dustin McGowan could be called a triumph just for getting to the big leagues, but his 9.00 ERA over seven innings shows that he still has work to do. On the relief front, Farquhar and Mills got torched on Tuesday, Kyle Drabek looks unsure of himself and Beck has faced a whopping one batter (earlier call-up Carreno has excelled, though). However, Adam Loewen’s redemption is really turning into the story of September in Toronto, with the big BC native hitting .357 and coming through in clutch situations, such as his game-winning RBI single in the eighth inning of Wednesday’s game. His ascent may be complicating matters in Toronto, where he can’t be returned to the minors without being left unprotected (no chance he clears waivers) but it also isn’t clear where he fits with the big club. However, his September performance may just be forcing a fit as, despite a high strikeout rate, he has hit for average and power with a high OBP. One option would be shifting Edwin Encarnacion to LF with Loewen becoming the everyday DH, but that would further clutter an outfield and leave Eric Thames, Rajai Davis and Travis Snider (don’t forget him) struggling for playing time. Of course, some of these excess position players could also be jettisoned as part of a trade for some immediate pitching help.
Down on the Farm: The Eastern League finals are underway and already they are proving to be a far different series than the semis were. Through two games – in which New Hampshire and Richmond are tied 1-1 – the teams have combined for 31 total runs, already more than the 22 scored throughout the entire four-game Reading series. So far, however, it hasn’t exactly been the prime prospects stepping up. Chad Jenkins couldn’t duplicate his success against Reading and got lit up in Game 1, Deck McGuire got shelled in his first appearance of the postseason in relief of Jenkins and Anthony Gose, Moises Sierra and Travis d’Arnaud all continued to struggle with the bat, although Sierra did hit his first home run of the postseason. On the plus side, Nestor Molina settled in to an excellent Game 2 winning start, while journeyman minor leaguer Kevin Howard picked up five hits over eight at-bats to lead the offensive charge through two games. A rehabbing Colby Rasmus even got into the action on Wednesday, going 2-3 and coming around to score twice.
The Other Guys: It’s hard to believe that it’s gotten to this point in Beantown – where a four-game weekend set against the Tampa Bay Rays comes with everything on the line. But here we are, with the Rays having a chance to catch up to their AL East counterparts with a four-game sweep (unlikely at Fenway, but still). While the wild card odds still fall heavily in Boston’s favour (even if Tampa does manage a four-game sweep, they’d still be facing down six remaining games with the Yankees compared to the Red Sox six remaining games against Baltimore), the meaning of the series offers a stark reminder of just how much of a toll injuries have taken on a Sox team that has won just two of their last 10 games.
The team’s final day off will precede a return home to host the Yankees, where closer Mariano Rivera sits one save off Trevor Hoffman’s all-time mark of 601. Friday’s opener could be pretty one-sided, with C.C. Sabathia getting the call against Brett Cecil.
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Written by Ben Fisher