Saturday, August 4, 2012

August 3: Jays 4 Oakland 5

Brett Cecil serves home runs, Jays create drama in the 9th, keeps me awake

The Athletics of Oakland brought up their star AAA pitcher David Straily to make his major league debut against the struggling Blue Jays. The 23 year old from Springfield (home of the Simpsons), Oregon was a 24th round draft pick by the As back in 2009, and he made a name for himself, hailed as the pitcher with the most strike outs in all of baseball (he has 175 strikeouts in 138 innings). And given the Jays propensity to like to swing and their flailing offense as of late, it looked like another troublesome outing for the Jays.

There was hope that Cecil would be able to keep the ball in the yard tonight in pitching friendly Oakland but with three losses in a row and a complete lack of run support in his outings, things were not looking good on paper for the Jays. Then again, until the return of Bautista and Lind, things are not going to look good on paper for a while.

If I was betting, I'd take Oakland and the under.

Well, the game started off ominously enough, with Lawrie grabbing the bottom of his right rib cage in the top of the inning after fouling off a ball. He struck out, then took himself out of the game. The last thing the Jays need is another regular on the DL. Certainly, given his propensity to dive into television bays and be very intense, it isn't surprising (in fact, the hurt rib cage is due to his dive into same camera bay -- he is day to day).

Cecil looked promising enough in the 1st inning, facing the minimum. Then, Cecil gave up a single in the 2nd to Brandon Inge to score Cespedes from 3rd, but got out of the inning with a double play. Then in the third inning and fourth inning, Cecil gave up bases empty home runs to Johnny Gomes and Chris Carter. And in the the fifth, the As tacked an another through a sacrifice fly. Apparently, Gose didn't remember that Rasmus was the centerfielder that night and they ran into each other, both determined to attempt to throw out the runner at home (which at 320 feet out, isn't going to happen). Thankfully Rasmus caught the ball. The damage could have been much worse for Cecil, but three double plays were turned, two on the ground and one to finish the 5th as Mathis nailed Johnny Gomes trying to tag up on the throw. Cecil gave up 4 runs, all earned, over 5 innings. He gave up 9 hits, threw 66 pitches and struck out and walked one. I think Farrell gave up on Cecil after 5 despite his low pitch count so that they could keep the game close.

When Cecil leaves a fastball up, the As are all over it. That control problem is what kills Cecil. If he can keep the fastball down and away, he will be successful. It's that fastball left up over the zone that kills Cecil. Batters will tee that up every time because his fastball just isn't isn't fast enough to fool anyone.  

Straily looked very good, not great, but the Jays gave up when Mathis struck out (for the 2nd time) to finish the bottom of the fourth. Straily threw six innings, gave up 5 hits, struck out 5 and walked 1 over 102 pitches over six innings. The Jays strategy was to let him throw and see pitches, and Straily (understandably) was a little bit off, but he threw retired six in a row and struck out 4 of his last 7 outs. The Jays then went hitless in the 7th, 8th looking terrible against Balfour.

But then things fell apart for Oakland and closer Cook in the 9th. The Jays started the inning with two strikeouts and were clearly on the ropes. Then David Cooper and Rajai Davis singled, and it looked like things were over when the ump called back runners by calling a phantom foul ball when it was clearly a passed ball. This might have riled up Cook enough, as Mathis fought back from an 0-2 count and hit a home run just over the wall in left-center to tie the game. Wow. Cecil is off the hook for the loss.

Farrell put Oliver and Janssen on to pitch the perceived end of the game tonight to give them a little bit of work as they hadn't pitched in over a week. Janssen came on to pitch a 1-2-3 ninth, tossing a beautiful cutter to freeze Derek Norris in a full count to end the frame.

Brad Lincoln came on in the 10th and struck out the first hitter, with a nasty slider. But a single to Weeks and a walk with one out, followed by a wild pitch forced Lincoln to load the bases and hit to a dangerous Josh Reddick, who struck out. With two out, Brandon Moss grounded out to Escobar, who bounced the throw to first, making Yan Gomes (on for Cooper) make a terrific play to record the game-saving out.

The Jays did nothing hitting in the extra frames, except for the 12th with a one out single by Visquel followed by a double by Colby Rasmus, but Omar, running 270 feet, got thrown out at home despite the ball getting away from the the left fielder who normally plays first base. Johnson grounded out to end the inning in the 4-4 tie. Then, Colby was taken out of the game in the bottom of the 12th presumably for some type of injury, (the groin), forcing the pitcher to bat in Colby's batting position.

Lincoln pitched a flawless 11th, 12th, or 13th, perhaps making the Jays fandom feel a bit lighter about the trade, because you know a Cordero, Coello, Beck, or Frasor would have blown the game in the 10th or 11th. Very very nice.

But it was the 15th inning that did the Jays in. With Loup on the mound, Jamal Weeks hit a lead off triple to right, and Coco Crisp sac flied him home.

It was a very close call for the Jays, but I wonder if it is more demoralizing to lose a hard fought game in extras versus losing in regulation play.

The official injury report on Rasmus is that he is day-to-day with a strained groin. Lawrie's injury is related to his dive into the camera bay a couple of weeks ago -- ribcage pain, and he is day-to-day as well and not expected to be in the line-up.

The Jays need to bring in JA Happ to the rotation and send down one of the starters to long relief or back to AAA. Whether that is Cecil, Villanueva, or Laffey I am not sure. Happ has not been very good this year but should be the #5 starter. Many people point out that he was traded to be a starter, not a reliever, and Happ is needed to eat innings.

So, in the overnight, the Jays made a few calls to Vegas. Cecil indeed was moved down to Vegas to make room for Happ to enter the starting rotation, probably making a start on Thursday against Tampa. Andrew Carpenter, who wasn't being used, was also sent down to Vegas. Up came Chavez who will replace JA Happ in a long relief role.  I think it was a good move to move Cecil who just wasn't doing well and is the worst starter in the rotation right now. Don't expect Happ to be fantastic, though.

More exciting is the callup of Hechavarria who will replace Brett Lawrie at 3rd base. It was an interesting choice for the Jays but with only Visquel able to play the middle infield, the Jays wanted to get a look at his arm and his bat at the MLB level. Good luck, Adeiny! Anothopoulos calls his arm one of the best in baseball, and his hitting line in AAA for 2012 is .312 / .363 / .424 with 20 doubles, 6 triples, and 6 home runs -- not a power hitter. But with a full season of AAA experience, now is a good time to bring him up.

Well, today's lineup will look interesting. The only regulars left on the team are Yunel and Kelly Johnson. Likely the infield will consist of Hechavarria, Escobar, Johnson, and Cooper. Mathis will be behind the plate. It will be Gose, Davis, and Moises in the outfield. The bench is shortened to Gomes and Visquel, with Encarnacion DHing.

The key to the Jays winning now is to manufacturing a few runs and having a spectacular pitching performance. After the injuries to the pitching staff, the Jays needed an average of 6 runs a game to win. The Jays right now with the line up they have are highly unlikely to score many runs, so it is going to take spectacular pitching to win games.

No comments:

Post a Comment