Friday, August 31, 2012

August 31: Tampa 1, Blue Jays 2

Practice makes perfect as Mathis and outfield connect to save the game

The Jays are looking like a team again. With their offense still being inconsistent, the pitching and defense would have to be fantastic to beat the Rays. But the Rays offense hasn't exactly been consistent either. This afternoon, before batting practice, John Farrell had his outfielders out there throwing balls home in order to improve the throws into the infield, which have been pretty poor as of late. Turns out that the training was timely.

Brandon Morrow started the game, his second game back, and this outing was very good, not lights out by any stretch, but very good, getting key outs when required. In all, Morrow went 6 2/3rds, throwing 102 pitches, striking out 5 and walking one. All of his pitches were working. He sprinkled 8 hits in the inning, and the only damage done was Desmond Jennings home run to open the top of the third to give Tampa a temporary 1-0 lead.

Steve Delabar was perfect coming on with two out in the bottom of the 7th to induce a grounder, and then to pitch the 8th to strike out Zobrist, Longoria, and Joyce on a very nasty combination of changeups and fastballs that just fooled the Rays.

Tampa's Hellickson was much better on the mound, but two home runs by Moises Sierra (to reply, opening the bottom of the 3rd), and Edwin Encarnacion (in the bottom of the 4th, bases empty, one out) to the 200 level in centre-left was enough for the Jays to win it tonight. Hellickson walked 1, struck out 2, and surrendered 2 more hits (a single to Encarnacion to open the 7th, and an Adam Lind single after the Encarnacion home run).

Off the hit sheet was Colby Rasmus (again, now not hitting in 4 games), now hitting 0-12 in his last four games with 4Ks and a walk. Yunel's hitting streak also ended. Rajai, Mathis, and McCoy also did nothing offensively.

Defensively, in the first, McCoy bobbled a Ben Zobrist double play ball but managed to get the speedy Zobrist out. And, in the top of the fourth, Colby couldn't outrun a Ryan Roberts hit into centre-left, which I think he catches if his groin was completely better. And in the top of the 7th, Rajai went all out to catch a Desmond Jennings line drive into left which ended up going to the wall for a double. It would have been nice to catch that. None of these, thankfully did no damage.

Jeff Mathis tags out Matt Joyce at home
(Rogers SportsNet)
But there were two fantastic defensive highlights in the game. The first was in the top of the 2nd with Keppinger on 1st and Matt Joyce on 2nd with one out. Ryan Roberts hit a single to left, and with Matt Joyce running, typically, Rajai makes a throw that ends up bouncing a few times or is 20 feet left or right of home plate. Not this time. Rajai throws a single bounce strike to the plate which Mathis picks up, blocks the plate, and tags Matt Joyce who barreled Mathis at home. Out!!!

Jeff Mathis tags out Elliott Johnson to end the game
(Rogers Sportsnet)

The last defensive play ended the game. With pinch runner Elliot Johnson on 2nd and pinch hitter Carlos Pena up with two out, he lined a Janssen 1-1 fastball single to Moises Sierra. With Elliott running home, Moises picked up the ball and fired a one bounce strike to Jeff Mathis, just in time for Mathis to once again block the plate and apply the tag to a diving Elliot Johnson to record the out and end the game and secure the 19th save of the season for Casey Janssen.

Well, this series is a guaranteed push for Toronto. It would be great to see the bats come out tomorrow, and with an Alvarez coming off of two very poor starts and Jeff Niemann making his first start for Tampa since Adam Lind broke Niemann's ankle with a sharp comeback to the mound on May 14th. Look for a high scoring game.

No comments:

Post a Comment