Friday, September 21, 2012

Blue Jays blow it in New York

Is the nightmare over yet?

With the Jays having some success against the Yankees this season, there was a little bit of hope going into this long road trip on a positive note. With the Escobar incident and the rainout on Tuesday night, things looked bleak indeed.

Wednesday afternoon: Jays 2 vs Yankees 4

Wednesday afternoon's first of the day-night double-header featured Henderson Alvarez against the returning Andy Pettitte. In the bottom of the first, the Yankees quickly opened the game with singles from Ichiro and Swisher. With none out, Robinson Cano hit a very catchablefly ball over the head of Colby Rasmus, who was apparently just waking up. Seriously, a harder sprint and Colby should have easily caught that ball. That double scored the first run. The next two players scored Swisher and Ichiro through a ground ball out and a sacrifice fly. It was 3-0 after one. On the ground ball out, Adam Lind easily could have gone home but elected not to, costing the Jays a run. Alvarez should have gotten out of the inning with no runs, but his defence let him down.

After that, Henderson was great, retiring all Yankees save for Ichiro's single in the bottom of the 3rd over the next six frames.

The Jays offence however was ineffective against Pettitte. The Jays had runners in scoring position in the 2nd and 3rd inning but were unable to cash. Gose hit into the 3rd out in the 2nd; Lind hit into a double play in the 3rd, stranding Rajai on 3rd. Gose again hit into the 3rd out in the 4th with runners on 1st and 3rd. In the top of the 7th, with none out and a lead off double by Hechavarria, Gose attempted a bunt single but hit into a bunt fly ball caught by Chavez deep into foul territory - a great catch.

Finally, the Jays' offense sputtered in the top of the 8th against David Robertson. Lawrie doubled and Lind singled. Kelly Johnston, in to pinch hit for Jeff Mathis, singed home Lawrie. Omar Visquel, who had tied Babe Ruth in hits earlier in the game, then doubled home Mike Mccoy (who was pinch run for Lind), and with one out, there were runners on 2nd and 3rd. Hechavarria struck out, Gose walked, and Rajai Davis hit a line shot pretty much right to Ichiro who made an instinctive great basket catch to end the inning. 3-2 Yankees into the bottom of the eighth.

Darren Oliver came on in the 8th, but with two out, an Ichiro ground rule double and a Swisher single scored an insurance run for the Yankees. That was Swisher's first hit against Oliver in 19 plate appearances.

Soriano wrapped the game for the Yankees with his 41th save.

For the game, every Jay except for Mathis managed to get on base, but the game was about not able to cash in runs, going 3-13 with RISP and leaving 11 on base. Ichiro went 3-4 and scored the 1st and 4th run of the game and made key defensive plays. Rasmus let a ball get over his head, and Lind could have saved a run and elected not too. Gose was up three times and failed to cash in runners, and that is the short story of this game.

Wednesday night: Jays 1 at Yankees 2

This evening's game featured a struggling Ricky Romero against rookie reliever-turned starter David Phelps in his 11th start of his career.

Ricky looked shaky in the 1st, and the Jays looked like they would be in for a long night (turns out that would be the next game). Jeter singled and Swisher walked, but Cano flied out and A-Rod hit into a double play.

The Jays managed to score their only run in the second as Arencibia and Johnston walked. Hechavarria singled home Arencibia.

The bottom of the second was no better for Romero, as he walked Nix and McGehee. Ichiro singled, but Rasmus pegged Jason Nix coming home on a gorgeous and perfect throw straight to Arencibia, who applied the tag just before Nix' hand touched the plate to save a run and record an out. Chris Stewart, however, hit a ground rule double deep into the corner in left to tie.

Romero struggled through the next four frames, but the Yankees were never able to cash in anyone. Even though Romero allowed seven hits and walked five over 6 innings (WHIP = 2), he left the game in a 1-1 tie going into the 7th.

The Jays offense did nothing to help as the rookie pitched a 3 hit gem through 2 outs in the 7th. The Jays managed to load the bases in the top of the 7th against him through a single, walk, and an error, but Boone Logan came on to strike out Sierra to end the inning. Why Farrell didn't elect to pinch hit for a struggling Sierra I'm not sure.

Delabar ended up taking the loss for the Jays with an opening walk to Granderson, a sac bunt, and a single by Ichiro (who went 7-8 in the double header) to take a 2-1 lead. Soriano came on again to close it out for his 42nd save.

Defensively, Lawrie was very much focused as was the rest of the team, but offensively, they just couldn't get it off the ground, only getting three games the entire game versus a pitcher who just isn't that good.

Thursday: Jays 7, Yankees 10

This game was not nearly as dramatic as it was over early for the Jays thanks to Aaron Laffey and Brad Lincoln.

The Jays opened the scoring in the top of the 2nd with a double-double combination from Lind and Johnson. They added to the scoring with a bases loaded hit-by-pitch as Hughes plunked Sierra in the back. It was 2-0 Jays by the middle of the 3rd. 

But Ichiro opened the scoring in the bottom of the third with a fast ball left over the plate for Ichiro to hit out of the park. 

By the bottom of the fourth, Laffey hit his mental wall. The inning opened with a 10 pitch Russell Martin walk. Martin stole second, and a routine ground ball to Johnson by Granderson was bobbled, allowing him to reach. McGehee then walked to load the bases, and Ichiro did it again, doubling home two. That ended the day for Laffey. On came Brad Lincoln, who walked Nix to load the bases. Jeter singled to keep the bases loaded and score another run. Nick Swisher then belted a grand slam to right field to finish a seven run 4th inning and end much hope for the Jays.

Sierra hit a two run homer in the top of the 5th to score a walked Adam Lind to bring the Jays within 4. However, Brett Cecil let in two more runs in the bottom of the 5th, thanks to a Granderson double, Nix double, and Jeter single. It was 10-4 after 5.

The Jays tried to come back in the 8th, with a Johnson home run, an Arencibia single, a Gose double, an infield single by Lawrie (scoring Arencibia), and a Mike McCoy fielder's choice (to score Gose). David Robertson struck out the side in the 9th to end the game.

Stick a fork in it, the Jays are done

Truly, it's difficult to watch the Jays close out the season. The players with nothing left to prove are doing just that -- proving nothing. They are out of it. Colby Rasmus continues to struggle badly, batting just above .200 for September, but he will be the starting CF next year. Brett Lawrie has hit .200 since his return, but he will be the starting 3B. JP Arencibia is 2 for 29 since his return. Moises is hitting .162 in September -- he knows there's no room for him. Yunel is hitting .233 and Rajai is hitting .207 for September. Kelly Johnston is batting sub .200 for September. The only 3 bright stars on the team are Hechavarria, Encarnacion, and Gose. Encarnacion just continues to go out day after day and do his job. And Adam Lind continues to be a shade above mediocre.

And there are really no excuses this time. Back in August, the media claimed that with players missing, you could just pitch around everyone. But the weaklings in the lineups are still the regulars, who seemed to have checked out for the year. It's mental mistakes everywhere that are costing the Jays games -- from Moises' miscues on sunny days to Rajai and Colby's mental errors in not reading fly balls to Escobar's antics to not making plays to the correct bases, this team seems to have just fallen apart.

And why not? The season was as much a letdown for the players as it was for the fans. Freak injuries to the starters, then the relievers, then the starting lineup guaranteed the end of any hope for making the playoffs. Add to that the tradeaway of Lunchbox and the failure for Alex to pick up any piece that would help the Jays in their efforts, and what you have is a broken down team with no leadership and no hope. Farrell is not a veteran manager, and Alex Anthopoulos is not a veteran General Manager.

Ricky Romero was supposed to be the leader of the pitching rotation but all he has done is struggle. Morrow's return added some stability to the rotation. The loss of Bautista for the season certainly added a major  blow to the team. Brett Lawrie's loss made people realize that he is not the godsend to this team, and that he has a great deal of growing up to do. Rogers trotted him out at the beginning of the year as the team's brash, young, spokesperson, but as the year wore down, that role was taken away. Brett Lawrie is gifted, but he is far too aggressive, whether it's stealing bases unneccessarily, throwing helmets at umpires, or diving into camera bays. Restraint is required, young Jedi.

And the clubhouse antics of Yunel revealed the ugly and homophobic side to baseball and to the general unrest in the clubhouse. The clubhouse isn't nearly as cohesive as advertised. People in the dugout knew exactly what Yunel painted, and they did and said nothing except let him go out there and be the fool. A cohesive dugout would not have let that happen.

At the end of the year, there will be more questions than answers. Fans had hoped that Adam Lind and Kelly Johnston would have good years, but both are up for replacement. I really can't see Adam Lind staying on the Jays, as he is prone to health problems and has definite hitting issues. Yunel's existence on the team is questionable especially with an well-auditioning Hechavarria. A gaping hole is in leftfield with no one really stepping up to fill it, forcing Anthopoulos to deal in the off-season. 

It just seems like there are many more holes than there was at the beginning of the season to be resolved. At the beginning of the year, people would have been quite happy to say that 2013 would look like Escobar - Lawrie - Bautista - Edwin - Lind - Johnston - Rasmus - Lawrie - Arencibia -  Snider, and that indeed would be a formidable lineup if everyone was hitting as good as advertised. But for next year, we might see Hechavarria at short, a new 1B or DH in town, and definitely a new 2B and LF. Rajai and Jeff Mathis will be on the bench. Mike McCoy probably right now is slated to be the utility infielder, and the Jays will probably go out and acquire an inexpensive veteran bench player as they did in Omar Visquel. AA has a lot of shopping to do in the off-season, and the Jays' management knows that the fans are expecting a contender next year.

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