GAME 67 (5-2 loss vs. CWS) (season record 32-35)
We (well, okay, I) keep talking about how the next step for the Blue Jays is reaching the .500 mark. That, inevitably on their way back to playoff contention, they will reach .500 by a certain date that keeps moving and then, they’ll go on a run. What if we’re wrong? What if there is no next step? I have to confess I have my doubts that there is another gear that this team has yet to find.
I’m not declaring their season over. I’ve watched long enough to know that baseball lore is full of surprises and shocks and baseball history full of comebacks and collapses of historical proportions. The mathematical odds of it happening don’t really matter much when we’re not even halfway through a season. Everything went wrong for Toronto in April. Things evened out in May, though Toronto never were really healthy or dominant at any point, so June seemed destined to be the month where everything was going to come together and the Blue Jays would make a run, as they had the previous two seasons. Right now that’s hard to believe in. Less star-studded but more dynamic and versatile teams like the White Sox, who scored runs tonight using both braun and speed, bring into sharp relief how unidimensional Toronto’s offence is and how frustrating it is as a fan to behold how easily they can be pitched to. To watch a AAAA pitcher like Mike Pelfrey, who was released by the pitching-starved Tigers this spring, dominate them simply because he threw everything away and the Jays almost uniformly insisted on trying to pull every pitch, culminating in one of their least inspiring games this year. Not a single Jays player had more than one hit tonight against arguably the worst starting pitcher in the American League.
It’s not so much that a comeback division title is mathematically unlikely. I think its unlikely with the personnel they’ve assembled on offence.
COULDA, WOULDA, SHOULDA
(after each loss, three things that could have made a difference)
Trailing 2-0 with runners on first and second base in the second inning, Ryan Goins hit a 1-2 pitch from Sandy Koufax…er, Mike Pelfrey tonight into deep right centre field. It was a high, arcing shot that split the outfielders perfectly and COULDA scored both runners (yes, even the Tulowitzki/Morales Piano Moving Co.) but it hopped over the wall for a ground rule double that kept Tulowitzki at third, where he was stranded two pitches later by – you guessed it – a ground ball pulled weakly to third base.
If the Blue Jays and their brain dead hitting coach Brook Jacoby could have made any adjustments, they WOULDA realized that the only hits they got tonight against Pelfrey were to the opposite field or up the middle. Here is exactly how Pelfrey’s six innings went down tonight.
1-ground out to SS (1), strike out swinging (2), strike out looking (3)
2- single to CF, strike out swinging (1), single to RF, lineout to RF (2), double to RF, groundout to 3B(3)
3-flyout to CF (1), groundout to SS (2), groundout to 3B (3)
4- struck out swinging (1), struck out swinging (2), pop out to 2B (3)
5 – ground out to SS (1), fly out to LF (2), lineout to RF (3)
6 – single to CF, ground into double play (SS to 2B to 1B) (1,2), pop out to 1B (3).
That doesn’t read like the at-bats of a group of players who are desperately scrapping to save their season, does it? Sure, sometimes you have to do the proverbial ‘tip your cap’ to a starting pitcher who was really on his game. With Pelfrey tonight, no cap-tipping was necessary. The Blue Jays took gigantic hacks at everything he threw and were shamefully impatient – no walks drawn and five strikeouts vs. the pitcher with the worst strikeout/walk ratio in the major leagues, who had allowed 8 walks vs. just 7 strikeouts in his last three starts.
I think Josh Donaldson SHOULDA avoided the temptation to watch Major League on cable last night. That movie is nearly irresistible once it comes into your viewing realm and features one of the highest joke-per-minute ratios in cinema history, but it can be a bad influence, too. J.D. was clearly bewitched by it, doing his best Roger Dorn impersonation today by committing two miscues (one error officially, but…come on) while trying to ole’ the ball off to the side instead of getting in front it. He got away with the first gaffe without hurting his team, but the second time was a backbreaking error in the 8th inning that allowed the White Sox to go up by two runs. The White Sox are 27-0 in games where they took a lead into the 8th inning this season and Donaldson greased the wheels for them to maintain that perfect record with his rough game on both sides of the ball today. Even Superman has an off night once in a while, folks. The problem is that the rest of Toronto’s Justice League were just as lost-looking today as well.
NOTES FROM MY COUCH
- Even though its just for Father’s Day weekend, the light blue touches look sharp with the Blue Jays’ regular home uniforms. So much better than the fire engine red ones they’re force-feeding fans every Sunday at home games. If they try to combine those two elements today it could be historically hideous.
- The White Sox have rid themselves of a lot of old players and their contracts (dare to dream) and are in the process of developing a young nucleus of players. This makes them underdogs against almost every team they face and as a result, they are playing like a team with nothing to lose. They are dynamic and aggressive on offence and that makes them exactly the David-like team that the slow-moving Goliath that is the 2017 Blue Jays can’t beat. They’ve now won 22 of their last 31 games vs. Toronto and are on their way to becoming the Tampa Bay Rays of the Central Time Zone.
- I’m glad to see Rick Renteria get another chance to manage at the MLB level. He’s a smart guy and a great communicator and seems a perfect fit for this rebuilding team. The classless way he was fired by the crosstown Cubs after just one season in 2015 so they could hire big shot self-promoter Joe Madden was an unpleasant detail that got conveniently swept under the rug in the World Series lovefest.
- If the pencil pushers in the Blue Jays’ front office want to find a new market inefficiency to exploit, a la Moneyball for 2017, I have a suggestion : the high, inside pitch. I’m not talking about hitting anyone on purpose – this is nothing that needs to be done hotblooded – but there are far too many comfortable hitters in baseball right now. Everyone has their feet firmly dug in as if they’re about to get in to Crow Position. If, in the back of his mind, a batter knows there’s a 7-10 per cent chance that the next pitch will come in underneath his chin at 94 MPH, believe me, he’ll be a little less brave and it will stop him from diving out and launching balls all over the yard. Other teams hate the Blue Jays already anyway – why not give them a better reason and make yourselves tough to hit against, too?
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