Toronto Blue Jays – Blue Jays Daze
Note: Everyone welcome Mat, our new Jays contributor. And be sure to check out his new blog, Blue Jays Daze (linked above).
If Baseball was the board game “Clue”, the first half of the past week Jays murderers would have been described like this: it was the Butler, in Kauffman Stadium, with a big bad stick and a hell of a pitching staff! The Jays lost their first series of the season while losing 3 of 4 against the Royals. Billy Butler, the newest Jays killer, took his average from .193 to .262 over the last 2 games of the series while going 6 of 8 with 2 homers, 2 doubles, 5 RBI and 6 runs scored. The KC pitching staff helped him out with stellar performances from Bannister, Greinke, and Davies, although the Jays offense did become the only team able to score runs against Greinke this season. The Jays were also able to make a partial comeback Thursday, making the final 8-6 after being down 8-2 after the 5th inning. Other positives for the Jays include Scott Richmond’s strong start during an 8-1 victory on Tuesday (the one game Butler sat out), as well as strong performances from the bullpen, aside from RHP Bryan Bullington who has since been demoted to AAA. He will be joined by starter LHP Brian Burres who thankfully takes his ugly 14.21 ERA with him and should not be back with the Jays as long as better options exist.
The second half of the week was critical to the Jays ending their mini-slump, and was much kinder to the Jays offense and pitching. While Doc Halladay didn’t have one of his best starts on Friday, he did last 8 innings that allowed the pen some time to rest and the offense took the lead with 8 runs scored. Saturday’s extra innings 5-4 win was even more encouraging. It included Robert Ray’s first career start, which was solid, and was followed with the usual shut down performance of the Jays elite bullpen who shut out the Orioles over the last 5.1 innings of the game. The only run the O’s scored was unearned due to an Aaron Hill miscue, but he more than made up for it with a game tying HR in the same inning followed by a game winning single in the 11th. The opposite things occurred to Travis Snider this week, who made 3 key defensive plays but struggled at the plate and now sports a .229 average. The bullpen was effective as usual and deserves the praise it get. Carlson and Downs shut down the end of the week and the O’s on Sunday, which allowed Richmond’s great 7 inning performance to result in his 4th win of the season. Overall, the series against the Orioles was a much needed return to winning for the Jays who took 3 of 3 from their division rivals.
Week’s Record: 4-3
Season Record: 18-9
This Week: Mon – Wed CLEVELAND; Thur – Sun @Anaheim
Boston Red Sox – Surviving Grady
The Red Sox started the week in the same fashion they ended the previous week: winning. Tim Wakefield battled Cliff Lee through 8 scoreless innings on Monday before Jason Bay crushed a three-run homer to win it. On Tuesday, Tito forgot the mantra of “respect the streak” and inserted Julio Lugo into the line-up for the first time. Lugo fumbled a double-play ball that eventually led to three runs, and Lopez dropped a ball covering first to let in the winning run. Streak over. The Red Sox bounced back with a tenth-inning win on Wednesday from an unlikely hero” Jonathan Van Every. Then the Sox headed to Tampa and things fell apart.
The Rays are like the kid in high school that used to get picked on, then had a huge growth spurt over a summer, and came back to school wreaking havoc on those that tormented him. Matt Garza shut the Sox down on Thursday, taking a no-hitter into the seventh. The result was a 13-0 laugher that saw the Red Sox finish the game with just an infield single and two walks, and a lot of questions about Josh Beckett. Beckett gave up seven earned in four-and-two-thirds. Evan Longoria’s grand slam on Friday night was enough to power the Rays past Justin Masterson and Boston’s anemic offense.
It took Tim Wakefield to stop the losing streak just like he did in against Oakland a couple of weeks ago. It wasn’t a great outing but he kept them in the game and the bats were finally able to make something happen against Jeff Niemann and the Rays’ bullpen. The bats went back into hibernation on Sunday and the Rays end up taking three-out-of-four to climb out of the basement and knock the Sox back into second place. Onto the House That Roids Built. (ed note: RAB does not approve of this line)
Week’s record: 3-4
Season record: 15-10
This week: Mon – Tue @New York; Wed – Thu CLEVELAND; Fri – Sun TAMPA BAY
Tampa Bay Rays – Rays of Light
This week started looking like it was going to be another disappointing stanza in what has been a pretty depressing song for the Rays so far in 2009, but thanks to a tremendous weekend series against the Red Sox, the Rays look like they might finally be turning the corner. The big story for Rays fans (and fantasy owners!) was, of course, Carl Crawford going insane against the BoSox on Sunday, swiping 6 bags as the Rays closed out a series with against the Beantowners. That was 3-out-of-4 for those of you keeping track, and though the Rays still find themselves 6 1/2 games back in the AL East, they’ve moved out of the cellar and are pointed in the right direction.
Most encouraging for the Rays has to be the way the starting pitching performed over the weekend. Matt Garza was brilliant against the Red Sox in the Rays’ 13-0 romp on Thursday, nearly throwing a perfect game. Andy Sonnanstine was his usual good-but-not-great self, and James Shields worked into the 8th inning in allowing just a pair of runs on Sunday. It’s the pitching that’s going to carry the Rays this season if they are going to win again, and if this past weekend is any indication, the Rays’ arms are primed and ready for a dogfight.
Week’s record: 4-3
Season record: 11-15
Injuries: Shawn Riggans (shoulder tendonitis, 15-day DL), Jason Isringhausen (moved to AAA for continued rehab, 15-day-DL)
This week: Mon – Tues BALTIMORE; Wed- Thur @New York; Fri-Sun @Boston
Baltimore Orioles – Dempsey’s Army
Owwww! Quit it!
0-6 this week makes for a painful recap. I’m not sure if it’s better or worse that the O’s were competitive in every game save for a loss to Roy Halladay. Three losses by a lone run, two by two runs. 22 men left in scoring position in the losses. Baltimore had their chances but failed to capitalize.
So, what are the bright spots? Adam Jones came back from a minor injury to continue his torrid hitting posting a .435/.458/.739 line this week. (one note to Adam Jones: you should quit blowing bubbles with your gum and looking so casual as you run down balls and make amazing plays look routine. It’s going to hurt your chances for a Gold Glove. Slow up every now and then and make an unnecessary basket catch like B.J. Upton.) Adam Jones and Nick Markakis are the two top runs corers in the American League. Melvin Mora came back from his hamstring injury, relegating Ty Wigginton to the bench. That’s really about it.
Meanwhile, down on the farm, LF Nolan Reimold continues to rake, posting a .390/.469/.756 line for the season. He hit 8 homers in April. He’s knocking on the door. Matt Wieters has raised his average to .270 but is only slugging .365 thus far. 21-year old Chris Tillman has posted a 2.37 ERA and 21 strikeouts in 19 innings at AAA Norfolk. There is hope.
Notes: RP Dennis Sarfate was placed on the 15-day DL and reliever Bob McCrory was recalled from Norfolk. McCrory can flat out bring it, hitting 95-96 on the gun when I saw him pitch in Gwinnett earlier this month…2B Brian Roberts was 0-14 during the Toronto series…Nick Markakis had his hitting streak broken at 17 games in Toronto. The streak tied the longest of his career….Top pick from the 2008 draft, LHP Brian Matusz, has a 3.67 ERA and 32 strikeouts in 27.0 IP in A+ Frederick.
Week’s Record: 0-6
Season Record: 9-16
Injuries: RHP Dennis Sarfate (15-day DL, numbness, right hand), Rich Hill (15-day DL, elbow, out until mid-May), UT Ryan Freel (15-day DL, concussion)
This Week: Mon-Tue @Tampa Bay; Wed-Thur MINNESOTA; Fri-Sun YANKEES