Maybe an unfortunate game like this was bound to happen for Estrada, whose .215 batting average on balls in play is the lowest in baseball this season. Maybe the Angels really did their homework in anticipation of the generally dependable Blue Jays starter, who has given up three earned runs or less in 41 of his last 50 starts. Or maybe it was just one of those nights.
Estrada had a great changeup from the get-go Wednesday and leaned on it early in the game. But unfortunately for him, Mike Trout continues to be the best baseball player on earth. So, when Estrada threw Trout a nasty full count changeup that faded below the strike zone in the first inning, the Angels centre fielder simply went down and golfed it 411-feet off his shoelaces and into the left field seats for a solo shot. Albert Pujols followed with a homer of his own, this time on a not-so-good pitch that hung up in the zone, to give Los Angeles an early 2-0 lead.
“Those are two of the best hitters on one team, and I made two good pitches to them,” Estrada said. “But they hit them out.”
For the second game in a row Estrada was not himself, giving up six runs over five innings last night as he fell to 7-6.
Estrada, though, refused to blame the change in his routine for his problems, responding with a terse “No” when asked if it had any effect.
He was working on seven days rest in Wednesday’s start and six days rest for his previous start.
Estrada had no answers for why things went so wrong last night. He felt he was making good pitches. He said he felt good. “It’s just the way it goes sometimes,” he said.
In theory a six-man rotation sounds perfectly reasonable, especially with all six pitchers reportedly on board with the strategy. But how something sounds in theory and how it works in reality aren’t always the same thing.
Take a look at Estrada’s numbers since the move and you start to wonder whether this is a strategy the Jays will stick with much longer.
Estrada has yet to pitch past the fifth inning in a start since the six-man rotation plan was hatched.
Wednesday night against a struggling Angels team, Estrada got the Jays through five innings on 94 pitches including back-to-back home runs from Mike Trout and Albert Pujols in the first inning on the way to the loss.
The homers are the fifth and sixth he has given up in his past three starts. In his previous 19 starts, Estrada allowed a total of 14 homers.
Mike Trout and Albert Pujols hit back-to-back homers in the first inning and Matt Shoemaker pitched six strong innings as the Angels roughed up Marco Estrada and the Blue Jays.
Yesterday I thought the offense was back. Today….well, it is on holiday again. We had a grand total of 9 hits (3 of them in the ninth inning) , only 2 extra base hits, Michael Saunders and Darwin Barney each hit a double. Saunders (it is nice that he’s starting to hit again) and Edwin Encarnacion were the only Jays to have 2 hits. We got 0 fors from Tulo, Pillar and Upton.
We didn’t score until the eight inning on a Barney walk and singles from Edwin and Russell Martin. We got 1 more in the ninth, Justin Smoak singled, a couple of outs later, came in to score on a Ezequiel Carrera single. Barney followed that with a double but Josh Donaldson ground out to end the game.
And the pitching wasn’t any better than the offense. Marco Estrada allowed back-to-back solo home run in the first inning and the might have been the highlight of his night. He gave up 3 runs in the second and another in the fourth. In all Marco allowed 10 hits, 6 earned, 3 walks with 4 strikeouts in 5 innings.
Scott Feldman and Aaron Loup allowed a run each to get the Angels up to 10. Brett Cecil was the only pitcher to help his ERA tonight, pitching a clean eighth.
No JoD today. Estrada is the only Jay to get to the Suckage number, posting a -.331, but you could give an honorary suckage to the entire offense.
Estrada’s mini-slump coincides with the team’s implementation of an unconventional six-man starting rotation to limit the workload of young righty Aaron Sanchez.
It’s a small sample, so maybe it’s just coincidence. But given how starting pitchers are notoriously creatures of habit, maybe not.
Manager John Gibbons was in no mood after Wednesday’s loss to consider what role, if any, the extra rest has played in Estrada’s struggles.
“Who the hell knows? I don’t know, you don’t know. We’ve got to move on from that,” he said. “It’s getting a little tiring. There’s got to be more to the game than that.”
Earlier this month Estrada said he wasn’t concerned about how the team’s unusual compromise might upset his between-starts routine. “It’s obviously a little different, but it only makes a big difference if you have an off-day in between or two off-days in between,” he said. “Then obviously it turns from six days (off) to seven or eight or whatever.”
Wednesday’s start came after seven days off.
Even still, Estrada was concise when asked Wednesday night whether the extra days off contributed to his problems: “No,” he said, before adding: “I feel good out there, plain and simple. I just got to pitch better.”
TSN 1050 Blue Jays reporter Tony Ambrogio joins TSN 1050 Today to discuss the Jays win last night against the Angels, and the favourable schedule this week.
The Trout/Pujols combination would strike again in the Angels half of the eighth. This time they would smack back-to-back doubles off Loup to make it 8-0 with 0 outs. The lefty would continue to struggle allowing a single and a walk to load the bases. Thankfully, he would induce a 1-2-3 double play, and a 4-3 ground out to end the inning without further damage.
Toronto would finally break through with two outs in the eighth inning. After Josh Donaldson reached base on a fielder’s choice, Edwin Encarnacion and Russell Martin would each single to get the Blue Jays on the board.
In total the combination of Shoemaker, Jose Valdez, J.C. Ramirez would hold the Blue Jays offense to 6 hits and 1 run over eight innings. Toronto would put together a rally in the ninth off reliever Deolis Guerra grabbing 3 singles and a run, but it didn’t lead to anything further.
Two positive things to take away from this game: The offense only struck out 4 times, and Brett Cecil worked a clean inning in the 9th.
Russell Martin struggled through the first two months of the season, hitting .190 with just three home runs. Since then his numbers have steadily gotten better, including a red-hot July and August that has seen him hit .303 with seven home runs. Dirk Hayhurst takes a closer look at Martin’s recent tear.
“I don’t care how long you’ve been playing, you go to a new environment you naturally want to get off to a great start and your tendency is you press to try to make things happen,” Gibbons said. “In baseball that works against you, it always does. But I think the fact now he’s getting at-bats, he’s more comfortable out there.”
Despite how Michael Saunders has struggled badly since the all-star break, he still figures to be part of the Jays’ trio of starting outfielders, so at some point in the near future Upton will likely return to the Jays’ bench, where he will be used as an occasional pinch-hitter, pinch-runner and defensive replacement.
But Upton should still get enough at bats to hit at least one more homer, which would be something of a special milestone for the 12-year veteran. Right now Upton is one homer shy of joining the 20-20 club — in terms of home runs and stolen bases — for the fourth time in his career and the first time since 2012.
He would be just the 32nd player in baseball history with at least four 20-20 seasons, joining the likes of Reggie Jackson, Rickey Henderson and former Blue Jay Shawn Green. The father-son duo of Bobby and Barry Bonds lead the way in the 20-20 club with 10 seasons apiece, while eight Blue Jays have accomplished the feat, including Green and Jose Cruz Jr., the only players in franchise history in the 30-30 club.
“I have no idea how it happened. It is something I felt and it was getting a little worse every day,” Travis said.
The cortisone shot he got Sunday night when the team got back from the road trip is slowly improving things, however.
“It hurts but today is a little better than yesterday and yesterday is a little better than the day before so that’s always a good thing,” he said.
As far as Travis can figure it, he first hurt the digit in New York but he’s not sure when.
Travis doesn’t feel it when he’s throwing the ball, but swinging the bat and not feeling some discomfort was impossible. Travis admits he hasn’t swung a bat since he had the cortisone shot.
“It just got to the point where I hadn’t been saying anything and then it was bothering me enough that I felt I had to go in (the trainer’s room) and get a little treatment to get some help.”
Worse than anything for Travis is the feeling of frustration in having to sit out at a pivotal point in the season.
“It’s terrible,” he said. “The fact that I can’t even tell myself how it happened makes it even more frustrating. We got 30-something games left in a pennant race. I need to be in there for my teammates and it just sucks that I can’t.”
What you can say about Bautista and Encarnacion is that the current window of opportunity for the team is partly tied to their individual performances. What you can say about Donaldson, Martin, and Tulowitzki is that they factor significantly into the team’s short-to-medium-term plans thanks, in part, to their respective contract situations.
If this is true, then why such a focus on Bautista, Encarnacion, Donaldson, Martin, and Tulowitzki? What makes them the current “core” of the team and no one else? I can think of four factors that underlie this view: age, contract status, position, and home run bias.
The age and contract status factors are the easiest to understand. With Sanchez, Stroman, Osuna, Travis, and Pillar all below 30 years of age, it’s easy to take their respective roles on the team for granted, and they’re what some people might call “controllable assets” as if to deny their humanity.
There are actually two dimensions to the age factor that work to trivialize the contributions of these young players. On the one hand, there’s the suggestion that the best for them lies ahead, not in the past or at the present – that we haven’t seen it yet – so we should wait before taking full stock of their importance to the team. The problem is someone like Osuna has already established himself as one of the best young closers in MLB history. There has also been no sign of regression in Pillar’s defensive play – this is a guy who could dominate the outfield in Toronto for the next six to eight years.
The other dimension is suspicion, and it has a similar logic. Here the argument is we’ve seen so little of these players that we can’t really trust them. Stroman’s struggles earlier this season and Travis’ various health ailments fit into this narrative. The narrative can only be broken through performance, and that’s how Stroman and Travis have responded. They’re two of the hottest players on the Blue Jays right now, at a time when the team needs everyone playing at their best.
The Edwin Encarnacion lawsuit and allegations are our lead story this week. Shaun Doyle of Jays From the Couch and I discuss the troubling rush of opinions on a topic not yet suited for them, and how baseball fans should properly handle the weeks ahead with Encarnacion. On Tuesday, we aggregated the most recent updates on the situation, including a link to the full court documents, in this post.
Also on the list for this week’s show is the upcoming return of Jose Bautista, who is expected to see an increased role as the designated hitter. Shaun and I talk about why this is the ideal Blue Jays lineup and why, at this point in the season, DH’ing doesn’t matter to Bautista’s free agent value.
Then, because we must, it’s Joey Votto time. Blue Jays fans have fallen hard for the idea of Votto and the back end of his mega-contract playing in Toronto, and for good reason. Since the All-Star break, he’s playing at a level rarely seen. We try to keep the expectations in check, though, because remember: other team’s might just be interested, too.
In the race to October, the Blue Jays hold a number of advantages, but none of them are guarantors of success. Of the seven teams just mentioned, the Blue Jays have the best team ERA (3.72) and WHIP (1.21); the fourth best fielding percentage (.986); and the second most runs (596). In fact, the Blue Jays’ pitching has been so dominant this season that those are actually the best numbers in the entire American League. Only Boston (683) has scored more runs than Toronto, and only Houston (.989), Baltimore (.987), and Detroit (.987) have played better in the field than Toronto.
Focusing on the divisional race alone, Toronto appears to have the easier schedule down the stretch. Five of its 12 remaining series are against the three bottom teams in the American League. Boston comes closest to matching this schedule with contests against the lowly Oakland Athletics (53-72) and San Diego Padres (53-72), but these contests form part of a nine-game road trip that concludes in Toronto. Baltimore, meanwhile, will have to slip by the surprisingly resilient New York Yankees (63-61) three times and tame the Tigers once if they hope to reach the playoffs.
This says nothing about the remaining series between Toronto and Boston, Toronto and Baltimore, and Boston and Baltimore. These are the series that will likely make the real differences, and it’s somewhat comforting to know that the Blue Jays currently lead their season series against both the Red Sox (7-6) and the Orioles (7-6) albeit by the slimmest of margins.
At this point in the season, it’s no longer just a cliche to say that every game, every inning and every out matters. At least somewhat. This is the small sample size to end all small sample sizes. From here on out, everything that happens on the field and in some cases, off the field, will be magnified to the point of near volcanic eruption. A loss to a team like the Twins or Angels will incite calls on Mike Wilner’s Blue Jays talk demanding someone’s job title. It’s just too important right now.
Luckily, the Blue Jays have fared well this season when facing less than successful opponents. In games against teams with less than .500 records, the Blue Jays have performed to a 24-20 record with their performance improving against teams ahead of the eight-ball given their 43-31 record. Sure, there is a slight difference in their win percentage (0.545 against the sub-500 teams and 0.588 against the over-500 teams) but this isn’t exactly a night and day difference. We’re shades within similarity here especially given the smaller sample size of the sub-500 category. Really, if the Jays win four of the remaining five games on the home-stand, they will surpass the winning percentage of the opposite category.
The importance of these games can’t be undersold here. More than 45,000 people packed the Rogers Centre on Tuesday night against a last place team. If that doesn’t sell you on the magnitude of this game, maybe nothing will.
With the exception of April, the Jays have had a winning record every month and were 16-8 in July. To this point in August they are 12-8. The Jays are 37-26 at Rogers Centre, and 34-28 on the road.
The other side of this is that the Blue Jays simply don’t need Bautista running cross-routes in the outfield anymore. After acquiring Melvin Upton, the Jays now have three capable outfielders with the defensive upgrade of Carrera that could be implemented by Gibbons later in games over Michael Saunders. There’s simply no need other than pride or saving face for his impending free agency to support the need to trot Bautista out to the field.
Of course, this would mean that part-time first baseman Justin Smoak is going to spend a larger portion of his time on the bench. At perfectly replacement level per fWAR, that’s a proposition that shouldn’t shock anyone including Smoak who can still be used as a defensive replacement over Edwin Encarnacion in the later innings with a lead as he was in the playoffs last year.
All of this is good news for a team that has gone 12-8 in the month of August. Certainly that’s not a record to be ashamed of but in the heat of a pennant race, one can’t complain of a bat-flipper returning to the lineup.
Scott MacArthur looks at where Jose Bautista will slide into the Jays’ lineup once he returns and whether or not the Jays will play him in the field or as a DH upon his return.
Saunders just hasn’t looked the same in the second half of the season. If you take a deeper look into the numbers, it’s worse than you may think. To start with the basics, right off of the top the “baseball card” numbers have dropped off significantly. Slashing a phenomenal .298/.372/.551 in the first half with 16 home runs and 42 RBI, Saunders was more than deserving of his ticket to San Diego. The drop off has been brutal however, in the second half only mustering up a .157/.281/.314, 4 home runs and a measly 7 RBI.
Dig deeper down in the numbers, and things don’t get any better for Saunders either. In the first half, his slugging percentage above shows just at how good of a clip he was managing to register an extra base hit. Saunders was able to move past first 43 times (good enough for 14% of his at bats). Second half? Only 7 hits (or 6.8%) have gone for extra base hits. A definite area of concern. Tack onto that that Saunders is now striking out in 5% more at bats than he usually does, and it makes for a scary beginning to a second half.
The advanced numbers don’t look to great for Saunders either. A wRC+ of 146, and a wOBA 0.390 posted in the first half are both numbers considered to to be great, and on the verge of excellence. Both of these however have fallen drastically to 60 wRC+ and 0.264 in the latter half. A mark considered awful by the saber metrics community.
New Hampshire Fisher Cats (62-67) – 2
Portland Sea Dogs (50-76) – 8
A quick two-run lead turned into a tough loss for the Fisher Cats. After scoring two runs in the first inning the Cats bats were silenced by the Sea Dogs pitchers. Rowdy Tellez drove in the first run on double to right. Ryan Lavarnway followed with another double to drive in the second run of the game. Things looked to be heading in the right direction for the Cats after the innings but Jalen Beeks and the rest of the pitching staff for the Sea Dogs had other plans. They shut out the Cats hitters for the remaining eight innings.
While the Sea Dogs pitchers found their footing to shut down the Cats, the Sea Dogs hitters attacked Jeremy Gabryszwski. Gabryszwski allowed six earned runs in 3.1 innings. Yoan Moncada tagged Gabryszwski with a three-run homer in the 2nd inning to really get the Sea Dogs offence going. Alonzo Gonzalez was the first out of the pen and he threw 1.2 innings, allowing one run. Wil Browning and Colton Turner shut out the Sea Dogs over the last three innings but the offence was down and out by that point in the game.
One cannot write an article about Coca-Cola Field without mentioning the crazy phenomena that is the condiment/food race that happens in the fifth inning. Though happening in many parks in the U.S, it’s something many Blue Jays fans have never seen before. Celery, Chicken Wing, Atomic Wing and Bleu Cheese run a race from the outfield to home and the fans really get into the spectacle of it all. Word is, it’s usually Celery that loses.
Coca-Cola field is definitely worth the trip down to Buffalo, to see a great game of ball, played by some familiar faces. Players like Danny Barnes, Bo Shultz, Andy Burns, Chris Colabello, and Dalton Pompey are there doing there thing, as well as answering the call from the Blue Jays when needed.
With only just under a 1/4 of the baseball season left and the desire to see great baseball action live, there is still time to bring the family to see the Blue Jays family in Buffalo. One thing to keep in mind? The International League is close to the end of the season. The last Buffalo home game is scheduled for Thursday September 1 against the Scranton/Wilkes Barre Railriders. If you’re thinking of a road trip, this truly is a family friendly and affordable way to get that Blue Jays fix. I know I’m going back, and now that I know how great is, it will be even more often next year.
Buffalo Bisons 4, Gwinnett Braves 8
Despite matching the Gwinnett Braves with 11 hits, the Buffalo Bisons scored half as many runs, losing 8-4 on Tuesday. Jesus Montero was 2/3 with a double, two walks and two RBI while Andy Burns (2/5, RBI, CS, PO) and Darrell Ceciliani (2/4, BB, 2 R, SB) had two hits each. Dalton Pompey stole a base and walked twice, scoring a run and Casey Kotchman hit a solo home run.
Mike Bolsinger only lasted 2 2/3 innings, giving up seven runs (six earned) on six hits and three walks with two home runs while striking out five and throwing 75 pitches. Jason Berken gave up a run on four hits, stranding the two inherited runners from Bolsinger, and throwing 3 1/3 innings while Matt Dermody (1 IP) and Dustin Antolin (1 IP, 1 H, 2 K) finished the game.
Player of the Game: Jesus Montero
Roster Notes: Ryan Tepera was optioned to Buffalo.