Down 6-2, the Blue Jays offence went silent until the ninth when doubles by Upton and Bautista tacked on a run, but by then it was too late to cover for Happ, who had won his last 11 straight decisions, and was due a blip.
It came on a second straight night in which the Angels touched plenty of green, and the Blue Jays did not.
“It sure seemed like it, they were just finding holes the last two nights for sure,” said Happ. “And we were making some good contact and hitting it right at them. I hate saying the phrase that’s baseball, but that is baseball and we’ve got to turn the page, get back at them and do something to pick the energy level back up.”
“That’s a game where I felt I was going deep in that game for sure,” a disappointed Happ said after the game. “It didn’t bounce our way, but if that ball doesn’t bounce off my foot there it’s a potential double play and the inning looks a whole lot different. Maybe get out of there, but I just struggled to get through that inning right there.”
Through five innings the Los Angeles Angels had managed all of two hits, both singles and both in the first inning. Both runners were also stranded.
From that point on Happ retired 13 in a row.
But in the sixth it turned pretty quickly as a Kaleb Cowart liner down the right-field line just found fair territory for a double and was followed by a walk to No. 9 hitter Gregorio Petit.
It was that walk that both Happ and manager John Gibbons identified as the big at-bat of the inning.
“They kind of slapped that double down there that fell in, but I’ve got to make the next guy put it in play and try to get that out somehow, make him earn it,” Happ said. “Then two of the best hitters in the game hit it where we weren’t, but that’s kind of baseball. But I think the walk was big in that inning.”
The Angels leadoff man, Calhoun, followed the walk with a single that caught the outside of the left foot of the Jays starter and ricocheted to the third-base line leaving no one with a play and the bases loaded.
A two-run single by Mike Trout and a run-scoring base hit by Albert Pujols ended Happ’s night.
Mike Trout had three hits and four RBIs, Albert Pujols drove in his 100th run of the season, and the Angels held on to take two of three from the Jays. Jose Bautista went 1-for-4 with two RBIs in his return to the lineup.
After making sure J.A. was ok, Mike Trout catches one just off the end of his bad and it bounces just out of reach of Josh Donaldson. 2 runs in and the game is tied. An Albert Pujols single and we are down and Happ is out of the game. Joe Biagini gets a double play ball, but that scores another run and we are down 2.
Happ’s line ends up at 5 innings, 6 hits, 4 earned, 1 walk and 6 strikeouts.
We’d give up another 2 runs in the 7th. It was Biagini’s turn to have some hard luck. A ground ball single and then a bunt single put runners on 1st and 2nd. It looked like we would get out of it, Kaleb Cowart popped up a bunt that Biagini caught and almost turned into a double play. A fly out later, Gibby brought Brett Cecil in to face lefty Kole Calhoun. Five bad pitches later, he was walked and Joaquin Benoit to give up a single to Mike Trout. And we were down by 4.
Offensively, we had 7 hits and 3 walks. We had some hard hit balls that went straight into glove, but we should have done better against Jered Weaver’s soft stuff.
The positive streak that Happ had hoped to extend was an 11-game winning roll, the longest active in the majors heading into the night. The club record is 15, shared by Roger Clemens and Roy Halladay. A victory would have tied another club mark — 12-0 in a span of 13 starts, set by Clemens and tied by Halladay. The 33-year-old Happ was also seeking to become MLB’s first 18-game winner.
Happ retired 13 batters in a row from the first inning through the fifth. He had never before completed five innings when facing the Angels and was cruising. But in the sixth, the curse of the Angels struck, as well as a line drive off his left foot by right fielder Kole Calhoun for an infield single that loaded the bases with nobody out.
Happ threw one practice pitch for Gibbons and the Jays’ training staff, but after a pair of RBI singles by Mike Trout and Albert Pujols he was gone. Happ, in the midst of serious Cy Young conversation, faced five batters in the sixth, allowing four hits and a walk.
“I think the biggest thing about that inning was the walk (to Gregorio Petit),” Happ said. “That’s a game I felt I was going deep for sure. If that ball doesn’t hit off my foot there, potential double play and it looks a whole lot different, maybe get out of there. But leading up to it, in those first five (innings) I felt really crisp with almost everything.”
He will make his next start on Tuesday in Baltimore, suggesting after the game that it was “just a little bruise.”
Happ ran into his first real trouble in the top of the 6th when the Angels were able to load the bases on a double, a walk, and a hit that bounced off of Happ’s leg. Mike Trout came to the plate with no outs and the bases loaded. Trout promptly singled through the left side of the infield to pick up a pair of runs. A passed ball and a Pujols single later the Jays would be trailing 3-2. Happ exited in favour of Joe Biagini. Biagini was able to get a double play but the Angels scored a run to make their lead 4-2.
With two outs in the bottom of the 6th the Jays had new life as Pillar and Upton Jr. singled. Upton stole second base to put runners on second and third for Carrera. Ten pitches later Weaver walked Carrera to load the bases. Jose Valdez came in and retired Darwin Barney to escape the inning.
Biagini allowed a leadoff single to Nick Buss on a bunt. Two outs later Brett Cecil came into the game to face lefty Kole Calhoun. Cecil walked Calhoun on 5 pitches to load the bases for Trout. Mike Trout continued to mash the Blue Jays. Trout singled on a 1-0 pitch off of Joaquin Benoit. The single scored a pair to put the Angels up 6-2.
Jason Grilli struck out two and got a ground out in the top of the 9th in hopes of a Blue Jays rally. Upton picked up his 3rd hit to lead off the 9th. He dropped a double down the right field line to get things going. Jose Bautista hit an RBI double with two outs to cut the lead to 6-3. Donaldson followed with a fly out to right to end the game as the Jays come up short in this one
Missed opportunities were the major issue during this game as the Jays left seven runners in scoring position. Mike Trout and Albert Pujols combined for a 5-for-8 night with five RBIs to sink the Jays. Bautista was productive at the plate in his return as he drove in a pair of runs.
After losing two of three to the Angels, Scott MacArthur discusses the Blue Jays’ enigmatic offence this season, whether it’s fair to call the team underachievers, and if he thinks the division will come down to the final three games against the Red Sox.
In fact, aside from some brief doubt early in the season, it seems as though there is a generally accepted expectation that the Blue Jays will play October baseball this year. Anything less than that would certainly be a disappointment, if not a surprise.
That emphasis on the short-term is certainly grounded to some extent in the knowledge that Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion are possibly in their final seasons with the club. That might not mean that the window is closing, but the added urgency suggests a focus on the here and now.
But more than that, the events of last year demonstrated that baseball is capable of providing a spectacular moment on any given night. When unbelievable moments occur, you’re drawn to see what happens next.
Last August, I wrote that Jays fans had their swagger back, and that certainly seems to have carried through to this year. You can see it in the packed houses at home, and the manner in which the fanbase routinely takes over ballparks on the road. Winning feels good, and brings with it an air of confidence.
Given this newfound brashness, it’s important to not lose sight of the fact that baseball can be a cruel game. As entertaining as it was, last weekend’s series in Cleveland offered some humbling reminders that there are no guarantees in baseball, and the Blue Jays are still have much to do to assure themselves a postseason berth.
“When I first got back from the toe injury I was trying to overdo it a little bit, having a little bit of (anxiousness) and swinging at pitches out of the zone, overswinging at pitches in the zone and being a little too fine in other situations where I let good pitches pass by and then I was seeing off-speed. Stuff like that,” Bautista said Thursday after his activation from the disabled list. “Just got to focus better, understand who’s on the mound and the situation and hopefully adjust to that and just produce, come through.”
The question will be how far off Bautista will be from his normal self as he readjusts to the pressures of the majors. Before his knee injury Aug. 9, suffered when his toe got caught in the right-field turf, he had just started regaining his rhythm with hits in six of his previous eight games.
There was no rehab stint this time, just one simulated game in which he took nine at-bats, and getting used to a protective left knee brace that “was recommended – I’m not in love with it.”
Manager John Gibbons pencilled him in at designated hitter Thursday and plans to keep him there regularly as a way to guard Bautista’s knee for the time being, saying, “I think it would be smart.”
But whether or not he’s in right field isn’t the prime concern – the difference he can make is with his bat, not his glove and that’s what needs to get right ASAP.
“It’s not that people get selfish or worry about their individual stats in April or May, you’re trying to hit your stride, trying to get the feel for your swing, your at-bats – you’re trying to hit. Right now, I don’t think anybody cares about hitting or feeling good,” said Bautista. “I can get jammed with a man on third and less than two outs and if I drive a run in, I know how important that run is in late August. We’re in first place, we’re trying to grab a hold of that and not let go. My stats don’t mean a thing if we lose.”
Jose Bautista makes his return to the Blue Jays lineup tonight and will be hitting lead-off as Toronto goes for a series win against the Angels.
Bautista wants to help the Jays put together a nice winning streak like they did a couple of times last year. The media pushed him on Thursday as to where he wants to bat in the line-up — if he expects to bat lead-off again despite the fact that second baseman Devon Travis has assumed that spot in his absence. In 22 games as the lead-off hitter, Travis is batting .311 with an .806 OPS.
“I don’t think I’m in a position to be demanding or tell anybody what to do,” Bautista said. “This team is playing great and the last thing I want to be is a disruption. I just want to continue to help anyway I can and hopefully get back in the playoffs and try to get that championship that we missed out on last year.”
Bautista did bat lead-off on Thursday against the Los Angeles Angels with Travis out with a sore knuckle. He also DH’d with Ezequiel Carrera playing right field.
Gibbons said he expects to have Bautista DH from time to time having just come off the DL.
When Bautista assumed the lead-off spot earlier this summer when the Jays were struggling, he actually went to Gibbons and suggested the move. It paid off. Now everyone seems to be waiting for a controversy to break out over who bats lead-off when Travis and Bautista are both healthy.
Bautista said he isn’t going to get in a twist one way or the other — sincere in his intent on helping the team win without making any waves.
“We want to have the best nine out there and obviously Devon’s done a great job at lead-off and, again, this is Gibby’s team. He’s the manager and we’re not going to try to undermine him,” Bautista said. “He has to go with the hot hands and whatever’s working. So wherever I can fit in, I’m sure I’ll be fine. As long as we keep getting wins, I’ll be happy.”
But an optimistic Bautista was back for Thursday night’s game against the Angels, batting in the leadoff spot as the designated hitter. And on a team laden with veteran stars, the spotlight invariably finds him, as it did in spring training when he famously foreshadowed his upcoming free agency by making unspecific but outspoken comments about his salary demands, and as it has all season as his statistics sagged, and as it did in the second inning Thursday, when he came up with the bases loaded and walloped a sacrifice fly to the warning track in right field.
He also doubled home a run the the ninth inning of the Jays’ 6-3 loss.
Before the game, the spotlight was on him too as a media crowd interrogated him about his health and well-being.
This, so far, has been his worst season of nine as a Blue Jay. It did not begin in exemplary fashion, but until he suffered a sprained big toe in mid-June, his OPS was .815. Since then it is .701. For the past two weeks a knee injury put him on the shelf a second time.
“It’s been tough,” he said. “I’ve had to deal with a lot. But overall, I think I’ve contributed. I’ve always said that you win games by scoring one more run than the other team. My on-base percentage, and RBIs and runs-scored per game are not bad at all.”
Those last two statistics are seldom cited, but Bautista is known for parsing his numbers every which way (and why not, at a time when building a case for a free-agency windfall becomes imperative). His OBP is .349, more than respectable but 26 points below his 2015 mark. Last year he scored an average of .71 runs per game; this year he’s scoring .58. Last year he drove in .75 runs per game; this year’s number is .60.
No, not bad at all. But for the Jays’ chances of winning the division to improve, it would help if they were better.
Bautista has made his greatest impact this season as the leadoff man. Recall that the Jays were slumping back in May, scoring just 83 runs in the previous 22 games and struggling under .500. It was a committee of players that went to manager John Gibbons and suggested that Bautista be inserted in the leadoff spot, replacing the failed experiments with Kevin Pillar and Michael Saunders.
Bautista hit first for 29 games and the Jays took flight. He was back in that leadoff role on Thursday against the Angels, with Devon Travis sitting out for a third straight game while waiting for the cortisone treatment to kick in with his damaged right knuckle. But that should not be Bautista’s role, given the current situation and with Travis having taken to leadoff quite nicely.
“I talked to him (Wednesday) night — he came in,” Gibbons said. “He says he feels fine to play the outfield, but we’ll give him plenty of time at DH just to guard that thing a little bit. I think it would be smart.
“He’s a feared hitter in this league and everybody knows where he is in the lineup, when he’s coming up, when he’s sitting on deck. Everybody’s aware of that. He can burn you with the best of them. Then he’ll take his walks. He’s disciplined, so he might get on base for those other guys. That’s a weapon. He says he feels real good.”
Jose Bautista, who returns to the Blue Jays’ lineup Thursday night, talks about how he feels about DHing and says he just wants to finish the season off strong.
The absence of Devon Travis, who is still dealing with a knuckle issue, means that Bautista returns to the leadoff spot in the Blue Jays’ linuep for the time being.
When Travis returns, manager John Gibbons will be afforded a greater level of flexibility as Toronto seems to have been one player away from their strongest starting nine all season long. Positionally, Bautista returns as the designated hitter and could see extended reps there down the stretch. This forces Edwin Encarnacion into the field on a near full-time basis and relegates Justin Smoak to pinch-hit duty.
It hasn’t been an ideal free agent walk year for Bautista, who is hitting just .222 over 80 games. His on-base percentage of .349 does help to buoy his offensive value, however, and the early struggles can be wiped clean with a solid month plus as the Blue Jays fight for the American League East crown.
For his own future, Bautista needs to jump back into the swing (!) of things and demonstrate that his bat is worth what he’ll be seeking. Baseball is very quick to point out that performances are not worth the asking price. It can be very humbling for a guy who is a HR champ and has struck fear in pitchers for years. He needs to get back into the lineup and prove that he is still that guy. While a couple of months of regression will not hurt his case entirely, a hot end to the season certainly will add dollars and, possibly, a year or two to his deal. If Bautista is going to test fee agency, he will have to rely on current performance more than past achievements. Other teams won’t pay him for 54 HR in 2010 or the Bat Flip in 2015.
The Blue Jays also need Bautista to regain his form. Despite his numbers this season, when he is out of the lineup, the club is worse off. Even if he is not hitting bombs, he is working counts and taking his walks. His 16.3% rate is right on par with last season, which is better than the previous few seasons and the most since 2011’s mark of 20.2%.
The Blue Jays plan to use Joey Bats at DH for a majority of the time (That’s the plan right now. We’ll see if they stick with it), which has ripple effects on the rest of the roster. If you heard Episode 87 of the Jays Nest Podcast, you heard our discussion on the impact of this decision. Essentially, with Bautista DHing, the outfield becomes more defensively sound with Kevin Pillar, Melvin Upton Jr.and Michael Saunders. As well, Edwin Encarnacion slides into the first base job, which means that Justin Smoak and his strike outs take a seat on the bench. All of this creates a much more sound Blue Jays lineup. So, they need Bautista back too.
How has J.A. Happ been so dominant in his second stint with the Blue Jays? TSN Baseball analyst Dirk Hayhurst explains how small tweaks to his mechanics have had a big impact on his game.
THE BAUTISTA FACTOR: With the return of Jose Bautista on Thursday night and the need for him to DH on more occasions to protect his wounded knee, the opportunities to start games have been reduced for first baseman Justin Smoak, as Edwin Encarnacion draws more starts on the diamond.
“It’s always tough, especially a guy not playing every day,” Smoak said. “It’s just a matter of having the mentality to grind it out. Whatever happens happens. Do what it takes.”
Smoak is still part of a winning formula — going in defensively late in games where the Jays have the lead, drawing a late pinch-hit assignment or the occasional start. He spends his time analyzing the game and thinking along with the coaching staff.
“I tell DeMarlo (Hale) all the time: I feel like I could do his job. It’s easy” Smoak laughed. “I never ever thought about it until last year, but in certain situations you feel like you’re thinking as a manager, trying to figure out when you might be coming in.”
To make the Hall of Fame, the first thing Donaldson needs is at least another 4,000 plate appearances, and probably more like 5,000. That’s about another seven full seasons, so he’ll have to stay reasonably healthy. If he does that, without a catastrophic dropoff in performance, he should have a pretty good shot to be inducted in Cooperstown.
One final angle: what if Donaldson remained at MVP levels for the next couple years, and then had a catastrophic injury or production dropoff? There’s always the Sandy Koufax precedent. He played 12 seasons, but the first six his ERA- was exactly league average. If you agree that average production does nothing for Hall of Fame purposes, then his case is all about those last six dominant years, over which he had a 156 ERA+. That’s almost exactly Donaldson’s level of excellence, with a 159 TRC+. If that was enough for Koufax, why not Donaldson?
The Blue Jays pitching rotation owns the 5th best WAR, the 9th best xFIP, 2nd best BABIP, the 10th best SIERA, and 9th best K-BB%. Add them up and the Blue Jays have 35 points. Using this scoring scheme the Nationals and the Dodgers seem to hold the advantage, each scoring 15 points. Unfortunately, both teams are challenged getting their Aces healthy before the playoffs begin.
The next best score belongs to the Chicago Cubs with 17 points. The Cubs just put John Lackey on the disabled list with a shoulder strain, but it’s not expected to be serious. Cleveland scored well with 21 points, but they’ve had their own issues. Danny Salazar and Josh Tomlin have been largely inconsistent. Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer, and Carlos Carrasco continue to anchor the rotation and push the Indians to their first American League Central Division title since 2007.
The Blue Jays aren’t going to pile up the K’s like the Indians. They aren’t going to dominate like the Dodgers or Nats. The Blue Jays will quietly hold off their opponents offence long enough for their offence to erupt. While not sexy and likely to cause the boys over at ESPN to continually question how Toronto is winning, this staff just might be good enough to get Toronto their 3rd World Series title.
Joe Biagini isn’t the only Blue Jays reliever who is putting up zeroes in the earned runs column. Entering play Thursday, Biagini’s streak was at 19 2/3 scoreless innings dating to July 5, but he has company. Right-hander Jason Grilli had not allowed an earned run in his past 10 innings, a number which newcomer Joaquin Benoit has matched.
Over his last 10 games Grilli had held opponents to a .097 average (3-for-31).
In 11 games since joining the Jays from Seattle, Benoit had held opponents to a .189 batting average and just one extra-base hit.
Biagini needs just 4 1/3 more scoreless innings to match Ricky Romero’s team record for rookies for the longest scoreless inning stretch. Romero got to 24 scoreless innings in 2009.
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Lebron is suing Encarnacion for $11.5 million because he refused her request to get tested for STDs and produce the results for the benefit of everyone involved, including their past and future sexual partners, says her lawyer, Robert Hiltzik.
“All we wanted was for him to get tested, and we were rebuffed,” Hiltzik told VICE Sports in a telephone interview. “My client’s request certainly wasn’t unreasonable.”
In a statement released earlier this week, Encarnacion’s agent Paul Kinzer called the lawsuit “completely inappropriate and meritless,” and said the player “will take every legal measure to defend himself against this frivolous claim, and will bring appropriate claims in the appropriate forums against all of the individuals seeking to exploit his financial position.”
I can’t recall when the Blue Jays first took up their cause against me, but I can remember some of the particular bumps and bruises along the way.
For the longest time, the Blue Jays were unable to win in the Bronx no matter the importance of the games. This led to the popular moniker of “House of Horrors” to describe the team’s dismal play in Yankee Stadium. It wasn’t pretty, but it was consistent. That should count for something.
There was also the Cincinnati meltdown in 2014, which cost the Blue Jays Bautista, Brett Lawrie, and arguably the season. This may actually be one of the lowest points in Blue Jays history – you could sense the team in dramatic free fall at the time – and it was all done to upset me.
Some of the latest examples of Blue Jays futility are only a few weeks old. There was that disappointing visit to Kansas City, and there was that shocking visit to Cleveland where, instead of sweeping the Indians, the Blue Jays coughed up a pair of late leads to lose the series 1-2. What a bummer.
I would say trade them all, demote them all, or fire them all directly into the sun, but it may be hard to replace an entire team that is solely devoted to ensuring my unhappiness. The Toronto Maple Leafs always seem to look out for me in the same way, so that’s a bonus I guess.
Thankfully, the Blue Jays weren’t the only team looking out for me last night. The Tampa Bay Rays did their part, too, beating the Boston Red Sox 4-3 in extras. I want to say this means the Blue Jays’ efforts went to waste, but who knows if that will inspire them to sink even lower.
7: Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 3B, Bluefield Blue Jays (Rookie Ball)
Arguably the Blue Jays biggest international free agent signing. The son of MLB star Vladimir Guerrero, Guerrero Jr. has a big bat but is less athletic than his dad. The hope is for Guerrero Jr, to play 3B but if he can’t handle it he will move to LF. Guerrero Jr. needs to work on his defence to fly through the minor league ranks.
Buffalo Bisons 3, Gwinnett Braves 8
For the second consecutive night, the Buffalo Bisons allowed eight runs to the Gwinnett Braves, losing 8-3 this time. Chris Colabello hit his fourth home run of the season for the Bisons, going 2/3 with a walk and two RBI. Dalton Pompey was also on base three times, going 2/4 with a walk while Jesus Montero pushed his batting average to .321 with a 2/4 day that included a double and a run. Darrell Ceciliani hit his 10th home run, going 1/5 in the loss.
Casey Lawrence was tagged for five runs in his start, going 6 1/3 innings and allowing six hits and two walks with five strikeouts. Ryan Tepera gave up a run in 2/3 of an inning (allowing a home run with one of Lawrence’s runners aboard) and Chad Girodo gave up two more runs in the eighth.
Player of the Game: Chris Colabello
Roster Notes: Ryan Tepera was sent back to Buffalo on Tuesday while Bobby Korecky was placed on the DL.
New Hampshire Fisher Cats (62-68) – 7
Portland Sea Dogs (51-76) – 10
Portland had just one more hit than New Hampshire (12-to-11) and committed three errors, but walked it off with a three-run Nate Freiman home run in the ninth. Dwight Smith Jr. continued his recent tear, doubling and tripling with two RBI while Richard Urena also went 2-for-4 with a pair of runs driven in. Rowdy Tellez singled and drove in one while Roemon Fields singled, scored, and stole his 41st base of the season.
Shane Dawson had a difficult start, allowing six runs on seven hits over six and a third innings. He struggled with his control, too, walking four batters compared to just two strikeouts.
The lefty began his 2016 season in Dunedin (A+) despite never pitching above short-season baseball (A-) in Vancouver. Though not knowing the exact reason for the promotion, I suspect it was due, in part, to his age. With Borucki logging only 5.2 innings on the mound a season earlier, this proved to be a misstep for the organization. Obviously, this is a results based assessment on my part. However, skipping a level after an extremely injury shortened season, is very uncommon. The outcome was Borucki being sent down a level to Lansing after six very unsuccessful starts.
Why am I writing about a prospect rated #17 in the organization, in August? Well, back in July I made the trek to Lansing to catch a weekend full of Lugnuts games. In all honesty, I went into the weekend with the idea to just sit back, and watch some baseball while a look at some Blue Jays prospects. Prospects the likes of Max Pentecost, John La Prise and Jon Harris were tops on my mind going in. Then Borucki happened.
After checking in at the park, I took a look at the starting lineups I saw Borucki’s name penciled in for the start, and didn’t think more of it. I heard of the young lefty but, after his injury history and disastrous start, I’d be lying by saying I was expecting much. I’ve never been happier to be wrong.
I got witness a young pitcher who is fighting his way back into top prospect status. The game which I was fortunate enough to take in was a 7.2 IP, 6H, 1ER, 0BB, 6K performance. What stuck with me was the command of his fastball which he threw between 92-96 most of the evening. Including carrying 95 into the eighth inning with perceived ease. Borucki was mixing in his off-speed pitches with nearly the same command, especially his change-up, which looks to be a plus pitch. The 6’4 lefty had great downward plane and action with all his pitches on this night. To say I had more questions after the game than before would be a mild understatement.
Blue Jays left-hander Francisco Liriano is making his first start for the Jays against his former team. Liriano played seven years for the Twins (2005-12) compiling a 50-52 record and 4.33 ERA. He needs to pitch well and demonstrate to his new team that he deserves to stay in the rotation, however many pitchers there are in the rotation. Manager John Gibbons has said he will get at least one more start after this. . . . Twins second baseman Brian Dozier is proving to be one of the bigger bargains in baseball. The 29-year-old is batting .270 with 30 homers, 76 RBIs, 10 stolen bases and a .886 OPS. The leadoff man is signed for the next two seasons for a total of $15 million.