The stumbling Jays have now lost five of their last seven and two straight. Their big failure in the Bronx on Tuesday was their inability to capitalize with runners on base, stranding 11 while hitting 4-for-11 with runners in scoring position. Toronto had numerous chances to blow the game open, leaving the bases loaded twice, including in the top of the ninth inning — an inning that looked so promising but ended in heartbreak for the visitors.
Trailing 7-4 heading into the ninth, New York’s closer supreme Dellin Betances was brought in and walked Jose Bautista and then Josh Donaldson. Bautista and Donaldson advanced on a wild pitch. Edwin Encarnacion singled to shallow centre to score Bautista after a 10-pitch battle with Betances. Russell Martin struck out and pinch hitter Dioner Navarro walked to load the bases. Melvin Upton Jr. hit a soft ground ball to first to score Donaldson, bringing Toronto to within one.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi had seen enough, pulling Betances after the closer had thrown 40 pitches. Betances was replaced by Blake Parker to face a red-hot Kevin Pillar, who strolled up to the plate having already recorded three hits and a walk in the game. Parker struck out Pillar on a curve ball, freezing the Jays’ centre fielder. And then the game ended on a smash to left by first baseman Justin Smoak that looked to have a chance to get out, or at least go off the wall. But Gardner made a tremendous leaping catch, keeping the ball in his glove despite the fact that it snow-coned.
“I felt like I hit it decent. I barrelled it, thought it might have a chance and Gardner made a great play on it,” said Smoak. “We had some really good at-bats against probably one of the best closers in the game. It was just one of those things guys were keeping the line moving but weren’t able to finish it off at the end. But have a good team and we know it and we’ve lost like this before, just get some sleep tonight and show up ready to play tomorrow.”
After the Yankees took a three-run lead in the eighth, the Blue Jays’ ninth inning rally fell just short as Brett Gardner caught Justin Smoak’s bases-loaded fly ball at the wall to give New York the win and drop Toronto into a tie for first in the AL East.
Jason Grilli came on in relief for the Jays in the bottom half of the 8th. A walk (Ellsbury) and strikeout (Sanchez) brought Didi Gregorius to the plate and he’d triple over the head of Pillar in CF to score the tying run. Castro then hit a medium depth flyball to RF which was enough to score Didi from 3rd, giving the Yankees back the lead. Then, after a McCann walk, Headley homered to right-centre to extend the Yankee lead. That was all for Grilli as Bo Schultz entered the game.
Justin Smoak came within about a foot of a game-winning grand slam when, with the bases loaded and the Jays down to their last out, he sent an opposite-field fly to the wall in left field. But Brett Gardner, the Yankees’ veteran outfielder, took a near-perfect route to the ball and made a leaping grab against the wall squeezing the ball in a game-saving, snow-cone catch to snuff out the Jays’ rally.
“I barrelled it, thought it might have a chance,” Smoak said. “He made a heck of a catch there.”
Jason Grilli, the Jays’ veteran reliever who has been so reliable since being acquired from the Atlanta Braves in late May, could not preserve a hard-fought one-run lead, issuing a lead-off walk and game-tying triple to Didi Gregorius before the Yankees took the lead on a sacrifice fly and padded it with a two-run homer. Those extra runs proved important as the Jays fought back in the ninth — displaying how relentless their offence can be at times — to plate a pair against Yankees’ usually surefire closer Dellin Betances.
The eighth-inning unravelling undid what was a spirited comeback by the Jays, who took the lead in the top half of the eighth when Kevin Pillar, who went 3-for-4 on Tuesday, capped a two-out rally by cranking a two-run double off the wall to score the go-ahead run. “They battle,” Gibbons said. “They always battle.”
But the Jays also stranded 11 runners overall on Tuesday night, hence Gibbons’ lament for “lost opportunities.”
In total, the Blue Jays now have a dozen players with 10 years of credited major league service, or just under 30% of the players on their 40 man roster. I can’t say it for sure, but I have to think that is the most in MLB. While it should come as no surprise that the Jays have a very veteran roster, it’s still somewhat surprising the extent to which they’ve become a team of grizzled veterans.
Of course, there’s nothing magical about having 10 years of service time, and players well shy of the mark J.A. Happ, Marco Estrada, Michael Saunders and Darwin Barney all qualify as experienced veterans. But it does take a certain longevity and sustained quality to get to 10 years, and is a significant milestone in that it vests a full pension and potentially 10/5 no-trade rights.
Up by one the Jays would go to their 8th inning guy Jason Grilli to secure the hold. Unfortunately the normally stable Grilli would not succeed today. A lead off walk to Jacoby Ellsbury would come in to score on a Didi Gregorius triple (that was the result of a very poorly played ball from Kevin Pillar). Starlin Castro would then bring Didi in on the next at bat with a sacrifice fly to right. Grilli continued to struggle, walking Brian McCann in the next at bat, following it up by giving up a two run shot to right to Chase Headley. Bo Schultz would enter to stop the bleeding, striking out Aaron Judge.
With Dellin Betances entering for the save, the Jays wouldn’t go down without a fight. Jose Bautista and Josh Donaldson would start the innings with walks bringing Edwin to the plate with two on and none out. After a passed ball that would advance the runners, and a completely blown call on catcher’s interference, Edwin would still get on base on an infield single that would also score Bautista. Russell Martin would then strike out, and Dioner Navarro would pinch hit and work a walk . Melvin Upton Jr. would do the same for the fourth time that inning loading the bases.
Girardi had seen enough from his closer, and replaced him with Blake Parker. Parker wouldn’t let his manager down striking out Kevin Pillar on what was a very underwhelming at bat, and getting Smoak to fly out to deep left (on what would end up being the JFtC play of the game).
It’s been a full month since the Blue Jays opted to go with a six-man rotation, and as SportsCentre points out in this edition of By the Numbers, the results have not been good.
“If all six of them are throwing good, (we’ll) keep rolling with it,” manager John Gibbons said at the time. “If someone’s scuffling and we want to change things up, we can do that. We’re just going to roll with this. We like all of them; we’ll see where the hell it goes.”
Where the hell it went was nowhere fast. And, with Liriano’s relegation to the bullpen last week following the return of Sanchez from a brief sojourn at Single-A Dunedin, the six-man rotation experiment has been mothballed for the time being at least.
That might be for the best.
In the 28 games since Liriano’s insertion into the rotation, the Jays are 15-13 and there have been signs of concern with the club’s starters.
SINCE AUGUST 5
The first eye-popping stat here is earned run average. The 4.70 starters’ ERA was almost a whole run more than the season average of 3.81, which is good for fourth in the MLB. Estrada’s, in particular, ballooned to just over three more runs more than his 3.58 seasonal ERA.
Also troubling is the fact that all of Estrada, Happ, Dickey and Sanchez had their shortest outings of the season over this stretch with each failing to get out of the fifth at least once. With Estrada, he lasted past the fifth inning just once over his five starts. Some of Estrada’s form is likely due to lingering back issues, but it presents cause for concern, nonetheless.
How concerned should John Gibbons be about his struggling rotation? Should the Blue Jays continue to roll out R.A. Dickey during these critical September games? Should Jose Bautista or Devon Travis be hitting leadoff? Steve Phillips weighs in.
He has worked on back-to-back days nine times. Three times, he has pitched in three games over four days. Eighteen times, he has worked more than one inning.
He has inherited 20 baserunners and allowed only five to score. Remarkably, he did not allow a home run until last Saturday in Tampa Bay.
In his first season as a full-time reliever, Biagini says he gained some perspective from the since-traded Drew Storen, with whom he apparently shared certain interests aside from pitching.
“I remember talking with Storen when he was here – in between talking about our favourite superheroes and stuff – we talked about the way this coaching staff handles the bullpen,” he says. “He said, ‘You’re lucky to be in a situation like this. They do a really good job of staying aware of what guys need in terms of rest.’ He said he hadn’t experienced that everywhere he’s been. It’s a pretty nice situation.”
But for those alert for alarm bells, there is this: Biagini has allowed runs in three of his past five outings. On the other hand, his August stats included a 1.76 ERA, one walk and 12 strikeouts in 15.1 innings. Given his track record, one might put more stock into the latter than the former.
PITCHER OF THE WEEK – JOAQUIN BENOIT 3.0IP, 1H, 0ER, 1BB, 5SO
If you’re wondering if Benoit has allowed a run as Blue Jays yet, the answer is still: No. Since coming to the Jays, Benoit has pitched 15.2 innings, only allowing twelve hits, while having a 11.7% strikeout to walk ratio. This week was no different, in his three innings of work Benoit was flawless, only allowing one hit, and striking out five.
The bullpen early on in the season was a disaster. The offseason acquisition of Drew Storen wasn’t working out, and lefty Brett Cecil was having a bad start to his season. The additions of Jason Grilli and Benoit, have been huge for the Blue Jays. The two veterans have held down the 7th and 8th innings for the Blue Jays, making weeks like this, where your starting pitching isn’t at it’s best, much much easier.
Toronto Sun’s Steve Buffery joins Hustler & Lawless to discuss the pennant race in the AL East and the Blue Jays recent inconsistent performance.
Some consider Bautista to be a “new-school baller” and part of a cosmic breed of baseball player that’s redefined this era of the sport for millennials: a high-octane and power-oriented approach to plate appearances which has less to do with situational hitting and more with thrilling the faithful over towering blasts of machismo mixed in with the occasionally tolerated base-running gaffe or defensive blunder. We bite our collective lips because we know that during a 162-game season, one takes the good with the bad and copes with the indigestion of this changing era.
But 2016 has endeared itself to the dark side of the Bautista ideology – one rooted in feckless, reckless play where the blame is constantly mitigated by apologists in the broadcasting booth and across social media – usually from Rogers employees. It started early in April over his highly questionable interpretation of the slide rule. You know, the one where every registered MLB player spent countless hours during the off-season studying the new rule orientation only to suddenly forget it against a division rival. And on this day, it cost the Jays dearly and left their fans crestfallen. For this team to have any realistic hopes of ever bat-flipping their way to post-season success, these kinds of losses must be avoided at all cost.
Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun joins Game Day to discuss the Blue Jays’ playoff push in the tight American League East.
“Any time you get associated with Roberto Clemente it’s pretty special. Not only was he a great player, but I think he’s more recognized for what he was able to do off the field through his community service,” said Pillar. “As I got older and I was put on a bigger platform I realized how important it was to be able to give back. There are a lot of people that helped me get where I got and a lot of that was through some sort of community service, like Little League coaches donating time, and I fell in love with [community service].”
Pillar takes his community service seriously, and that’s why he was thrilled to be nominated by the Jays for the Roberto Clemente Award, recognizing the player who best represents the game through extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions, on and off the field. Since joining the Jays in 2013, the West Hills, Calif., native, along with his wife Amanda, has been active in a number of good causes in the Toronto area, including the Jays Care Foundation, the Jays Winter Tour, as well as some individual endeavors such as visiting hospitals.
“There’s a lot more my wife and I are planning on doing,” said Pillar, who has helped set up an MLB Action team at Chaminade as a resource to help students take part in good causes in the community.
When he was in high school, Pillar visited the homes of sick kids, and worked in sports camps and an animal shelter as a volunteer. It’s something he enjoys
“It’s incredibly humbling to be nominated for this award amidst a group of such talented players doing great things both on and off the baseball field,” Pillar said in a statement. “I’m fortunate to play for a team that plays for an entire country and I’m proud to be in a position to bring a smile to so many faces that cheer us on each and every day.”
CS: Everybody knows the Jays got a new regime this year, has it had any effect on you at all?
MD: It has but in a positive way. Everybody is great and want things done the right way and expect big things out of players. So I think that pushes us to be better baseball players and young men.
New Hampshire Fisher Cats (69-73) – 3
Portland Sea Dogs (55-84) – 1
On the outside looking in come playoff time, the Fisher Cats ended their year on the right note. Emilio Guerrero hit his fifth home run of the season in the fifth inning, part of a 3-for-4 day at the plate. Roemon Fields doubled while Christian Lopes, Ian Parmley, Jason Leblebijian, Dwight Smith Jr., and Reese McGuire added singles.
Taylor Cole got the Fisher Cats started with three innings of one-run ball before John Straka took over for the remaining six. Straka allowed five hits but not a single run crossed as he struck out six batters to earn his fourth win of the season.
Buffalo Bisons 2, Pawtucket Red Sox 4
The Buffalo Bisons closed out their season with their seventh consecutive loss, 4-2 to the Pawtucket Red Sox. The offense showed a little more life this time out with Jio Mier going 3/4 with two doubles and a run while Junior Lake was 2/4. Melky Mesa was 1/3 with a walk and a run.
Scott Diamond went five innings of four-run ball while John Stilson (1 IP, 1 H, 1 K), Chad Girodo (1 IP, 1 K) and Chris Smith (1 IP, 1 BB, 1 K) finished the game without allowing any additional runs.
The Buffalo Bisons handed out their team awards, naming Jesus Montero the Stan Barron MVP, Dustin Antolin the Warren Spahn Most Valuable Pitcher, Scott Diamond the Jimmy Griffin Hometown Hero, Casey Lawrence the Judgle Michael Dillon Comeback Player of the Year and Chad Girodo earned the Frank J. “Fremo” Vallone Community Service Award. Casey Kotchman was named the Joe DeSa Most Inspirational Player.
Player of the Game: Jio Mier
Roster Notes: Bobby Korecky was placed on the 7-day DL while Scott Diamond was activated off the temporarily inactive list.
– Jeremy Gabryszwski ends his season on a relative high note, not technically a quality start but he finished the outing strong with a lot of weak contact and didn’t allow any free passes.
– Shane Dawson did the same, though in reverse. He was very strong early, yielding just an infield single through 4, a ground ball single in the 5th, a leadoff double and run in the 6th, and then a home run leading off the 7th followed by a hard double which was stranded.
– Taylor Cole came back off the DL to bookend the last series with a couple of of multi-inning relief outings. Nothing remarkable, but good to see he wasn’t seriously injured after losing 2 months at the beginning of the year.