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Morning Coffee – Thu, Sep 29

TORONTO, CANADA - SEPTEMBER 28: Melvin Upton Jr. #45 of the Toronto Blue Jays reacts as he is called out on strikes by home plate umpire Lance Barksdale #23 with the bases loaded in the eighth inning during MLB game action as Matt Wieters #32 of the Baltimore Orioles frames the pitch on September 28, 2016 at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

“I didn’t execute the pitch,” – Roberto Osuna

TORONTO, CANADA - SEPTEMBER 28: Melvin Upton Jr. #45 of the Toronto Blue Jays reacts as he is called out on strikes by home plate umpire Lance Barksdale #23 with the bases loaded in the eighth inning during MLB game action as Matt Wieters #32 of the Baltimore Orioles frames the pitch on September 28, 2016 at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

Blue Jays bullpen throws win against Orioles | Toronto Sun

Francisco Liriano made the latest star turn, shutting out the Orioles over 6.1 innings on Wednesday, striking out 10, but Jason Grilli and then Roberto Osuna let him down, both surrendering big home runs as Baltimore pulled out a 3-2 win.

After good work by Brett Cecil, Grilli gave up Mark Trumbo’s Major League-leading 46th home run. Not the end of the world for the home side, but a suddenly struggling Osuna has to be a significant concern, no matter what was being said post-game. After striking out the leadoff man in the ninth, Osuna gave up a hit and then a home run to light-hitting Hyun Soo Kim. The team’s puzzlingly dormant offence had scored a run in each of the first two innings, before going ice cold from there, wasting several chances, including bases loaded in the bottom of the eighth.

Elsewhere, Boston was busy clinching the American League East. At Rogers Centre, Osuna got tonged again, giving up at least two hits for the third straight appearance. That had not happened all season, but once again, the young reliever appears to be running out of gas down the stretch, much like the far older Grilli.

Baltimore doesn’t have that problem. Closer Zach Britton has not blown a save all season and has not allowed an earned run since April 30th. Not surprisingly Britton shut down the Jays in the ninth to send another big crowd home grumbling.

MLB: Orioles 3, Blue Jays 2 | TSN

The Blue Jays surrendered a 2-0 lead, including a two-run shot by Hyun Soo Kim in the top of the ninth inning as Baltimore to within one game of Toronto.

Roberto Osuna blows great start by Francisco Liriano, offence can’t cash in chances | Bluebird Banter

Jays of the Day: Liriano (+0.266) was outstanding like we mentioned, as was Cecil (+0.173). No Jays had a great positive WPA but Ezequiel Carrera and Troy Tulowitzki both had two hits and a run scored. They combined for four of the six Jays hits.

Jays Suckage: The offence wasn’t great. Roberto Osuna obviously gets hit hard here (-0.640) after the ninth inning home run.

Toronto Blue Jays Highlights and Lowlights: Bullpen Loses Another | Jays From the Couch

LOWLIGHTS:

Carerra reached on a single in the third inning, but was thrown out attempting to steal second. Unfortunately, he had the base stolen, but came off the bag, only to be tagged out. It proved costly as Josh Donaldson drilled a double immediately after.

Grilli struggled with the long ball again tonight. After getting a ground ball for the second out, he allowed a Mark Trumbo to unload for his 46th round-tripper of the season, cutting the lead to 2-1.

Osuna struggled with closing out the game in the 9th. After getting the first out with a strikeout, he allowed a single to Jonathan Schoop before allowing a 2R home run to Hyun Soo Kim for a 3-2 Orioles lead.

Blue Jays can’t get any relief against Orioles | Toronto Star

Already depleted by the loss of Joaquin Benoit — injured while running towards Monday’s brawl with the New York Yankees — the bullpen seems to be fraying at the worst possible time.

“I think we’re going to be fine,” Osuna said afterward, uncharacteristically speaking through the team’s Spanish translator despite his fluency in English. “Today, it’s supposed to happen sometimes. But I’m not worried at all and I think we’re going to be in a good position for the next four games.”

Grilli likewise said the bullpen isn’t demoralized despite the loss of Benoit and the recent blown leads.

“This is what September baseball’s like, right?”

Count manager John Gibbons among the unconcerned. He said he’s not worried about Grilli’s recent struggles. “I know one thing: he’s a great competitor. “We’ve played a lot of tight ball games over the last few weeks. That can catch up to you. He’ll survive. He’ll figure out a way to get some big outs. Really he’s been key to getting us to this point. I think he’ll respond. That’s just who he is.”

The bullpen implosion wasted what was another stellar start from Francisco Liriano, who threw 6 1/3 shutout innings while striking out 10.

His performance continued a trend for the Jays rotation, which has received stellar performances from its starter on a nightly basis. Wednesday was the 13th consecutive game in which the Jays’ starter allowed no more than two earned runs and the seventh consecutive game in which they allowed no more than one earned run — both franchise records.

Roberto Osuna close-lipped as pressure ramps up: DiManno | Toronto Star

Now, I totally understand a ‘them-against-us’ mentality, circling the wagons and all, but that would imply that somebody, anybody, in the Toronto media cadre has been taking potshots at the Jays or lashing the columnist whip. Nothing could be further from the truth. Believe me, this is a soft day-after town compared to New York and Boston and Philadelphia.

So, on the day after Osuna gave up a brace of ninth-inning singles to the Orioles — entering the frame with a 5-1 lead over Baltimore, not a save situation and arguably an unnecessary deployment of the closing specialist — manager John Gibbons stuck to his tune-of-the-week, which has essentially been an Osuna hosanna.

The kid’s just fine. Why would a sane observer suggest otherwise?

“Guys give up hits. The best closers in the game give up hits sometimes.”

You don’t say.

On Wednesday night, Osuna gave up a two-run shot to Hyun Soo Kim as the Orioles rallied for a 3-2 victory.

It would be fair to say, however, that Osuna hasn’t quite looked his indomitable self in recent weeks: six runs (including two homers) on 11 hits in his last six appearances, compared to less than a hit per inning over the previous 5 1/2 months. More worrisome, perhaps, are the number of heart-banging, long fly-ball outs which a sterling defensive crew has made behind him, at the track, at the fence, at the wall. Anywhere other than Safeco Field in Seattle, most recently, and those parabolas would have been souvenirs.

Phillips: Osuna seems to have lost his confidence | TSN

TSN MLB Insider Steve Phillips joined OverDrive to discuss Jays bullpen options as the playoffs near, Roberto Osuna’s struggles, the fallout from the Yankees brawl, and how Marcus Stroman can channel his emotion.

Maybe it’s time to move Stroman to struggling Blue Jays bullpen | Toronto Sun

Without Jason Grilli there is no pennant race and now with him the Blue Jays appear to be running on bullpen fumes, running out of time.

Without Roberto Osuna there is no pennant race and on Wednesday afternoon John Gibbons was asked if he was worried about his closer, and he insisted, once again, that he wasn’t.

Without Joaquin Benoit there is no pennant race at all and now his season is over and the Jays manager knows he must improvise and hope and hold his breath and then hope some more.

This is September baseball and the Blue Jays bullpen is crumbling.

“I feel bad for Osuna,” said Francisco Liriano, who pitched his fourth straight terrific start in September.

Osuna gave up a two-run home run with the Jays leading 2-1 in the ninth inning — a hit to the eighth batter of the Baltimore Orioles, a home run to pinch-hitter Hyun Soo Kim — a fastball he hoped would run in on the hands of Kim, but instead stayed down the middle.

“He took advantage of it,” said Osuna, through his interpreter, talking after being yelled at before the game by a Toronto reporter for failing to talk.

“I didn’t execute the pitch,” he said.

Bullpen big concern for Jays with wild-card race heating up: Griffin | Toronto Star

The good news for Gibbons is that veteran left-hander Brett Cecil seems to be returning to the form that made him so valuable in late innings a year ago. The Jays will be forced to give Cecil a more significant role . . . and soon.

“I’ve got confidence in him,” Gibbons agreed. “I thought it set up nicely the way it worked. He’s on a nice little roll. Guys are beat up. He’s going to have to do some of that. He’s as beat up as all of them. It seems like he’s up every night.”

That leaves four other bullpen spots, one of which will be filled by the starter who is dropped from the playoff rotation — likely Wednesday’s quality starter, left-hander Francisco Liriano. His could be a very significant presence out of the ’pen.

The Jays must find a way to add extra runs once they have a lead. From this moment until the end, whenever that is, the only certainty about the starting outfield will be Kevin Pillar in centre. If Jose Bautista is not the right fielder, he will DH. Add in key pieces Ezequiel Carrera, Michael Saunders and Melvin Upton Jr. Those three players will find time either in what Gibbons views as favourable pitcher-hitter matchups or hunches, of which he has many.

Among the three supplemental outfielders, Carrera is the flavour of the day. Since filling in at the top of the batting order for the injured Devon Travis, the 29-year-old Venezuelan has four hits in seven at-bats (.571) with three runs, two RBIs and a walk. The Jays are 36-29 with Carrera in the starting lineup.

Benoit’s injury means adjustments to Jays’ bullpen | TSN

Joaquin Benoit, quite a find for the club off the trade deadline scrap heap, is now afflicted with the same calf tear which befell Cecil almost a year ago and as Benoit aims for a potential return much later in the playoffs, Cecil’s high leverage workload is likely to increase.

“He’s throwing the ball really well,” said Gibbons. “It’s kind of been an up and down year for him but he seems to be putting it all together at the right time.”

As questions swirl about the level of fatigue at the back end of the bullpen – Gibbons has leaned heavily on closer Roberto Osuna, setup man Jason Grilli and Benoit – Cecil’s importance becomes heightened. So does that of right-hander Joe Biagini, who worked two innings of scoreless relief in Tuesday’s series opening victory over Baltimore.

Cecil hasn’t allowed an earned run in September, having appeared in 10 games for 6 2/3 innings of work; he’s struck out nine hitters in the span. The vicious 12-to-6 curveball has been on point; Cecil’s been throwing his fastball for strikes.

The results are encouraging following an up and down season which has included a trip to the disabled list.
“His bread and butter is his breaking ball and when that’s on it can be almost unhittable,” said Gibbons. “He still has to use his other pitches. He’s got a nice little changeup. It all depends on the situation he’s pitching in; if it’s crunch time he’s going to go to his bread and butter. If it’s an inning of work or a comfortable lead he’s going to do a little more pitching out there.”

Aaron Sanchez is Showing No Signs of Slowing Down | Blue Jay Hunter

Aaron Sanchez is in completely uncharted territory this season. Pitching a full season from start-to-finish in the starting rotation, he’s racked up a sizable inning count, which currently sits at 185 innings thrown this year. His previous career high was around the 100 inning mark.

Despite having his workload nearly doubled year-over-year, Aaron Sanchez is showing no signs of slowing down. In fact, Sanchez may actually be ramping things up as the Blue Jays are on the brink of securing a playoff spot.

Aaron Sanchez has been a special case to the Toronto Blue Jays since Opening Day and he’s been one of the club’s most crucial starters. But the status of Sanchez has been debated more than any other player on the roster … and for good reason.

Considering the huge leap in innings from one year to another, one would expect Sanchez to experience some sort of fatigue or loss of velocity. But at this important juncture for the Blue Jays, Aaron Sanchez is showing no signs of slowing down.

American League Leaderboards » 2016 » Pitchers » Dashboard | FanGraphs Baseball

3.06 ERA

Jays still not scoring enough runs | TSN

As Scott MacArthur explains, in an attempt to generate some offence, the Blue Jays were too aggressive on the base paths and their risks didn’t pay off.

Travis not in Jays lineup for second straight game | TSN

Devon Travis will not be in the Blue Jays lineup tonight when they host the Orioles for Game 2 of their pivotal series, Scott MacArthur has the latest on when he might be able to return to action.

The Artist | TSN

Growing up in Montreal, Toronto Blue Jay Russell Martin was immersed in the arts. His father is a professional saxophone player so Russell gave it a shot but it didn’t take. But he did become a master at another discipline, the art of catching.

Blue Jays’ Pillar could represent Israel at World Baseball Classic | Toronto Sun

When Israel officially qualified Sunday for the 2017 edition of the best-on-best tournament, Pillar, who is Jewish, knew he’d be getting an official call at some point.

“I’ve been in touch (with team officials) throughout about it,” Pillar said. “I think as early as 2013 when I got here, I don’t think people knew that I was Jewish and that I qualified for that team, but when people found out, they started talking to me about if they qualified if I’d be interested in playing and I told them, ‘Yeah.’ ”

“I was aware of it and I knew that they were playing. Obviously, I’m here to take care of my own business, but I was happy to see them qualify and give me an opportunity to, potentially, play in international competition. It’s our version of the Olympics, so to be able to go out there and play for a country would be a huge opportunity.”

After beating Great Britain 9-1 during a qualifying round game in Brooklyn, N.Y., to clinch its first-ever WBC berth, Pillar will now be paying close attention to how the team takes shape over the next few months.

Lansing Lugnuts 2016 Report, Part 3: Relief Pitchers | Blue Jays from Away

Starlyn Suriel quietly had a good season for the Lansing Lugnuts, despite the times where it felt like he wasn’t pitching all that well. Suriel was with the Lugnuts until mid-July when he was moved up to Dunedin for a three-game stint that covered 5 2/3 innings and had him allow four runs (two earned) on four hits and three walks with four strikeouts. Sent back to Lansing, he struggled with his control, walking 10 and striking out nine in 7 2/3 innings before a one-game promotion to New Hampshire (where he gave up a run on a hit and two walks with one strikeout in two innings) ended his season. For Lansing, however, Suriel totalled 61 2/3 innings with a 3.21 ERA and 1.20 WHIP, striking out 23.0% and walking 8.8%. It looks to me like Suriel hit a rough stretch towards the end of the season and struggled to find his control. He’ll probably get another chance in Dunedin in 2017.

Carl Wise Working Hard to Find Success at Third Base | JaysProspects

While his production numbers were respectable, the prospect is hoping to increase them more in future seasons.
“I feel my power will come,” explained Wise. “I feel more comfortable with it right now. I think it might take some time. Hopefully it’ll show up soon.”

His work ethic and potential to hit the long ball really impressed Lansing Lugnuts hitting coach Donnie Murphy.
“Carl is probably the hardest working guy on the team,” stated Murphy. “Carl continues to go out there every day and compete. He has a bunch of natural raw power that he hasn’t tapped into yet, but it’s progressing.”

Adjusting his game defensively for more success in the field, Wise showed some promising ability at the hot corner. Recording 131 assists and taken part in 16 double plays showcased the kind of determination that the prospect brings to the diamond every day.

Discussing the changes that he has made to his defensive approach, Wise describes what he does to advance in the field.

“I’m seeing the ball really well at third base,” said Wise. “I’m trying to stay smooth out there. I’m trying to stay quiet and not be so aggressive out there. I’m trying to control my body so I can see the ball better and it seems to be working.”

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