Two constants during an 11-16 month in which their leads in the American League East and wild-card races slipped away have been issues hitting with runners in scoring position and leaky bullpen work, and both converged in the decisive seventh inning.
In the top half, a two-out single by Bautista, whose homer in a three-run fifth opened up a 3-1 lead, and a walk by Russell Martin brought up Troy Tulowitzki, whose popper down the right-field line was chased down by first baseman Hanley Ramirez to end the threat.
That left the Blue Jays 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position to that point and the inability to add on runs proved costly in the bottom half. Joe Biagini, out for a second inning of work, issued a leadoff double to Andrew Benintendi and Dustin Pedroia followed with a little nubber that Russell Martin threw down the right-field line. It ended up under the tarp, allowing Benintendi to score as manager John Gibbons argued unsuccessfully that Pedroia was out of the baseline.
“Picked up the ball, slick ball, turned around and threw it as quickly as I could. It just took off on me,” said Martin. “I wish I could take it back. I feel like that’s a play I can make in my sleep, but today it didn’t happen.”
An out later Mookie Betts singled up the middle to tie the game 3-3 and Brett Cecil came on and coughed up a two-run homer to David Ortiz that was like a dagger in the stomach. Cecil threw three straight curveballs before Ortiz turned on a 2-1 heater.
The loss, coupled with victories by Baltimore and Detroit, pushed the Blue Jays out of first place in the American League wild-card derby and precariously close to complete elimination from the playoff picture.
The Orioles now move into top spot in the wild-card standings. Toronto still clings to the second wild-card slot, but the Tigers are only a half-game back with a game in hand.
“They’re grinding it out and they’re tired, like everybody else, and they’re competing,” said Jays manager John Gibbons.
“We put some guys on base, we just couldn’t cash them in. It’s no more than that. Maybe tomorrow’s a big day. We’ll break out tomorrow.”
David Ortiz lined a two-run shot into the stands to break a seventh-inning tie and help the Red Sox beat the Blue Jays. Toronto fell one game behind Baltimore in the wild-card race and are now within range of Detroit and Seattle in the fight for the AL’s final postseason berth.
Edwin Encarnacion– (WPA -0. 171) Despite saying he was going to leave it all on the field for the fans this weekend, Edwin didn’t look good tonight. His final line of 0-for-5 with a strikeout was not what the Jays needed.
Justin Smoak–(WPA -0.105) Despite having good historical numbers against Porcello entering the night, Justin Smoak was essentially Justin Smoak. You can’t fault John Gibbons for trying to insert some timely offence with Smoak in the lineup but it flat out didn’t work.
Joe Biagini- (WPA -0.290). He gave up a couple of hard hit balls but was ultimately defeated with a dribbler out front of home plate that should have been converted into an out. It wasn’t and thus things look much worse than they actually are.
They are now praying to squeeze onto the dance floor as Tuesday’s wild-card game visitor.
In the seventh inning of a tie game on Big Papi weekend, Ortiz stepped to the plate against Brett Cecil and, on a 2-and-1 pitch, ripped a two-run homer into the right-field stands. That’s what he does.
“It was a battle,” manager John Gibbons said of his lefty specialist facing the man of the hour. “People might say (walk) a guy like Ortiz, but you look at Cecil’s success against him, you don’t have him in there to walk him, do you?”
The Jays are in a heap of trouble when it comes to reaching the post-season. Yes, they have a half-game lead on the Tigers for the second wild-card spot, and yes, they can still mathematically catch the Orioles with two wins and a Baltimore loss. But the truth is, they have lost three games in a row and have blown saves in four of the last six. It’s their own fault now.
There are still six possible regular-season endings for the Blue Jays: They can be the first wild card, second wild card, out of the playoffs, finish in a two- or three-way tie for the top wild card, or tie for the second.
The Jays, with the loss of injured Joaquin Benoit and the struggles of Jason Grilli and Roberto Osuna, have talked themselves into a short list of setup relievers in whom they can place any trust. One of them is rookie right-hander Joe Biagini, who entered in the sixth inning nursing a two-run lead. He allowed one run on an infield single by Dustin Pedroia and a throwing error by catcher Russell Martin.
After another loss, Toronto is clinging to the final wild card spot. Steve Phillips and Scott MacArthur break down the Blue Jays’ loss in Boston.
The Blue Jays would put themselves behind the eight ball tonight as early as the first inning, After failing to cash in a Donaldson single and Bautista walk in the top of the first, the Red Sox would take the lead in the bottom. A David Ortiz single breaking a 0-10 mini-slump scored Mookie Betts, giving the Sox the early lead.
Despite a well pitched , shutout inning in the sixth, Biagini crumbled in the seventh. An Andrew Benintendi double, Dustin Pedroia single, and Mookie Betts single would score 2, tying the game up at 3. That would be it for Biagini, who would give way to Brett Cecil for a lefty on lefty matchup against David Ortiz. Cecil wouldn’t do any better giving up a 2 run bomb to Big Papi, putting the Red Sox up 5-3 late.
The Blue Jays offense continued to struggle, failing to cash in the ducks on the pond. The Blue Jays would go one for ten with runners in scoring position and leave 13 runners on base.
Steve Phillips and Scott MacArthur discuss the keys to the Jays crucial season ending series against the Red Sox, and how Toronto will have to prepare for bad weather in Boston.
Jays Journal Senior Editor Keegan Matheson joins TSN 1150 Hamilton’s Tatti and Marsh to discuss a huge weekend for the Blue Jays who are hoping to book their spot in the post season against the Red Sox
R.A. Dickey calls him The Cyborg; to Josh Thole, he’s Steady Eddie.
“His whole demeanour on the mound is something you have to respect,” says fellow starter Marco Estrada.
“He radiates calm,” adds Dickey.
But Happ wasn’t always this way. When he was a kid, playing baseball in Peru, Ill., (pop. 10,295), his hyper-competitive nature often got the best of him.
“I would cry and throw a fit out there if I didn’t get everybody out or if I didn’t get a hit,” he says.
Happ’s father, Jim, who was also his Little League coach, regularly tried to instill in him the importance of staying composed. Be competitive, his dad said, but don’t ever let the other team know how you feel, good or bad.
“You don’t want to let them see things get to you,” Happ recalls his father saying.
Jim Happ still remembers those early days when even playing catch in the backyard could get his son riled up. “I think he was expecting a little too much at a young age,” the elder Happ said over the phone. “Once he got going in baseball he did not like to lose.”
Young J.A. wouldn’t make excuses or blame anyone else, his father says, but he could be relentlessly hard on himself and it took him years to hone what today looks like a natural calm.
“Don’t let him fool you,” says Marcus Stroman, who is Happ’s polar opposite when it comes to showing his emotions. “He’s very emotional. He just doesn’t show it on the field. There’ll be times when he gets a big out and he’ll come in (the dugout) and let out a big yell, or if he’s frustrated he’ll let a little fire out under the tunnel. But he’s cool, calm and collected on the mound.”
There is no time remaining for manager John Gibbons to experiment with his bullpen or to hope pitchers regain their mojo. He must make tough decisions for the seventh and eighth innings and hope the changes are enough to prevail in a one-game wild card.
One of those key changes is left-hander Brett Cecil, who was a huge part of the Jays ’pen a year ago, allowing no earned runs from June on until he was injured making the tag on a rundown play against the Rangers in the ALDS. Cecil has begun to pitch much better of late, but has stayed in a secondary support role.
Gibbons must give him more responsibility against more right-handers, not just lefties.
“Experimenting’s over,” Gibbons agreed prior to Friday’s game against the Red Sox at Fenway. “There’s not enough time for that. There’s no doubt Benoit’s a big loss, so we’re going to need all those guys. I’ll look at how the lineups stack up, that kind of thing. Try to pick the prime spot maybe, for Cecil, with the lefties and a couple of righties, and work around that. That would be it, because he’s our main left-hander.”
Heading into a key weekend against the Red Sox, Toronto’s relievers had posted a combined 22-31 record, with a 4.08 ERA and 42 saves. The bullpen blew three saves on the last homestand, although they did come back and win one of those against the Yankees. But they had the wild-card in the palm of their hands and let two wins slip away.
Make no doubt, the bullpen has been a recent Achilles’ heel.
Toronto would love to be patient with Grilli and Osuna, but time is running out. Joe Biagini has had a nice rookie season but he hasn’t pitched in high-leverage situations. He may be asked to grow up quickly. Brett Cecil seems to be getting back on track again after a horrific start to the year. He has experience in big situations and has shown the ability to get on a good run when he has his confidence. He is an obvious option to help late in games this weekend and in October. Maybe he can handle the seventh inning, replacing Benoit.
The Toronto bullpen situation has reached the point of serious concern. The Jays must strongly consider all options available to them. If Ross Atkins, Mark Shapiro and John Gibbons make the wrong decision as to who should get the ball, Toronto may finish out of the postseason. This is no time to worry about feelings or the future. The marathon that is the regular season has turned into a desperate sprint to the finish line.
The Red Sox have a formidable offence that can do damage to pitchers who are at their best, let alone those who are struggling. Desperate measures call for desperate times. That means roles don’t matter anymore. The Jays need to have the most possible innings thrown by their best available pitchers. If they go down, they need to go down with their best.
Because elsewhere, the Baltimore Orioles and Detroit Tigers are winning.
The upshot – after Friday’s night results, Toronto now trails Baltimore by one game in the wild card race. If it were to end that way, Tuesday’s wild-card game will be played in Maryland.
The more pressing problem is that the Jays’ lead over Detroit for the final wild-card spot has crumbled to a half-game.
With two games remaining to the Jays (and three for Detroit), I refer you to the Internet and potential madness if you’d like to work out all the permutations.
Essentially, Toronto should try winning for a change. It would be a great service to the non-mathematically inclined.
You sensed it might not go as planned in the prelims when Gibbons said, “We need one of those good, clean games.”
He made it sound as if error-free baseball might act as a purgative for whatever the Jays have been doing recently.
The Blue Jays have gone from having a solid grip on on the AL East to battling for their wild card lives. SportsCentre takes a closer look at their numbers in the month of September.
“Sometimes you get emotional. You don’t know what’s going to happen after this year and you start thinking about that. That’s why I want to go back and play one more time.”
If that is to happen, his fading Blue Jays must make hay in Fenway this weekend. They are fighting for a wild-card berth, along with three other teams, and the potential permutations seem infinite. Their fondest hope is to take the top spot and host the sudden-death game at the Rogers Centre on Tuesday night.
“I was just thinking about wanting to bring the game back to the playoffs here (meaning the Rogers Centre) because that would be the best moment to be playing that game for this team,” Encarnacion said Friday afternoon in Fenway’s cramped visitors’ clubhouse. “I know I’m going to be a free agent after this year … I want to bring the playoffs back. That’s what I was thinking about.”
He would like to come back. But at 33, one of the game’s elite sluggers will test the market. He would prefer the Jays to meet his terms. Many doubt they will. Next year, for the first time since 2007, both Encarnacion and Jose Bautista could be playing elsewhere.
For the past two seasons, Encarnacion has been a bargain at $10-million. He will draw at least twice that on the open market.
“You feel sad because I want to be here, but it’s not my decision,” he said, meaning he will follow the money. “Now we have to wait and see what’s going to happen.”
A bit wistful, then, that what may be Encarnacion’s final games as a Blue Jay — after six-plus years — should unfold on Yawkey Way and a regular season concluding series which will, in conjunction with results in several other ballparks over the weekend, determine whether there is an immediate playoff future for Toronto. A pall cast over those best-laid plans on this evening, though, with yet another defeat for the Jays snatched from the jaws of victory by an erratic bullpen, while the Orioles were pounding on the Yankees, climbing a game ahead of the Jays for the first wild-card spot.
For the moment — that being earlier Friday afternoon — pending free-agent Encarnacion arrived at Fenway as still a visitor alien, bundled up against the raw weather in a black puff jacket, on his feet a pair of fashionista-rad high tops studded with little gold accents.
“You feel sad because I want to be here,” the sweet-natured 33-year-old said. And by here, Encarnacion meant not the physical here-and-now of Boston but Toronto, 700 kilometres away. “But it’s not my decision.”
A decision that was put on the back-burner when no contract extension could be agreed upon before spring training, with E.E. declaring he would not pursue negotiations in-season and the Jays front office apparently entirely content with that. There clearly was no urgency to re-signing the slugging juggernaut, not far as this new penny-pinch regime was concerned, and that posture doesn’t appear to have changed.
It seems entirely likely they’ll let Encarnacion walk — Jose Bautista, too — and rebuild a franchise in their own image, around Josh Donaldson. Except Donaldson won’t enjoy the benefits of having Encarnacion bat right behind him. While Bautisnacion — bookends for Toronto’s offence — seems destined to go the way of Brangelina.
After the final out of Thursday’s loss to the Baltimore Orioles, Encarnacion lingered in the Rogers Centre dugout all by himself.
You could almost hear what he was thinking as he looked around the building where he spent the prime of his career bashing baseballs into blue seats: “Is this it?”
There’s no guarantee the Blue Jays will be back for Tuesday’s wild-card game.
Even if they nab the second wild-card spot during this weekend’s three-game finale at Fenway Park against the American League East champion Red Sox, there’s no guarantee they’ll make it through the one-and-done affair on the road — probably in Baltimore — and into an AL Division Series for the second straight season.
It could’ve been the final game Encarnacion and Bautista, both high-profile free agents at season’s end, have played in Toronto wearing blue and white.
“Sometimes, you get emotional,” Encarnacion said of his lonesome moment in the dugout. “You don’t know what’s going to happen after this year and you start thinking about that. That’s why I want to go back and play one more time.
“It’s a lot of up and down the past six years in my career here with Toronto, but more good things have happened to me than bad things. I feel good the way I’ve been for this organization and I feel very proud.”
It seems like the Blue Jays are always waiting on a big hit, but this means they’re not getting enough runners on base to cash with those hits. I’ve developed a time management system based on this observation: if the Blue Jays haven’t recorded more than two hits before the fifth inning, they’re likely to lose. You would be surprised by how accurate this system has proved.
Torn last night between watching Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion in what may have been their final home game as members of the Blue Jays, or entertaining my 18-month old daughter, I knew that, with the Blue Jays still clinging to one hit as they entered the fourth inning, yesterday’s game was essentially over when Bautista opened the bottom of the frame with his second strikeout of the game. That’s how much faith I have in this offence.
(As a side note, the significance of the moment – possibly Bautista’s last game in a Blue Jays uniform – didn’t seem to dawn on him or the crowd. There was little emotion in the few swings he took, and it felt like just any other game as Bautista walked to and from the batter’s box. What does that say?)
Perhaps it’s because we were spoiled last season, or that we know what this team can accomplish when it plays to its full potential, but this season has been particularly frustrating for me. Part of that rests with the bullpen and the defence, but it’s mainly the offence: the bats aren’t competitive in close games, and the high number of strikeouts is proof of that (1336 for the fourth highest total in the AL behind the Tampa Bay Rays, Houston Astros, and Minnesota Twins). It’s hard to build something or continue a rally when every second batter seems to strikeout.
If the Blue Jays are forced into a tie-break game on Monday, it’s very likely that Francisco Liriano would get the call as Toronto’s starter.
“We’ll just stay with our regular five-day rotation,” Blue Jays manaer John Gibbons said. “That would mean it would be Liriano. That’s his fifth day. We haven’t talked about that yet, but it seems logical.”
The addition of Liriano at the trade deadline has given the pitching staff a huge boost. First it allowed the team to go to a six-man rotation and keep Aaron Sanchez fresh. Second, it gives the Jays a strong swingman arm who could be valuable out of the bullpen in the playoffs.
“Somebody is going to have to go down there (to the pen) and we’ll be looking for a guy to pitch some big innings, especially with Benoit going down,” Gibbons said. “There are a couple of guys who might fit that role. One would not be Sanchez.”
Obviously, Liriano is the best choice for that assignment.
“To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect (from Liriano),” Gibbons said.
“At first I wondered why (Pittsburgh) would have traded him if the guy still had a good arm. First couple of outings were pretty good, then he had a couple where he lost the zone but what he’s done the last few …. I can’t really say it’s a surprise but he’s given us a big boost.”
His game had flaws in the first half. He would strike out 26.7% of the time in 344 PA, but when the ball hit Saunders’ bat it was in play – 33.4% of all batted balls were hard hit, 20.3% were line drives. You knew these good numbers just simply couldn’t continue at this crazy pace as he had a first half BABIP of .377 ,which is just unheard of. One would expect an evening out over the second half.
At this point, Saunders numbers “evening out” would have been nice, no one expected the nose dive he would have in the second half. So far in the second half, he’s batting .180, with an OBP of .279, increasing his already high strikeout rate to 30.7%, and his BABIP has fallen all the way to .222. What’s odd about Saunders AB’s is he actually sees about 4.24 pitches per at bat which to put into perspective, Josh Donaldson, who has an OBP over .400 sees 4.22 pitches per at bat.
Saunders is league average at recognizing pitches around the zone, he’s league average in the amount he swings at pitches in and out of the zone and the amount he swings. However, the problem is the lack of contact Saunders makes at pitches outside the strike zone. He has trouble recognizing pitches way outside the zone, pitches that no one could imagine hitting. He makes contact with 49.4% of pitches outside the zone, which is 14.6% less than league average. So why does making contact with pitches outside the zone matter? For starters, many times base hits come from balls outside the strike zone, also hitting balls foul keep AB’s alive when you’re behind in the count, and when players like Saunders are swinging at balls outside the zone and not making contact they are usually swinging at bad pitches and hitting nothing but air.
It wasn’t too long ago that the Vancouver Canadians appeared destined to dominate the Northwest League year in and year out. After two uninspiring seasons by one of Minor League Baseball’s more successful seasons, those days appear to be a distant memory.
In 2016 the Vancouver Canadians, Toronto’s Short Season Lo-A Ball affiliate, finished second last in the Northwest League with a 29 and 45 record. The C’s were lead by amazing comeback story Patrick Murphy, and several 2016 draft picks in Joshua Palacios, J.B. Woodman and C’s MVP Cavan Biggio.
As a team the C’s finished near the bottom of the league in many offensive categories. Combine poor offense with poor pitching and you get a sub-.500 team.
The boys finished 3rd or tied for 3rd with 21 triples, 298 walks and 605 strike outs. They finished 4th in doubles (127) and 6th in HR (24). The C’s ranked 7th in runs scored (305), RBI (249), Total Bases (828), Stolen Bases (42), OBP (.329), SLG (.336), BA (.238) and OPS (.665). The Vancouver Canadians landed in last place with only 587 hits.
It should come as no surprise that the C’s were shut out 5 times and were held to just one run 7 times.
Blue Jays from Away Player of the Year
As big of a season that Ryan McBroom had for the D-Jays, Jonathan Davis was able to do more things better to win our Player of the Year Award. McBroom may have led the club with 21 home runs and 83 RBI but Davis’s .376 OBP (more than 50 points higher than McBroom’s) while still posting a very strong .441 slugging percentage actually gave him an .818 OPS. In addition to the excellent on-base numbers, Davis stole 33 bases and hit his share of extra-base hits (21 doubles, eight triples and 14 home runs) over the course of 120 games.
Honourable mention: Ryan McBroom, Richard Urena
31 losses out of the bullpen. That’s second worst in the majors behind only the 90+ game losing Rays and 100+ game losing Twins. It’s even worse than the historically bad Reds bullpen (-3.3 fWAR).