Gibbons isn’t about to panic — nor should he — but the stutter start offensively sent the team south to Florida where, with Marcus Stroman on the mound, they’ll seek their first win of the season in Thursday’s opener of a four-game set against the Tampa Bay Rays.
But Gibbons is willingly transparent to acknowledge that if his team is going to be a factor in the AL East, it’ll have to do it with offence. It’s a reality now, fresh in their minds, given the manner in which the Orioles finished off the sweep.
Besides the two blasts on Wednesday, of course, a Mark Trumbo walkoff homer in the 11th inning of Monday’s curtain-raiser was the killer blow.
“They beat us with what we also do,” Gibbons said. “That’s the reality of it. We’ll hit.”
It wasn’t as if the Jays didn’t have their chances, including in the ninth inning when they loaded up the bases against O’s ace reliever, Zach Britton, with one out. But when former Oriole Steve Pearce ground into an inning-ending double play, Britton had his 50th career save.
Even beleaguered first baseman Justin Smoak was contributing, recording a single and a double.
The Jays looked to have ace closer Zach Britton on the ropes in the ninth inning, when they trailed by two runs. Jose Bautista and Kendrys Morales singled to lead off the inning. Britton struck out Troy Tulowitzki, then walked Russ Martin to load the bases.
But after a long battle with former teammate Steve Pearce, Britton induced a groundball to shortstop for a game-ending double play, giving him 50 straight saves without blowing one. Britton went 47-for-47 last year.
The Jays scored three runs in 20 innings in Baltimore and were 1-for-16 with runners in scoring position. They have not led after any complete inning.
The 3-4-5-6 hitters — Bautista, Morales, Tulowitzki and Martin — combined to bat .063 over the two games, collecting just two hits in 32 at-bats with five walks. The pitching staff has a very good 2.89 ERA, but the offensive numbers are quite offensive if you are a Jays supporter.
“Those guys are going to hit,” Gibbons said. “Off Britton, it’s tough to string some hits together. We worked him well. He just got that groundball sitting there waiting. He didn’t blow a save all last year. I thought this was going to be his first.”
— Blue Jays Republic (@bjaysrepublic) April 6, 2017
Once again the Blue Jays were bad with Runners In Scoring Position, which means that we have to keep talking about this fucking issue. They’re now 1-for-16 with RISP over two games, which I’m not going to say isn’t bad or frustrating or fucking frustrating or fuck, that’s fucking frustrating. But they’re good hitters. They’ll hit.
Perhaps worst of all is people getting concerned about what they’ve seen in these last two games, as if such tiny samples of data are remotely meaningful enough to fret about. I thought there was lots of good in the lineup, to be honest. A number of balls hit hard, a number of real dogged at-bats. Again, they’ll hit. The runs will come.
Oh yeah, and at the risk of sounding like a sore loser, holy piss the umpiring left a lot to be desired. No asking for help on Tulo’s check swing in a key at-bat, and pitches that were strikes all night suddenly turning into balls in the ninth? Yeesh. And yes, that last one helped the Jays, but still! A little consistency, my man!
For the second game in a row, we didn’t do enough on offense. 7 hits and 1 walk. The only extra base hit was a Justin Smoak double (and he was the only Jay with 2 hits).
We had 0 fors from Tulowitzki, Martin (he did take a walk) and Pearce.
We did make an attempt at a comeback in the 9th. We had the bases loaded, off Zach Britton. Singles by Jose Bautista and Kendrys Morales and a 1-out walk by Russell Martin (after a check swing strikeout on Troy Tulowitzki. Tulo was pissed off that the plate umpire made the call without asking the first base ump. I didn’t think it was a swing, but I’m biased.). Unfortunately Steve Pearce hit into a double play to end the game.
For the past few years we’ve been living on the home run, but we’ve lost two in a row by the home run.
The Blue Jays opened the scoring, but Adam Jones and Chris Davis hit home runs off J.A. Happ in back-to-back innings and that’s all the offence the Orioles would need as they opened their season with a two-game sweep of the Jays.
Overall, it was two very close ball games that could have gone either way. Monday, they lost on one bad pitch by Jason Grilli. Tonight, they couldn’t get the 1 big hit. The Blue Jays have gotten two good starts from their starters and the bullpen has looked very good. The offense needs to get kick started.
Pearce was at bat in the ninth inning Tuesday night, a Camden Yards crowd holding its breath. They know this guy. They know what he can do against left-handed pitching. The bases were loaded, one man was out and the Blue Jays trailed 3-1 in the second pitcher’s duel in two games of the young season, and Pearce with the opportunity to play the part of hero.
Against Britton, who nobody beats up on. The day after he got three hits in his debut against the Orioles. Better than anyone he knew what the challenge was.
The bases were loaded after a Russell Martin walk came after back-to-back singles by Jose Bautista and Kendrys Morales, their first hits of the young season. Those were the first two hits of the season for the Blue Jays No. 3 and 4 hitters. Before Martin worked his walk, Troy Tulowitzki struck out on a pitch he didn’t think he swung at: Bases loaded. Pearce coming up.
And Britton, who didn’t blow a save all last season, not one, looked almost human. Almost.
“I’ve seen this a million times before,” Pearce said. “He’d get a guy on and then throw a double-play ball. That’s what he does. He’s throwing 98 and the ball is falling off the table. That’s what it’s like to face him.
Happ’s ability to be so effective as a southpaw against right-handed hitters is quite remarkable. His ability to mix his pitches so effectively combined with good command of his fastball coming inside to right-handers would be a large part of that. Against right-handers with two strikes, Happ went to his fastball 52% of the time compared to just 43% of the time against left-handers.
Another interesting note on this is the fact he did not throw a single changeup against lefties in 2016 compared to 8% against right-handers. This could be due to the fact that lefties are often much better low ball hitters than right-handers. The trend of very little changeups against lefties went back to 2015 when he had a 3.4 fWAR season between the Seattle Mariners and the Pirates, the team that fixed Happ with the help of pitching coach Ray Searage.
One of the things that the Pirates helped Happ fix is the arm angle at which Happ releases his pitches. The difference in arm angle allowed for the fastball to experience a slight uptick in velocity and a much better spin rate.
J.A. Happ looks to pick up the Blue Jays’ first win tonight in Baltimore. Happ was impressive last year, recording 20 wins for the first time. We take a closer look in By the Numbers.
The plan is to platoon Pearce with Justin Smoak at first base and with Ezequiel Carrera in left field. When the Jays have a fly-ball pitcher throwing, such as Marco Estrada, Carrera will play the outfield. When a ground-ball pitcher is tossing, say like Marcus Stroman, it’s likely Smoak will play first base for defensive reasons.
It will also come down to whether a left-hander or right-hander is throwing for the opponent. First base and left field is really the only position Gibbons, who prefers a set lineup, will be rotating on a daily basis.
“I want to take the field every day,” said Pearce, who had three hits in the season opener against his former team. “You don’t play this game to say, ‘I want to play 90 games a year.’ ”
“I don’t care what position I play. On the days I’m in the outfield, I’ll take fly balls (before the game). On the days I’m in the infield, I’ll take ground balls. I can do that.”
Smoak, in his first start of the season, had two hits for the Jays — a single and a double — before being removed for a pinch-runner in the eighth inning.
The Toronto Blue Jays remain hopeful they will have Roberto Osuna in their lineup for next Tuesday’s home opener as the closer felt fine after making 30 to 40 throws off of flat ground on Wednesday.
Osuna wasn’t just tossing either, he was throwing his curve and change up and showing signs of being right on target for the home opener next Tuesday at the Rogers Centre.
“His arm is free and easy right now,” Walker said prior to the Jays clash with the Orioles to wrap up the season-opening, two-game mini series. “He’s working on his change up his breaking ball and his two seam with nothing holding him back.
“The progression we have for him is moving nicely. So far we’re very encouraged. There’s a plan in place as far as how much we want him to throw at this point.”
Included in that plan is a likely appearance in a minor-league game in Florida this weekend while the Jays are facing the Tampa Rays.
“We’d like him to face hitters at some point,” Walker said. “If everything goes according to plan, he’ll be ready to go the first day he’s eligible.”
Sportscentre anchor Kara Wagland joins the Scott MacArthur Show to talk about the Jays first couple of games, their MLB Fantasy Draft, Kevin Pillar’s plate discipline and their predictions on the AL East.
In terms of the players added, there’s basically three starters and three role players. For the role players, there’s potential upside to the projections, but there’s also the potential for disastrous seasons; overall, things look about right as modest upgrades at modest cost (just under a win for $7.3-million)
The three starters project for around 5 WAR in 2017, at a cost of about $35-million in salary and the 30-million in future commitments. At face value, that’s about $7-million/win in 2017, which is very reasonable considering the expected value of those wins. In terms of total cost, using standard aging expectation, it’s about 7 wins for $65-million, or just over $9-million/win. That’s about the going rate in the market, so solid if unspectacular signings.
Of course, projections are just that, and there’s some reason to expect more production than projected from those three. If Steve Pearce can stay reasonably healthy, he should produce more than 1.4 WAR (the depth charts at FanGraphs are quite optimistic, projecting almost an extra full win). Batted ball analysis is quite positive on Kendrys Morales, if he were a league average hitting DH (~115 wRC+) that would add another full win.
If the Jays instead got about 6.5 wins in 2017 from those three (and about 10 wins over the contracts), that would work out to just over $5-million/win in 2017 and $6.5-million/win over the contract, which would represent excellent value. So at this point, grading the offseason spending on free agents would probably grade somewhere on the continuum from okay to good.
Jays beat writer for the Toronto Star Laura Armstrong joins The Drive to talk Blue Jays, the opener in Baltimore & the expectations for the season.
Jackson Lowery is a 24-year-old out of the University of Arkansas who was excellent last year in Vancouver but saw a blip in his stats as he rose to the Lansing level. Still his 4.03 ERA and 1.34 WHIP wasn’t bad, nor were his 21 strikeouts in 22 1/3 innings but he struggled in the Australian Baseball League.
Floyd posted a 4.06 ERA with 30 strikeouts in 31 relief innings for the Blue Jays in 2016, stabilizing the team’s bullpen. But lat and shoulder issues soon surfaced for Floyd, and he didn’t pitch at the MLB level after June 25.
Floyd has been on the disabled list seven times since 2012, mostly because of elbow injuries that cost him much of the 2013-15 seasons. The 34-year-old has pitched well when healthy, with a 4.37 ERA in 1,250 career innings spanning 13 MLB seasons.
The 2017 Blue Jays weren’t counting on anything from Floyd, who was one of many pitchers in camp on a minor-league deal. Given that he didn’t pitch in any spring training games, his release doesn’t come as a surprise.
The Rogers Corporation upper echelon could really win the hearts of many if they were open to renaming the stadium as many loyal Blue Jays fans still refer to the concrete palace as the “Skydome”.
At the end of the day the product on the field is what matters most, but just for nostalgia sake, it would be a nice throwback for old-school Jays supporters.
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