8-4 Win at Milwaukee
Season Record: 21-26
Any time you can complete a visit to an opponent’s park without losing a game, it’s a good thing. Any time you can complete a road trip with a winning record, it’s a positive. Any time you can get a game-sealing, no-doubter of a grand slam from Ryan Goins, things are really going your way. Despite yet another player being placed on the Disabled List (outfield callup Anthony Alford broke a hamate bone while swinging the bat yesterday – not good news for a talented guy who hasn’t played a lot of baseball and needs to get at-bats.), the Blue Jays used three solo home runs and Goins’ bomb to sweep this little two game series with the Brewers. A little revenge for the mini two-game sweep Milwaukee handed Toronto at the Rogers Centre 6 weeks ago.
BASKING IN THE GLORY
(after each win, three things that might have been the difference)
A BIG PLAY – With the bases loaded and one out in the sixth inning, Ryan Goins stepped to the plate with the Jays leading 4-1. With key bullpen pitchers being used a lot lately (does anyone recall a Toronto starter pitching 7 or 8 innings in a game this season? I can’t), the last thing the Blue Jays wanted was to have to trot out Roberto Osuna and Joe Smith and Ryan Tepera again today. Goins’ long home run on an 0-1 pitch from Bret Easton Ellis novel parolee Oliver Drake made the game a blowout, allowing key relievers to rest today (and tomorrow with the day off). Though starter Marcus Stroman left the game before the end of the sixth, the Brewers never seriously threatened a comeback and some key late inning arms never had to even get up during the game.
A BIG MOMENT – With the game tied at one in the fourth inning, Brewers starter Matt Garza threw a pitch up and in to Jose Bautista. It wasn’t a purpose pitch, and it was never going to hit him, but it backed him off the plate somewhat violently (Garza’s willingness to pitch inside is one of the things that has kept him in the major leagues for a decade). One pitch later, Bautista hit a towering home run nearly 440 feet that hit the bottom of the big scoreboard in centre field. Not only did it give the Blue Jays their first lead of the game but it was fun to see the Jose Bautista who has an almost super hero ability to lock in after a pitcher throws at (or, in this case, near) him enough to hit a home run in the same at-bat. When he’s going well, Bautista is capable of using some chin music to both motivate and focus him, and the dinger he hit today shows that he might well be entering another phase of being seriously locked in for a while.
…AND A LITTLE THING – In the ninth inning, Jason Grilli, who has been really struggling for about a month now and entered the game with an unsightly 7.71 ERA, was able to pitch the ninth inning without allowing a run. He did allow a leadoff double to Travis Shaw, but then retired the next three batters to complete the inning and game. I don’t think Grilli will ever be the Blue Jays’ eighth inning pitcher again (Joe Smith has a pretty solid lock on that now), but if he can regain his confidence and be an effective pitcher again for Toronto in less leveraged situations, it’s better than releasing him and hoping for some surprise success from another Buffalo call up. The Jays’ recent better play can be at least partly attributed to the bullpen’s recent effectiveness and if Grilli can join the improvement movement, it only makes the stew thicker.
NOTES FROM MY COUCH
22 year-old Brewers shortstop Orlando Arcia did not play today, but watching him play yesterday, you could certainly see why Milwaukee is so excited for his future. His .231/.276/.357 line leaves something to be desired right now, but his defensive skills are already as smooth as any shortstop in the Major Leagues right now. Since you didn’t ask : My top 5 defensive shortstops right now (in no particular order): 1) Jose Iglesias, DET 2) Brandon Crawford, SF 3) Andrelton Simmons, LAA 4) former Blue Jay Adeiny Hechavarria, MIA 5) Francisco Lindor, CLE. If Arcia hits at all like the Brewers think he will, his skills will make him a player to anchor their team into the future. Both he and Ryan Goins could crack this list in the future if they continue to play.
It is nice to see former Blue Jays player Eric Thames playing well after a few seasons in exile while playing in Korea. He has clearly worked hard and is a much more patient, potent hitter than he was while in Toronto. He seems like an inherently decent person and is someone to root for whenever Milwaukee isn’t playing the Blue Jays. Cubs pitcher John Lackey inferring the other day that his resurgence was because of steroids just shows what a big-toothed troglodyte Lackey continues to be.
Thank goodness that when outfielder Dwight Smith got called up from Buffalo, the Blue Jays put a D. in front of his last name on the back of his jersey to distinguish him from relief pitcher Joe Smith. Otherwise, we might have gotten those two men confused.
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