Hey LeBron, that was the Jays song long before you decided to crawl back to Cleveland and force-feed us brutal nike commercials for a season. I’m taking it back!
The Jays went down to Texas and took care of business, picking on some meatballs served up by Holland in game 4, after missing about a dozen chances to blow open game 3 and turn both games into a romp. I’m not going to recap the play by play, but I have some comments on both games, as well as other musing from the series.
Mood in Song Form:
Don't call this a comeback. This Blue Jay’s team didn’t go anywhere. They had a couple of shaky innings in both games one and two that cost them each game. However, the Texas trip brought more patient at bats, better fielding, better pitching and the long ball. Lets dig in.
The first thing I noticed after missing game one and attending game two was how much I disliked the MLB broadcast when compared to the Sportsnet offering. First of all, I love listening to Buck Martinez whimsically muse about days of yore, or yell at a home run ball to “get up get up ball”! But it wasn’t just that Buck was missing, the overall quality of the commentary and broadcast frustrated me.
Harold Reynolds was particularly horrible. In game 3 he made the comment that has set Canadian Twitter accounts on fire when he commented:
“We were talking about foul balls in the stands up in Toronto, and because there's not a lot of people that grew up playing baseball in Canada, they're not used to catching a lot of balls in the stands ... not many people catching that one, anyway,"
I get that Harold thought he was being funny, and I’m not widely offended by this comment like the twitter masses would suggest all Canadians should be. But this is just a really really bad attempt at a tired and drawn out cliché about Canadian’s only playing hockey. The fact we have to put up with this type of stereotyping in baseball in 2015 is a little disappointing. In fact, that isn’t even nearly the most racist or offensive thing I’ve seen regarding different cultures and baseball. Try and make it through three of Kevin Millar’s obnoxious laughing and its hard to think he isn’t making fun of Muni:
What upset me even more about Harold was his apparent lack of knowledge regarding the Blue Jays team. I’m not sure if he has watched more than the 4 Jays games he has called this year (although he made a point of saying he watched two of Estrada’s games early this season they were both of the almost no hitters Estrada had, so I bet he watched a clipped highlight reel).
He seemed surprised with traditional substitution patterns that the team has used for a period of time (specifically Smoak Colabello substitutions), and embarrassed himself when he commented that R.A. Dickey throws his knuckleball faster than most knuckleball pitchers and that it averages in the mid to high 60’s. As he made this comment, R.A. threw yet another knuckler at his typical speed of between 75-78 mph. Harold then commented that it was a fast one!
Finally, during the 7th inning of game 3 the MLB network ran an entire split screen interview so we had to watch Joe Torre get interviewed about the atrocious Utley slide in the NLDS. While I was interested in hearing from Torre on the play, I couldn’t have been less interested in hearing about it and having the in game view reduced to split screen while Revere and Donaldson tried to lock down the game.
I expected better for the Jays first playoff broadcast in 22 years. MLB’s production made it less enjoyable viewing relative to Sportsnet, and the commentating was not only less enjoyable than Buck (but lets be honest, who isn’t?) it was also unprepared to the point it was taking away from the broadcast. I hope Harold Reynolds has the opportunity to call a lot more Jays games this season so he can get to know our team.
Game 3 Notes
For a moment or two, I thought that we were doomed to be swept out of the playoffs. I am a pretty optimistic Jays fan, but we were spoiling chance after chance, and it was starting to feel like there was some sort of hex on us. The double plays were happening in such surreal fashions. We were having much better at bats, but we weren’t getting across the plate. Dioner missed a spot to blow the game open with a routine chopper. Colabello hammered a bases loaded no out stinger down the first baseline that Moreland snagged and turned an incredibly difficult double play to prevent a run with the ease of a routine groundball. With a struggling Tulo coming to the plate it seemed unlikely we were going to be able to score a run. When Chi Chi Rodriguez (an all time name by the way) missed his spot right down the middle Tulo took a huge cut…. And swung right through it. He missed a meatball coming straight down the pipe. I thought to myself “if he can’t hit that one, what can he hit?”. The answer to my cynical question was definitively the next pitch. Chi Chi hung a breaker, and the struggling Tulo crushed it over the fence for a 3 run blast. That pitch and swing felt like the turning point at the time it happened, and has seemed to ignite the team over the next game and a half.
What a pleasant surprise Marco Estrada continues to be. The way he continually fooled Prince Fielder with his change of pace pitches was terrific. He kept his fastball down for the most part, and took advantage of the big park and let Pillar and Revere clean up a couple of well hit balls that couldn’t escape the expansive outfield. The value we have received from Marco relative to Adam Lind has been enormous. Great trade AA, great job elevating your play Marco.
Sanchez seems to have it going again. That fastball has batters ducking back thinking it is running in on them before it dances over the plate at 96 mph. The movement he gets when it is on is electric. He might be my favourite pitcher to watch, simply because I always find myself marveling over how he can just throw the same pitch over and over and hitters can’t find it. He has improved his off speed for a change of pace as well, which will only make him scarier going forward.
Game 4 Notes
I felt great heading in to game 4. Prior to game three I discussed with my dad how I thought the Rangers lacked the pitching depth to contain us in the fashion they had in games one and two. I expected the runs to be flowing in Texas. Finally in game 4 we put a beat down on the Rangers to cruise (sort of… more on that to follow) to the victory.
Holland looked uncomfortable from the start. And by the start, I am referring to the bunt Revere laid down, and then the 1-0 pitch Donaldson smashed opposite field. Four pitches into the game we had 2 runs and hadn’t recorded an out yet.
Colabello is a fastball hitter. He comes to the plate looking exclusively to hit the heat. In game two I watched as Hamels threw him off speed on the first pitch 3 consecutive at bats, all of which Colabello swung through. What does Holland do? Well, his first pitch he serves up a 94 mph meatball down the middle belt high. Colabello took a huge cut and missed the ball. I was pretty surprised… Holland had played with fire and won. However, as any gambling man will tell you, sometimes when you get lucky you like to let it ride a little too far. Holland tried the fastball again, serving meatball #2 down the middle. Colabello wasn’t to be fooled twice and crushed an opposite field homerun. Great work by Colabello to stay on his pitch and make the most of his second chance. Horrible job by Holland and Chirinos on not trying the off speed in those first two pitches. I know Holland’s change up is his worst pitch (he spiked it straight into the infield once or twice) but that seemed like the ultimate spot to try it out.
I can’t overstate how valuable Kevin Pillar has been to this team. His defensive play is stellar, and his bat has been on fire for three weeks. He is giving the bottom of the lineup some pop, and really helped turn the line up over in all 4 games of the series.
That's Just Pride Fucking With You
Is it possible that John Gibbons somehow managed to insult and upset both of the 2012 Cy Young winners on the same day? It appears that might have been the case.
Gibby pulled R.A. from the game after four and two thirds of solid ball, with a 7-1 lead in the game to turn things over to David Price, who then clunked his way through 3 laborious innings giving up 3 runs and looking more like a middle reliever getting work in a blow out than an ace of the staff.
There are actually a lot of different variables that went into this decision, and you have to assume that certain decisions have been set in stone in order for this to make sense.
Factor 1 – I didn’t realize this until after the game, but Aaron Loup was unavailable to play as a result of a family situation. That left the Jays without any left-handed pitchers in the bullpen, against a lefty heavy Texas lineup. I have to assume Gibby was worried about this situation.
Factor 2 – Shin-soo Choo had two consecutive hits off of R.A. in his first two at bats, and historically has hit him well. He also is the first left-handed batter in a run of 3 of 4 lefties for the Rangers.
IF, and this is a big IF…. I think with the lack of left-handers in the bullpen Gibby planned to use Price in the game regardless of the game situation. It felt like a pre-meditated decision to get Price in and have him take the game home after R.A. IF you decided pre-game that Price was going to pitch in game 4, then it was probably the correct match up and spot to bring him in to the game to handle the run of lefties.
What would I have done?
I can’t believe I am saying this, but I actually would have trusted R.A to get out of the 5th inning and tried to ride him through 6 and 7. Although he had sprinkled in 5 hits, he wasn’t getting hit particularly hard. The knuckler seemed to be dancing, and I can live with giving up slap singles and “good hitting”. I know R.A has a tendency to blow it in a big final inning, and it has driven me insane over the past three seasons when he comes up in a tight 7th inning and starts walking batters, but he seemed to have control and confidence on his side Monday.
Ideally, an R.A. –Sanchez – Osuna game seemed in order given the score and the way Dickey was pitching. This would leave both Price and Stroman available for game 5 in Toronto. The flip side however, is that if R.A gets himself in trouble and needs to get pulled against a big lefty and Gibby then turns to Price (because he doesn’t have Loup) he gets absolutely crushed by the fans and media for not turning to Price earlier when the matchup clearly suggested you should use him.
If the game had been closer, say 4-1 I would have been fine going with Price. Given that it was 7-1 I was fine riding with Dickey and then turning it over to a right-hander if need be to lock it up. I would have stuck with R.A, but I understand what Gibby did, and why he felt the need to do it. More so, I thought that he handled the post game presser in a relaxed but authoritative fashion. He didn’t let the reporters bait him into saying something bad (although they tried hard asking things like “do you just not trust R.A or do you just not trust his knuckleball?”) and he came out looking sure of himself and his team. The bottom line is that if we continue to score 7 runs a game, it hopefully won’t matter what we do with our pitching staff.
R.A. also said exactly what you want a player in his position to say. We all know it must be eating him up inside, but he displayed the class that I would hope I would display in the same situation while fully realizing that the chances of handling that properly are about 1 in a million for most people (including me). Cheering for R.A. off the field has always been easy, and its been a pleasure seeing him give us so much to cheer about on it this season.
So, R.A. is being a pro and hurting on the inside, and David Price has gotten hit in back to back games and is now no longer available for game 5 to be the anchor he was brought in to be, because the manager wanted to use him in a 7-1 game. I can’t imagine he is happy about this situation either. He must have been sitting in the bullpen on Monday thinking that he was going to get the game 5 nod.
The unintentional consequence of all of this (or maybe Gibby is secretly a beer chugging tobacco chewing genius… which I really hope to be the case) is that there is now no doubt as to who the game 5 starter will be. Marcus Stroman will be carrying the weight of the country on his shoulders Wednesday afternoon as he assumes the de facto number one position for the club. To be honest with you, I feel better about Stroman being the guy than I do about Price right now. Price hasn’t looked good in either of his performances so far in the playoffs, while Stroman was let down by poor defense but had a very strong showing in game 2. He has also played a couple of huge games for us that give me confidence:
His first game – he made his return to the Jays in the pouring rain in Yankee Stadium in the heart of a pennant race. In terms of a high stress start, this game had it all. On the road, fresh off of a season stealing injury, a late start in a double header, inclement weather potentially further stressing the knee.
September 23rd home against the Yankees – The Jays had dropped game two of the series, and needed to win this game to lock down their division lead. Stroman delivered again and ignited the team with his energy.
While Price has looked shaky in pressure spots, Stroman has such a confidence and energy in the way he pitches that he seems impervious to his surroundings. I’m not worried about him coming in too amped up for game 5 as he always seems to come in fired up to 11 every game, and that is just the way he is. Stroman’s attitude and demeanor make him the perfect person to pitch in these big moments. Win or lose, I will always be happy to have him on our team slinging it for us in the biggest moments, and wouldn’t want anyone else.
The Rangers are countering with Cole Hamels, who I felt dodged about a million bullets during game two. He nibbled on the corners, and took advantage of an over anxious crowd and Jays team to get outs. Given the more patient approach shown in game 3 and 4, I think the Jays are going to be able to smash Hamels and force Texas to turn to Gallardo part way through the game. I like our chances with our young ace on the hill and a packed house.
One final song to bring us home.
I’ll be in the dome Wednesday looking for Commissioner Manfred to yell at him over the umpiring in game two and cheer the Jays on to the ALCS.