Drabek is Jays' angel in AnaheimComposed rookie gives Toronto chance to win
By MIKE RUTSEY, QMI Agency
|Blue Jays pitcher Kyle Drabek (R) talks to catcher Jose Molina during the fifth inning of their game against the Los Angeles Angels in Anaheim on April 8, 2011. (REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)
ANAHEIM, Calif. — It was another step forward for young Kyle Drabek.
Although he wasn’t the pitcher of record in Friday night’s 3-2 comeback victory over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, the 23-year-old rookie right-hander didn’t let the game get away from him, never lost his composure, as he pitched his way out of trouble in more than a few dicey innings.
His first inning was a battle from the get-go as he opened the night with a five-pitch walk. A second walk, single and throwing error by Jose Bautista led to a Halos’ run but Drabek limited the damage by getting Vernon Wells — remember him — to ground out to short.
The third inning looked menacing as a one-out walk was followed by a single and after a second out, Torii Hunter singled in the Angels’ second run. But a first-and-third threat and a crooked number on the scoreboard never materialized as Drabek punched out Wells to end the threat.
Then came the fifth which started double, infield single. This time Drabek slammed the door as he went strikeout (Bobby Abreu), infield pop (Hunter) and strikeout (thank you Vernon) to end the inning.
The Jays, meanwhile, finally got some offence going in the top of the sixth thanks to a two-out, two-run double to left centre by Adam Lind.
Drabek came back in what would be his final inning of the game with a 1-2-3 sixth that impressed manager John Farrell.
“The biggest inning in every game is after you score and he went out and put up a zero,” Farrell said. “You could say that he bent but be didn’t break. He got himself into a little bit of trouble with the base on ball (four walks in all) but with his competitive nature he never backs down, never runs from any kind of challenge and he made some big pitches to the middle of that order just to keep a couple of single runs on the board.”
One of the big weapons for Drabek is the quality of his stuff. He gets a lot of swings and misses and can reach back and get the big strikeout when needed. This night he whiffed five.
Drabek also benefits from the wisdom of veteran catcher Jose Molina, who was back of the plate for each of his starts. Molina is constantly communicating with Drabek and doesn’t allow him to get rattled on the mound.
“I got Molina back there and he helped me out great the last start and he did it again this start, especially the first inning,” Drabek said. “He kept telling me to just relax and to get through the inning. He told me to listen to him and I always do.”
In two starts how many times has he shook Molina off?
“Zero,” he replied with a big grin. “He’s back there, he knows the guys and I’m going to go ahead and go with what he says. In Molina I trust, yes.”
IN THE NIX OF TIME
Backup infielder Jayson Nix got the start at third in Friday’s game over Edwin Encarnacion due to the fact that in four prior career at-bats against Angels starter Ervin Santana he had belted one home run.
It proved to be a shrewd move by Farrell as in the eighth, Nix ripped a two-out shot into the seats in left to provide the Jays with what turned out to be the winning run.
“I was just looking at the matchup with Edwin versus Jayson in that situation, coming in here thinking they have the ability to do a lot of things as far as hit-and-run, ball on the ground, a number of things and I felt like it was a better matchup offensively for one,” Farrell said of his decision.
It was the second homer of the season for Nix and coupled with his range and soft hands at third, he has proved to be a quality pickup by GM Alex Anthopoulos.
“You can’t say enough about what Jayson Nix has done for us in the time that he’s been here,” Farrell said. “For Alex to be able to pick up a player at the end of spring training of his calibre and what he’s done in a short time. He’s done a great job.”
Nix, meanwhile, gave all the credit on Friday to Drabek for keeping the Jays in the game.
“Kyle did a great job of battling and keeping us there,” Nix said. “Santana was cruising and pitching good. We hadn’t really done much. Kyle kept us in the game and we absolutely felt we could get something going.”
And finally, they did.