Alex Anthopoulos and John Farrell promised there would be days like this.
Ever since Adam Lind was ensconced at first base and Edwin Encarnacion at third, the Jays have acknowledged that corner infield defence could be an issue from time to time.
Wednesday night was one of those times. A third-inning error opened the floodgates on a six-run inning that did Jo-Jo Reyes and the Blue Jays in during a 7-6 Texas Ranger win.
With one out in that inning, catcher Yorvit Torrealba hit a ball down the third base line that Encarnacion backhanded nicely on his knees. He got to
his feet but his throw was low and Lind couldn't dig it out. That misplay was magnified when the next man up, Mitch Moreland, struck out. He would have been the third out.
Instead, the next six Rangers reached base and before reliever Carlos Villanueva could put out the fire, Texas had a 6-2 lead, all six runs unearned.
The Jays would eventually tie the game on Juan Rivera's seventh-inning home run but Moreland's third of the year off Octavio Dotel in the bottom of that same inning made the difference.
After the six-run Texas third, the Jays bounced right back in the top of the fourth, scoring three times with two out. Mike McCoy delivered an RBI single and Bautista a two-run double to cut the Texas lead to a run.
Meanwhile, Villanueva worked 3 1/3 hitless, scoreless innings, handing the ball to Dotel in the seventh. He promptly yielded the game-winning homer.
The Jays put the tying and winning runs on base in the ninth but closer Darren Oliver got Encarnacion on strikes to end it.
Digging For Gold
Five hours before game time, Brian Butterfield was drawing in the dirt with his fungo bat, creating something akin to ancient Mayan hieroglyphics around second base.
The scary part was that shortstop Yunel Escobar seemed to actually understand what Butterfield was getting at. In truth, what Butterfield was trying to illustrate was an imaginary circle around the bag for Escobar to make his double-play pivot.
"This was really a productive work session," said Butterfield. "You know, Yunel has such a good arm that his tendency is to take his time. On the double-play ball, sometimes he relies a little too much on that arm and the runner can get on him.
"When last season was over," said Butterfield, "one of the things I told Yunel was that I was going to turn him into a 'boring' shortstop."
By that, Butterfield meant that he wants Escobar to complement his extraordinary athletic ability with the practical aspect of making all the simple plays, simply.
And that's what's been happening, for the most part, this season: less flash, more routine.
Just like Cito Gaston before him, Farrell doesn't have a problem with Escobar's showmanship, just as long as the routine plays are made. This season, with a couple of rare exceptions, Escobar has been all business.
"He's been very consistent. Players have personalities on the field, how they play. You want to allow that personality to play out. That's what makes them feel natural but we also want to make sure that routine play is executed to completion.
"If the personality sometimes gets in the way of that, that's when you've got to reel that back in. But Yunel has been outstanding."
It's A Relief
The Blue Jays spent most of their pitching budget on relievers last winter and it is already paying dividends. After 23 games, the bullpen had been the strength of the pitching staff, with the starting rotation taking some time to develop its consistency.
Through the first 23 games, the starters have averaged just over 17 outs per game, leaving about 10 outs per game to the bullpen. Toronto's starters have an ERA of 4.40 with a .263 batting average against and a WHIP of 1.429.
Toronto's relievers have a collective ERA of 3.14, a batting average against of .201 and a WHIP of 1.125.
Jon Rauch is a perfect 4-for-4 in save opportunities and any of four others ó Casey Janssen, Jason Frasor, Marc Rzepczynski, Octavio Dotel, Shawn Camp and Frank Francisco and Carlos Villanueva have interchanged various other roles.
"There are a lot of weapons down there," said pitching coach Bruce Walton. "Many different styles. Over the course of the first few weeks of the season, we've started to learn where to position them."
When he failed in his bid to earn a starting role, Rzepczynski moved seamlessly into the bullpen and has been an effective addition as the pen's only lefthander.
"We threw him right into the fire, going through that transition from starting to relieving," said Walton. "He's been out there in the eighth inning, the ninth inning and the seventh inning with leads."