MINNEAPOLIS - Jo-Jo Reyes is the Joe Btfsplk of pitchers.
For anyone under 50 years of age and who has no idea to my dead pop culture reference, here’s a head’s up.
Joe Btfsplk was a character created by Al Capp (he died in 1979) for his Li’l Abner cartoon that ran in just about every major newspaper.
Bad luck and misfortune followed Btfsplk’s every step and he was depicted with a small, dark rain cloud perpetually hovering over his head.
Just like the one hovering over the head of Reyes.
Reyes is on a run of luck so bad it’s almost comical. The left-hander has not won a game since June 13 of 2008 and that includes Saturday’s 9-3, 11th-inning victory over the woeful Minnesota Twins.
The Jays racked up their fourth consecutive win with a six-run 11th, the big blow being a two-run home run by Jose Bautista. But by that time, Reyes was long gone and saddled with his fifth no-decision of the season.
Reyes has now gone 26 starts since that last win, which is the longest drought since Matt Young went 27 starts without a victory for the Mets and Cubs over the 1992-94 seasons.
Since beating the Angels in 2008, he has gone 0-12.
“It kills me because he’s pitched so well for us,” catcher J.P. Arencibia said of Reyes. “But we haven’t really scored for him. He did what his job was. He pitched his butt off again, pitched out of some situations, made some big pitches when he needed to. He continues to go out there and give us quality starts and that’s all you can ask for him to do.”
Reyes uncanny knack of avoiding wins would break lesser men but somehow he soldiers on.
Heading into Saturday’s game, the Twins seemed to be the perfect tonic, the team that would lift the curse. After all, the Twins had lost six in a row and sported the worst record in the big leagues (12-24).
But for Reyes, there is no team on the planet that can seemingly end his streak of futility and misfortune.
The opening inning provided a perfect example of the bad luck that circles Reyes like a flock of vultures.
Reyes started it off by walking the first batter and Trevor Plouffe followed by dropping a perfect bunt down the third-base line that didn’t even draw a throw.
Then after striking out the dangerous Jason Kubel, Justin Morneau hit a jam shot off his wrists that fell into no-man’s land between the mound and first. It was fielded by David Copper but his twisting, off balance throw to Reyes covering the bag was off the mark and glanced off Reyes glove allowing Morneau to reach and a run to score. Delmon Young followed with a sac fly to centre to give the Twins a brief 2-1 lead.
So a walk and two infield hits that didn’t travel a combined 70 feet resulted in two runs — that’s been Reyes season in a nutshell.
The final blow for Reyes occurred in the sixth when Michael Cuddyer hammered a 3-2 pitch from Reyes into the seats to put the Twins ahead 3-2. Two outs and two singles later, manager John Farrell took him out of the game.
“It was a great pitch, down in the zone,” Arencibia said of Cuddyer’s homer. “He went down and got it and hit it out. But he (Reyes) keeps going out there and gives us a chance to win.”
His line read 5 2/3 innings, 10 hits, three runs, two earned, one walk and six strikeouts. Just no wins.
“After I came out I asked Ricky (Romero): How many broken bat hits did they have today? Four.’ That’s just the way the lucks been going,” Reyes said. “My main goal is to keep my team in the game and give them a chance to win. Obviously that happened today.”
The day ended with a Jays win — just not his.
Bautista, meanwhile, is on one of those rolls that make opposing managers weep.
Their game plan is not to have Bautista beat them but in the 11th, Twins skipper Ron Gardenhire had no choice as Corey Patterson opened with a single bringing Bautista to the plate. Gardenhire took out lefty Glen Perkins and replaced him with right-hander Jim Hoey but that proved to be a fruitless move as on a 1-1 count, Bautista slammed homer No. 13 into the seats in right and the flood gates opened as the Jays scored six.
As Bautista stays hot, he’s leaving his teammates in awe.
“He’s just so consistent, that’s why the results keep on coming,” said Arencibia, who hit a solo homer and had a three-RBI game of his own. “He knows what he’s doing and he stays within it. If the ball’s out of the zone he lays off it and if it’s in the zone he crushes it, so he’s a pretty tough guy to pitch to.”
Patterson has been in the majors since 2000 but he’s impressed by how Bautista constantly delivers.
“I’ve never seen anything like it other than Barry Bonds hitting,” said Patterson who hit a big RBI triple in the eighth to tie it 3-3. “It’s impressive. It’s fun to watch.”
But not for the Twins. Not for Gardenhire.