Glove gaffes cost Jays

Pittsburgh Pirates base runner Matt Diaz slides into Toronto Blue Jays short stop Yunel Escobar (R)...

Pittsburgh Pirates base runner Matt Diaz slides into Toronto Blue Jays short stop Yunel Escobar (R) to break up a double play during the seventh inning of their MLB inter-league baseball game in Toronto, June 30, 2011. (REUTERS/Mike Cassese)

KEN FIDLIN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:00 PM ET

There really isn’t any way to sugarcoat it. The Blue Jays outfield defence is dreadful and it is costing them games.

There really is no way to measure the full effect but the outcomes of at least half a dozen games, including Thursday’s 6-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates, have been influenced in some way by the Jays inability to make routine plays in the outfield.

We take you to the top of the sixth inning. After trailing 2-0, the Jays tied the score on a pair of home runs in the bottom of the fifth. Lyle Overbay, leading off the Pittsburgh sixth, lofted a high pop-up into short left field. Corey Patterson and third baseman Jose Bautista converged at the ball and nobody made the play. In the chaos of the misplay, Overbay, no racehorse, galloped all the way to third, setting the table for a three-run outburst.

“I decided right away I was going to make the play on the ball,” said Patterson. “I assumed it was going to be a tough play for Jose.

“I didn’t want to take the chance of looking at him and him looking at me. I’ve done that, I think, one or two times in the outfield and the ball has dropped in the gap. That’s the last thing I wanted to happen.

“I called for it and I don’t know if he heard me or not but we collided enough that the ball fell in. It was definitely a frustrating play.”

If this kind of gaffe was rare, you’d just shrug but they are becoming ingrained in the Jays’ defence. Every time the ball goes up in the air, there is the expectation something bad will happen.

“That’s the outfielder’s ball coming in,” said manager John Farrell. “I don’t think Corey saw Jose camped underneath it. That’s where the communication has to be delivered with clarity to make sure the ball is secured.

“You want your players to be aggressive but at the moment when the ball is to be caught, you have to have clarity.”

In the fifth, the Pirates had scored their second run when centrefielder Rajai Davis took a roundabout route to Josh Harrison’s leadoff base hit into centre. Harrison was thinking double right out of the box, but Davis let the ball bounce twice on the turf before he realized there was some urgency required. He then threw the ball eight feet over second baseman Aaron Hill’s head. Two batters later Harrison scored.

“I thought Brett (Cecil) pitched with improved overall stuff,” said Farrell. “Obviously our outfield defence didn’t help him out. “In two of the six innings he started the inning with a man at third base.”

The unforced errors certainly played a role in Cecil’s line in his first game back after his recall from Las Vegas.

“As far as the play behind third base goes, stuff like that’s going to happen,” said Cecil. “Should it happen? No. But we’re all men in here and guys make mistakes. Mistakes are going to happen. I make them. Everybody makes them. I’m still the guy making pitches after that and I just didn’t make the right ones.”

He ended up pitching 6 1/3 innings, allowed eight hits and six runs along with three walks and six strikeouts. In general, he pitched better than his line and deserved a better outcome. As advertised, he used his improved fastball to set up his secondary pitches effectively.

You could make a case that Pittsburgh DH Brandon Wood’s two-run homer that followed shortly after the Overbay ball was misplayed may have been a result of momentary distraction for Cecil. In any event the lefthander’s return was much better than the raw numbers.

“Yeah, I thought I pitched better than the line showed,” said Cecil. “I felt like my fastball had some good life, better even than when I was in Vegas.”

With the exception of sixth-inning solo home runs by J.P. Arencibia and Yunel Escobar, Jeff Karsten was a riddle for the Blue Jay offence. He tossed seven strong on five hits and a walk.

Cecil was greeted rudely back to the big leagues by Pittsburgh leadoff man Alex Presley who ripped Cecil’s third pitch of the game for a triple. Two batters later, Presley came home on Andrew McCutcheon’s groundball to Bautista.

In the top of the fifth, Presley delivered Pittsburgh’s second run with a sacrifice fly that scored Josh Harrison.


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