The Jays were simply gutted on Thursday when they blew a 4-0 lead in the ninth so it was interesting to see how they’d get up off the mat on Friday.
As it turns out, they bounced backed, albeit a bit raggedly.
Thanks to good days at the plate by both Travis Snider and Rajai Davis, plus a solid outing from Jo-Jo Reyes, the Jays walked out of the morgue and into the sunshine by virtue of an 11-7 victory over the Indians.
But it should have been a lot easier and in the eighth it looked as if lightning was about to strike twice.
The eighth was the dicey inning this game as Shawn Camp pulled a Francisco by coming in and allowing four consecutive singles and a run. Jason Frasor took over, struck out Travis Hafner, and then allowed a two-run double to Travis Buck before retiring the next two batters.
“It was a much-needed win,” manager John Farrell said. “Even late it got interesting, they strung four hits against Camp. On top of what happened last night, it was good to just finally get the last out here tonight.”
Snider, who had three hits and five RBIs, doubled in two runs in the top of the ninth to supply two large add-on runs. He also slugged a two-run homer in the sixth.
In the ninth and leading by five, manager John Farrell turned to Jon Rauch and he closed it out, but not before allowing one run.
Still, it was a good bounce back for the Jays and enabled them to stop a three-game losing skid and also snap a five-game losing streak at Progressive Field.
“The most important thing is that when you have opportunities to help your team win ball games, you take advantage of those opportunities,” Snider said of his big night. “It’s a credit to the guys hitting in front of me, having opportunities like that to deliver.”
All three of his hits were on the screws and his blast in the ninth just missed being a three-run homer by inches as it hit off the top of the padding.
“I think it’s a credit to the coaching staff down in triple-A that helped me get in this groove,” Snider said. “I’m really trying to stay focused on one game at a time and not get caught up in the short-term success I’ve been having.”
The win for Reyes, who allowed eight hits over 5 2/3 innings, snapped a three-game drought where he went 0-2 with a no-decision, and elevated his record to 4-7.
When you don’t have a closer you don’t have a prayer.
It’s as simple as that.
But here we are two days before the all-star break and the Blue Jays still find themselves on their knees and lighting candles when they enter the ninth inning with a lead.
The Blue Jays have not settled on a defined closer since the start of spring training even though they signed three pitchers with closer experience — Octavio Dotel, Jon Rauch and Frank Francisco — to form a competition with holdover Jason Frasor for the job.
The position was finally whittled down to a contest between Rauch and Francisco but to date both have shown they have issues.
Rauch is fearless but has average stuff and is a contact pitcher which is not ideal for the job. He has gone 7-for-9 in save situations to date but is not the candidate of choice for manager John Farrell.
Francisco has the 97 m.p.h. heater that he can blow by hitters. But he has also been brutally inconsistent from one day to the next as witnessed by his failure Thursday against the Indians when with a 4-0 lead and needing three outs, he loaded the bases without recording an out, leading to the Jays crushing 5-4 loss.
On the season this failure to dominate in the late innings has proven to be costly. Overall, the Jays are just 19-for-33 in save situations and are 35-5 when heading into the ninth with a lead.
The closer role is the most important pitching role on a team as without one it has a negative rippling effect on the whole psyche and confidence of a team.
Heading into Friday’s game, Farrell said that Francisco would be moved to the seventh or eighth and that Rauch was back in the hot spot. The shuffling of pitchers in the role is hardly the answer but is the only one available to Farrell for the time being.
“It’s been inconsistent the entire year,” general manager Alex Anthopoulos conceded. “It’s one of those things that we’re hopeful in the second half it’s going to cement itself a little bit more and we’ll get more of a bona fide reliever to take that role.
“Our bullpen as a whole has been pretty solid, it’s just late in the game we’ve lost some tough games, some heartbreakers and that certainly magnifies all of it.”
The Jays predicament is due to the talent not being there.
“It’s one of those things that’s been a revolving door for us and we haven’t been able to solidify it,” Anthopoulos said. “You’d love to have one person take the job and run with it.”
The player in the system with the best pure closer-type stuff — a plus-fastball and great slider — is Dustin McGowan. He’s been on the surgery and injury trail since 2008 but he’s back throwing and if all goes well, is scheduled to make it back some time in September. Once he regains full health, the Jays will determine his role and who’s to say given their need, it won’t be as their closer?